CAFN 2014

When Monaliza Smiled

Time: 7:00 pm
Country: Jordan
Genre: Comedy| Romance
Language: Arabic Sub-titles
Actors: Tahani Salim, Shady Khalaf, Haifa Al-Agha

Grumpy Monaliza, in her 30s, rarely smiles. She works in a government office, where she meets Hamdi, an affable Egyptian tea boy. Together they dream of a life straight out of the romantic movies of yesteryears, with Omar Sharif and Faten Hamama… Their fantasy is challenged as they’re surrounded by inquistive individuals, who impose restrictions typical of Amman’s society.

La Moakhza

Time: 9:15 pm
Country: Egypt
Actors: Ahmed Helmy, Hani Adel, Kinda Allouch
Genre: Comedy
Language: Arabic (subtitles)

La Moakhza talks about class difference, the horrors of the national education system and religious intolerance. Salama’s film is ambitious in the scope of issues it touches upon, but it manages to stay afloat and never get too bogged down in any single one. This is not the story of class difference or religious intolerance, but the story of Hany Abdullah. Salama reminds us that we see those issues solely because they are relevant to the protagonist’s journey to inclusion and acceptance.

This is where the film’s greatest strength is; you can rarely criticise the way it discusses sensitive topics because the plot is concerned with the story of Hany and how he deals with his new school more than it is with the situation of Copts in Egypt or gated communities and class differences. This makes for a heart-warming and intricate character journey that is filled with social commentary, rather than the other way around: a naive story told for social commentary.

Al Oustadh (Le Professeur)

Time: 6:00 pm
Country: Tunisia
Actors: Ramzi Azaiez, Ahmed Hafiene, Lobna Mlika
Genre: Drama
Language: French (subtitles)

Shot during the Arab Spring, writer-director Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud’s prize-winning period suspense drama examines the historical roots of Tunisia’s long slide into tyranny.

The personal becomes painfully political in this quietly engrossing retro-thriller, which dramatizes the struggle for social justice and human rights in late 1970s Tunisia. Scooping the best actor prize earlier this week in the Arab cinema strand of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, Professor forensically dissects the last few decades of Middle Eastern tyranny by unpicking one man’s tortuous moral complicity in it.

Written and directed by the Tunisia-born, Belgium-based veteran Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud, Professor has an old-school, literary, auteur feel. A classic festival film, in other words, with limited potential in foreign markets beyond the specialist art-house circuit. All the same, this Tunisia-France-Qatar co-production is a universal human story that trains a critical eye on recent history in a similar manner to Chile’s Pablo Larrain, the renowned Greek director Costa-Gavras, or even the brave social commentators in current Iranian cinema.

(Synopsis courtesy of the 2012 Doha Tribeca Film Festival)


Time: 8:15 pm
Country: Algeria
Actors: Khadled Benaissa, Imad Benchenni, Abdelkader Djeriou
Genre: Drama
Language: Arabic, French (English subtitles)

In the opening scenes of Gillo Pontecorvo’s seminal 60s film, The Battle of Algiers, a man with an expressionless look on his face is escorted to the guillotine by two French guards. Although reticent at first, he soon breaks his silence – much to the chagrin of his escorts – loudly chanting Allaho Akbar! (God is great) and Tayha Al Jazayer! (long live Algeria), stirring his comrades to raise their voices and join in. ‘Shut up! There he is!’ exclaims Ali La Pointe, the film’s ill-starred hero, as he and his fellow inmates rush to a hole in the wall to catch a fleeting glimpse of the mysterious man’s final moments. Swiftly and unceremoniously, the man is placed beneath the merciless blade of the macabre instrument, which – in a bleak and chilling instant – comes crashing down.

Such is how Gillo Pontecorvo’s film begins, and conversely, how Said Ould-Khalifa’s ends. Ould-Khalifa’s latest film, Zabana! recounts the events that culminated in the Algerian War of Independence – a searing episode in history which branded itself on the hearts and minds of Algerians everywhere – as seen through the eyes of that hitherto unnamed convict: Ahmed Zabana. Set in the 1950s, Zabana! strives to provide audiences with an Algerian account of the short life of one of the chief instigators of what Sir Alistair Horne referred to as a ‘savage war for peace’, as well as a contemporary depiction of some of the causes of that war.

(Synopsis courtesy of the 2012

Rock The Casbah

Time: 10:15 pm
Country: France, Morocco
Actors: Morjana Alaoui, Nadine Labaki, Lubna Azabal
Genre: Drama

With a powerhouse Arab cast, ROCK THE CASBAH is a family drama set one summer in Tangiers. A family comes together for three days, following the death of the family patriarch. Swapping their swimsuits for djellabias, emotions run particularly high, when the youngest daughter Sofia, arrives from New York. Sofia, an actress in the United States, has settled into a new life, away from her family. As the order once maintained by the deceased father breaks down and unravels, the women of the family are forced to face certain harsh truths.

NOTE: French, Arabic and English dialogue with English and Arabic subtitles

(Synopsis courtesy of: 2014 Dubai International Film Festival)

Syrian Short Films

Time: 6:00pm
Language: subtitles

Tuj – 02:15 – Khaled Abdulwahed
Bullet – 02:02 – Khaled Abdulwahed
Slot in Memory – 02:25 – Khaled Abdulwahed
ABCDoublespeak – 03:21 – Yasmeen Fanary
In Fear of Eurabia – 01:04 – Yasmeen Fanary
Lemon Medicine – 02:16 – Akram Al-Halabi
Road of Convoys – 20:55 – Anonymous

The Village Under The Forest

Time: 7:15 pm
Language: subtitles

Where Greening is an Act of Obliteration

Unfolding as a personal meditation from the Jewish Diaspora, The Village Under The Forest explores the hidden remains of the destroyed Palestinian village of Lubya, which lies under a purposefully cultivated forest plantation called South Africa Forest.

Using the forest and the village ruins as metaphors, the documentary explores themes related to the erasure and persistence of memory and dares to imagine a future in which dignity, acknowledgement and co-habitation become shared possibilities in Israel/Palestine.

Directed by Emmy-winner Mark J Kaplan, The Village Under The Forest is written and narrated by scholar and author Heidi Grunebaum.

(Synopsis courtesy of:

Calgary Arab Film Nights 2022



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