Arts & Culture

Mark your calendars for the inaugural Arab Cinema Week

The ten-day event will take place at Cinema Akil.

Few venues have altered the cultural landscape of Dubai like Cinema Akil – not only is it the first arthouse cinema in the region, but it has also been instrumental in building awareness around independent filmmaking both in the UAE and the Middle East as a whole. Now, the independent cinema is gearing up to host the inaugural Arab Cinema Week from 7 to 16 October, bringing with it both stories and talent from the region.

Curated by Rabih El-Khoury, Arab Cinema Week will open with BAFTA-winning Jordanian director Bassel Ghandour’s The Alleys and screen Arab features and shorts – Beirut Hold ’em starring Saleh Bakri included. Short films from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen, Sudan and the UAE – all of which addresses human bonds – are also on the roster. Bonus: most of the films at the event are being screened in the UAE for the very first time, making Arab Cinema Week a perfect opportunity for cinephiles to explore a range of themes within ten days.

Arab Cinema Week

Cinema Akil will be screening several films in the presence of their directors, giving the audience an opportunity to also engage with the creators through insightful Q&As. This will include a special up-close encounter with acclaimed Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri on 9 October; he will conduct a unique masterclass to discuss his career and extensive collaborations with Arab filmmakers. Becoming, an omnibus film by five female Saudi directors, presents a collection of stories joined by reflections on womanhood. The film, which was a milestone production for the fast-growing film industry of Saudi Arabia, has already received critical acclaim at multiple festivals including the Red Sea Film Festival and Cairo Film Festival, and will be presented by emerging talent Sara Mesffe. The programme will also screen Egyptian director Omar El Zohairy’s 2021 dramedy Feathers as well as Khadar Ahmed’s 2021 debut feature, The Gravedigger’s Wife.

Arab Cinema Week

Curator Rabih El Khoury has also placed an Algerian focus on the event to reflect on the country’s 60 years of independence with the screening of Karim Aïnouz’s documentary Mariner of Mountains (2021), Djaffar Gacem’s historic drama Héliopolis (2021), and Salah Issaad’s contemporary Soula (2021). The festival’s Algerian focus is set to culminate in a screening of the 1966 classic, The Battle of Algiers. “Arab Cinema Week, in addition to hosting and screening innovative works of the Arab world’s acclaimed and emerging artists, has been designed to bring together a range of themes for Arab stories with filmmakers narrating their heartbreaks, their quotidien, their victories, their struggles and their moments of personal bliss,” said Khoury. “Each of them is unique, telling, and speaking volumes about the talent our region holds. The programme has been conceived to spark conversation and encourage discussion, all of which will be made possible with the presence of creators at their respective screenings.” 

Arab Cinema Week

Speaking about launching the first edition of Arab Cinema week, Cinema Akil’s founder Butheina Kazim said, “The first edition of Arab Cinema Week delivers on our mission of being the home of Arab independent cinema and filmmakers. With a robust lineup of speakers and filmmakers coming to Dubai for this, the programme brings together stories from 11 Arab countries, showcases nine feature films and six shorts while also highlighting nine female directors from across the region. In the absence of a national film festival, I am proud to dedicate our platform to annually present a range in the programme that also celebrates the growing film industries in our region; giving them the attention they very much deserve.”

GO: Visit for tickets and more information.

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Samia Qaiyum
A textbook third culture kid with a perpetual thirst for adventure, Samia Qaiyum specialises in travel and culture, having lived in five countries and travelled to 34 others – just don't ask her to define the word 'home'.

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