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Arab Film Festival to start on July 16 in Seoul, Busan

By Yi Whan-woo

The 9th Arab Film Festival (ARAFF) will be held from July 16 to 21 in Seoul and Busan, showcasing 11 films from 12 countries.

Under the theme "Diverse Perspectives and New Generation of Arabs," the ARAFF 2020 will feature works of internationally acclaimed directors and emerging filmmakers.

A poster for the Arab Film Festival hosted by the Korea Arab Society (KAS). / Courtesy of KAS
A poster for the Arab Film Festival hosted by the Korea Arab Society (KAS). / Courtesy of KAS
The Korea Arab Society (KAS), a Seoul-based nonprofit organization and festival host, said the films to be shown are expected to "offer a glimpse into the diverse spectrum of Arab cinema."

With the aim of promoting friendship and cooperation between Korea and the Arab world, KAS pointed out that the annual festival was normally held in June but was pushed back to July because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In times like this, we will appreciate the visit from each member of the audience more than ever," KAS said.

All screenings will be at Arthouse MOMO in Seoul and at Busan Cinema Center in Busan.

The festival will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Seoul and 3:20 p.m. in Busan, with a screening of "Photocopy" (2017).

Directed by Tamer Ashry, the film is about a retired man who manages a photocopy shop in Cairo, and after he learns about the extinction of dinosaurs he is driven to change his lifestyle, which he sees "becoming extinct."


With 13 years of experience in film and television in Egypt and the Middle East, Ashry has partnered with the United Nations and other international organizations in creating campaigns for human rights, gender equality and child abuse prevention, among other social issues.

Ten other films will be divided into two groups of five under the sub-themes ― "Arabian Wave" and "Focus 2020: Arab Women Filmmakers Now."

The former will showcase "The Cave" (2019), "It Must be Heaven" (2019), "Heritages" (2013), "The Unknown Saint" (2019) and "Haifa Street" (2019).

They highlight the situation of the Arab world and perspectives on its past and present, including war and diaspora.

"Focus 2020: Arab Women Filmmakers Now" will showcase "17" (2017), "Noura's Dream" (2019), "Scales" (2019), "The Perfect Candidate" (2019) and "Papicha" (2019).

They show accomplishments of a new generation of female filmmakers and their views on gender roles and other social challenges women in the region face.

An image of
An image of "The Cave"
An image of
An image of "The Unknown Saint"

"The Cave" is a documentary about an underground hospital known as the Cave in war-stricken Syria. Directed by Feras Fayyad, the film was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2020 Academy Awards.

In "It Must be Heaven," director Elia Suleiman travels to different cities and finds unexpected parallels to his homeland of Palestine.

Philippe Aractingi, a Lebanese-born director and 2018 recipient of France's Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his contribution to art and cinema, explores his ancestors' four-generation journey to flee wars and massacres in "Heritages."

"The Unknown Saint" is about a thief who, when he is released from prison, finds a shrine has been built over the site of a bag of money he buried.

It is directed by Alaa Eddine Aljem, who Screen International has named as one of "Five Arab Stars of Tomorrow."

"Haifa Street" centers on a man who goes to meet his lover in Haifa Street in Baghdad, the epicenter of sectarian violence amid the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2006.

The film is the first by journalist-turned-director Mohanad Hayal, who has reported on wars, including the one between the Iraqi Army and ISIS.

All five films grouped under "Focus 2020: Arab Women Filmmakers and Now" are directed by women ― Widad Shafakoj for "17," Hinde Boujemaa for "Noura's Dream," Shahad Ameen for "Scales," Haifaa Al Mansour for "The Perfect Candidate," and Mounia Meddour for "Papicha."

A documentary, "17" explores how Jordanian girls from different backgrounds come together as they prepare for the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Jordan.

"Noura's Dream" is about a woman with an abusive husband in jail and a coveted divorce pending, who falls in love with another man and strives to find a new life.

"Scales" centers on a young girl who lives in a fishing village that traditionally asks every family to sacrifice a daughter to a sea creature.

"The Perfect Candidate" deals with a female doctor who decides to run in local elections in Saudi Arabia to challenge her conservative community.

Set in the 1990s, "Papicha" is about an Algerian student, 18, who is passionate about fashion design and uses it as a tool to reject social bans against women.

Visit arabfestival.or.kr for tickets and other information.


By Yi Whan-woo

The 9th Arab Film Festival (ARAFF) will be held from July 16 to 21 in Seoul and Busan, showcasing 11 films from 12 countries.

Under the theme "Diverse Perspectives and New Generation of Arabs," the ARAFF 2020 will feature works of internationally acclaimed directors and emerging filmmakers.

A poster for the Arab Film Festival hosted by the Korea Arab Society (KAS). / Courtesy of KAS
A poster for the Arab Film Festival hosted by the Korea Arab Society (KAS). / Courtesy of KAS
The Korea Arab Society (KAS), a Seoul-based nonprofit organization and festival host, said the films to be shown are expected to "offer a glimpse into the diverse spectrum of Arab cinema."

With the aim of promoting friendship and cooperation between Korea and the Arab world, KAS pointed out that the annual festival was normally held in June but was pushed back to July because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In times like this, we will appreciate the visit from each member of the audience more than ever," KAS said.

All screenings will be at Arthouse MOMO in Seoul and at Busan Cinema Center in Busan.

The festival will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Seoul and 3:20 p.m. in Busan, with a screening of "Photocopy" (2017).

Directed by Tamer Ashry, the film is about a retired man who manages a photocopy shop in Cairo, and after he learns about the extinction of dinosaurs he is driven to change his lifestyle, which he sees "becoming extinct."


With 13 years of experience in film and television in Egypt and the Middle East, Ashry has partnered with the United Nations and other international organizations in creating campaigns for human rights, gender equality and child abuse prevention, among other social issues.

Ten other films will be divided into two groups of five under the sub-themes ― "Arabian Wave" and "Focus 2020: Arab Women Filmmakers Now."

The former will showcase "The Cave" (2019), "It Must be Heaven" (2019), "Heritages" (2013), "The Unknown Saint" (2019) and "Haifa Street" (2019).

They highlight the situation of the Arab world and perspectives on its past and present, including war and diaspora.

"Focus 2020: Arab Women Filmmakers Now" will showcase "17" (2017), "Noura's Dream" (2019), "Scales" (2019), "The Perfect Candidate" (2019) and "Papicha" (2019).

They show accomplishments of a new generation of female filmmakers and their views on gender roles and other social challenges women in the region face.

An image of
An image of "The Cave"
An image of
An image of "The Unknown Saint"

"The Cave" is a documentary about an underground hospital known as the Cave in war-stricken Syria. Directed by Feras Fayyad, the film was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2020 Academy Awards.

In "It Must be Heaven," director Elia Suleiman travels to different cities and finds unexpected parallels to his homeland of Palestine.

Philippe Aractingi, a Lebanese-born director and 2018 recipient of France's Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his contribution to art and cinema, explores his ancestors' four-generation journey to flee wars and massacres in "Heritages."

"The Unknown Saint" is about a thief who, when he is released from prison, finds a shrine has been built over the site of a bag of money he buried.

It is directed by Alaa Eddine Aljem, who Screen International has named as one of "Five Arab Stars of Tomorrow."

"Haifa Street" centers on a man who goes to meet his lover in Haifa Street in Baghdad, the epicenter of sectarian violence amid the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2006.

The film is the first by journalist-turned-director Mohanad Hayal, who has reported on wars, including the one between the Iraqi Army and ISIS.

All five films grouped under "Focus 2020: Arab Women Filmmakers and Now" are directed by women ― Widad Shafakoj for "17," Hinde Boujemaa for "Noura's Dream," Shahad Ameen for "Scales," Haifaa Al Mansour for "The Perfect Candidate," and Mounia Meddour for "Papicha."

A documentary, "17" explores how Jordanian girls from different backgrounds come together as they prepare for the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Jordan.

"Noura's Dream" is about a woman with an abusive husband in jail and a coveted divorce pending, who falls in love with another man and strives to find a new life.

"Scales" centers on a young girl who lives in a fishing village that traditionally asks every family to sacrifice a daughter to a sea creature.

"The Perfect Candidate" deals with a female doctor who decides to run in local elections in Saudi Arabia to challenge her conservative community.

Set in the 1990s, "Papicha" is about an Algerian student, 18, who is passionate about fashion design and uses it as a tool to reject social bans against women.

Visit arabfestival.or.kr for tickets and other information.


Yi Whan-woo yistory@koreatimes.co.kr

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