Reel Palestine 2018

The independent and beloved film festival Reel Palestine is back this month in the UAE with its 4th edition, taking place between 19th and 27th January with film screenings in Dubai (Cinema Akil at The Yard in Alserkal Avenue), Sharjah (Mirage Cinema) and for the first time in Abu Dhabi (Manarat Al Saadiyat). 

I've been featuring this festival on the blog since it started (here, here and here) and seen it grow from a small screening space at thejamjar to having hundreds of attendess at outdoor screenings in Alserkal Avenue.

For this edition, I wanted to have a discussion with the team behind the festival, to talk about its origins and growth over the past few years, and to know more about how the festival has been engaging with its audiences and if it faces any challenges. 

I invited Dana Sadek, one of the co-founders of Reel Palestine to join me and Wael Hattar on our Tea with Culture podcast to talk about the festival. I invite you to listen to it here. It's important to know the importance of this festival to the audience in the UAE and what it means to the team behind it. We discuss the work that goes into it, some of the challenge and also the joy and connections it brings to the festival goers. 

This year's edition will open and close with Wajib, directed by Annemarie Jacir, which recently screened at Dubai International Film Festival where it won he film won Best Feature and its two leading actors, Mohammad Bakri and Saleh Bakri jointly winning the Best Actor award.  It's also one of my favourite films of 2017, and if you are in the UAE and missed out during DIFF, you will have two chances to watch Wajib at Reel Palestine. There's also a selection feature films, short films and critically acclaimed documentaries,

Here's the full line up with dates and locations. All the screenings are free to attend. Click on the film titles for more information. 

19th January at 7:00 pm, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai
27th January at 8:00 pm, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah

Directed by Annemarie Jacir
Drama | 2017 | 96 mins. | Arabic (English subtitles)    

The heart-warming story of the rediscovery and reconciliation of a troubled father-son relationship, ‘Wajib’ follows a day in the life of Abu Shadi and his son Shadi. With his sister’s wedding a month away, Shadi travels from his job as an architect in Rome to help his father in the customary hand-delivery of the wedding invitations.

As the estranged pair spend the day together, the tense details of their relationship come to a head, challenging their fragile and very different lives.

20th January 20th at 8:00 pm, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah
26th January 26th at 7:00 pm, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai  

Ghost Hunting
Directed by Raed Andoni
Documentary | 2017 | 94 mins | Arabic (English Subtitles)  

As a result of being jailed in the Shin Bet’s Al-Moskobiya investigation centre at the age of 18, director Raed Andoni has fragments of memories he cannot determine as real or imagined. In order to confront the ghosts that haunt him, Andoni decides to try to rebuild that mysterious place.

Responding to a job announcement seeking ex-inmates of Al-Moskobiya who have experience in construction, architecture, painting, carpentry and acting, a large group gathers in an empty yard near Ramallah. Together, they start a journey in which they rediscover the shape of their old prison, try to face the consequences of being under absolute control, and attempt to re-enact a story that took place inside the centre’s walls.

21st January at 7:30 pm, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai   

1948: Creation & atastrophe
Directed by Ahlam Muhtaseb & Andy Trimlett
Documentary | 2016 | 84 mins | Arabic & English

Through riveting and moving personal recollections of both Palestinians and Israelis, 1948: Creation & Catastrophe reveals the shocking events of the most pivotal year in the most controversial conflict in the world. It tells the story of the establishment of Israel as seen through the eyes of the people who lived it. But rather than being a history lesson, this documentary is a primer for the present. It is simply not possible to make sense of what is happening in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today without an understanding of 1948.   

22nd January at 7:30 pm, The Yard, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai  

The Villagers
Directed by Nidal Badarny  
Short | 2015 | 10 minutes | Arabic (English Subtitles)  

A tempestuous Palestinian love story alongside the ‘separation wall’. The story heads towards an end when Majdi decides to leave the country since his dreams and the plums can no longer find their space given the circumstances. His love, Salma, tries to stop him, but to no avail. Suddenly, Majdi and Salma escape from their secret love-nest near the wall, after ‘Abu Mustafa’ discovers their story.

The tragic love story ends and a new story begins with a new protagonist, Abu Mustafa, with the same wall that remains present in all details; giant, grey, absurd. Simply an absurd film, because cinema is frivolous; cinema is absurd.   

You Reap What You Sow
Directed by Alaa Ashkar
Documentary | 2016 | 70 minutes | Arabic (English Subtitles)

A Palestinian director living in France was about to start a documentary about the Palestinian memory. During his research for film locations in Galilee, his family who lives there expressed its concern about the idea of making the film.

The director decides to include his family in the scenario and ends up giving us an intimate story about the evolution of his identity, since his childhood within his protective family, until adulthood through his travels.   

23rd January at 7:30 pm, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai

A series of Short Films

The Parrot
Directed by Darin J. Sallam, Amjad Al-Rasheed
Narrative | 2016 | 18 minutes | Arabic (English Subtitles) 

ive Boys and a Wheel  
Directed by Said Zagha
Drama | 2016 | 20 mins / Arabic (English Subtitles) 

Directed by Ahmed Saleh
Drama | 2016 | 11 mins / Arabic (English Subtitles) 

Drowning Man
Directed by Mahdi Fleifel
Drama | 2017 | 15 mins | Arabic (English Subtitles) 

Beneath the Earth
Directed by Sami Alalul
Documentary | 2017 | 21 mins | Arabic (English Subtitles)  

23rd January at 7:30 pm, Manarat Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi

Fire at Sea
Directed by Gianfranco Rosi
Documentary | 2016 | 114 mins / Italian & English  

Situated some 200km off Italy's southern coast, Lampedusa has hit world headlines in recent years as the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants hoping to make a new life in Europe.

Rosi spent months living on the Mediterranean island, capturing its history, culture and the current everyday reality of its 6,000-strong local population as hundreds of migrants land on its shores on a weekly basis. The resulting documentary focuses on 12-year-old Samuele, a local boy who loves to hunt with his slingshot and spend time on land even though he hails from a culture steeped in the sea.  

25th January at 7:30 pm, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai     

Stitching Palestine
Directed by Carol Mansour
Documentary | 2017 | 78 mins | Arabic (English Subtitles)

Twelve Palestinian women sit before us and talk of their life before the Diaspora, of their memories, of their lives and of their identity. Their narratives are connected by the enduring thread of the ancient art of embroidery.  

Twelve resilient, determined and articulate women from disparate walks of life: lawyers, artists, housewives, activists, architects, and politicians stitch together the story of their homeland, of their dispossession, and of their unwavering determination that justice will prevail. Through their stories, the individual weaves into the collective, yet remaining distinctly personal.