Presented in association with the Academy for Educational Development.
This extraordinary program, featuring four short films and one feature, takes advantage of the presence in California during four days of a touring group of Arab cineastes, here at the invitation of the Academy for Educational Development, an organization funded by the International Communications Commission in Washington D.C.
Although we have shown films from Arab countries over the years at PFA (most notably some of the Egyptian classics - Night of Counting the Years, The Sparrow, Alexandria Why?, The Land, etc.), problems of distribution and diplomacy have prevented us from fully representing in our programming the tremendous vitality of contemporary cinema in certain Arab countries, especially Syria and Algeria. We hope in November to be able to show some of the major recent films from the New Algerian Cinema, and to broaden our programming of Arab-produced films in 1980. Meanwhile, this evening should serve as an excellent introduction to the range of national cinemas and film styles in the Arabic-speaking world. PFA guest programmer and UCB Professor Albert Johnson has visited most Arab countries, and reports this assessment of Arab filmmaking today:
“It is surprising that so much of the innovative and exciting cinema today flourishes in countries whose films are seldom distributed in America. The films of Khalid Sikkik, apparently the only filmmaker in Kuwait, have amazed European audiences, and the annual festival of cinema in Carthage regularly introduces the works of African and Asian artists which demand attention. In recent years, extraordinary documentaries have been made in Lebanon, in the midst of civil strife, and the Egyptian and Syrian cinema have begun to throw off the shackles of commercial tastes. The young directors of Algeria have recently created a new, dramatic style that encompasses emotional power with a sense of political satire; the creation of a new voice, a new imagery that is attractive and beyond polemicism. In a clever and uncanny way, these artists from the Arab world illuminate one's understanding of contemporary life and social attitudes, circumventing any government restrictions or censorship with intellectual subtlety and persuasiveness. It is the homogeneity of viewpoints that characterizes Arab cinema today, and from an exposure to these films it is possible to discern an undercurrent of defiant challenge to the Western world - as if daring the spectator to watch, learn and reflect.”
This program not only assembles films by three leading talents from Syria and Egypt, it provides a forum for discussion on Arab Cinema - during a question period after Part One above, with the following guests: from Lebanon, filmmakers Maroun Baghdadi; from Syria, filmmakers Nabil Maleh and Amin Bounni; from Kuwait, filmmakers Abdullah Al-Mahailan and Ibrahim Qabazzard, plus film critic Farouk Abdul Aziz; from Jordan, filmmakers Victoria Yusef Emish, Zahya Haider Annab, and Inad Omar Kurdi; and from Egypt, film director Attiat Abnoudi and photographer Marwan El-Dewey.