The curtains have closed on the Arab Film House Festival 2023, leaving behind an indelible imprint of creativity, diversity, and the rich tapestry of Middle Eastern cinema. Hosted by the Qatar America Institute for Culture and the Middle East Institute, this cinematic journey on November 16th showcased the storytelling prowess of emerging Qatar-based filmmakers. Let’s take a moment to revisit the captivating films that graced the screen and the unique narratives that unfolded.
The Scent – Ahmad Samara and Alaa Alhussan
The festival kicked off with “The Scent,” a short concept film by Arab American filmmaker Ahmad Samara and creative producer Alaa Alhussan. Their intriguing narrative set the tone for an evening filled with cinematic excellence, inviting the audience into a world where storytelling becomes an art form.
A special highlight of the evening was the engaging Q&A session that followed the screening of “The Scent.” The audience delved into the inspiration and direction of the project, posing numerous questions to the creators. The filmmakers, Ahmad Samara and Alaa Alhussan, graciously responded to inquiries about the creative process, shedding light on the journey from concept to screen. The intimate exchange allowed the audience to gain deeper insights into the motivation behind the film, making the viewing experience even more immersive and memorable.
Border – Khalifa Al Thani
In the dystopian landscape painted by Khalifa Al Thani’s “Border,” audiences navigated a complex system alongside the protagonist on a quest to reunite with family. Al Thani’s exploration of identity and the human experience in challenging circumstances left a lasting impression, showcasing the filmmaker’s commitment to thought-provoking storytelling.
And Then They Burn the Sea – Majid Al-Remaihi
Majid Al-Remaihi’s poignant journey, “And Then They Burn the Sea,” provided a window into the filmmaker’s personal experience of witnessing a gradual and terminal memory loss. Premiering at Locarno 2021, the film captured the emotional depth of human connections, leaving the audience reflecting on the universal themes of love and loss.
When Beirut Was Beirut – Alessandra El Chanti
Alessandra El Chanti transported the audience through time and space in “When Beirut Was Beirut.” The animated documentary breathed life into three monumental buildings, narrating the unsettling history of Beirut. El Chanti’s unique storytelling approach brought forth the voices of the city’s architectural witnesses, creating a captivating experience.
The Invisible Ball – Waad Abdelsalam
Waad Abdelsalam’s “The Invisible Ball” unfolded the true story of determination and inspiration drawn from Qatar’s football history. The film showcased Abdelsalam’s passion for storytelling and her ability to capture the essence of human resilience, leaving the audience inspired by the triumphs in the face of adversity.
Don’t Get Too Comfortable – Shaima Al-Tamimi
Shaima Al-Tamimi’s “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” invited viewers into an introspective world through an intimate letter to her deceased grandfather. Reflecting on her ancestral migrational journey over three generations, the film challenged conventional notions of identity, offering a unique and deeply personal perspective.
Kafo – Sara Al-Muhannadi and Amira El-Namla
The evening concluded with “Kafo” by Sara Al-Muhannadi and Amira El-Namla. The short narrative unfolded the story of a new kid in the neighborhood, thrown into a football match to prove his skills to the local kids.
As we look back on the Arab Film House Festival 2023, we celebrate the creative brilliance of these emerging filmmakers who are shaping the future of Middle Eastern cinema. Each film told a unique story, reflecting the diverse voices and perspectives of the region. The festival not only entertained but also sparked meaningful conversations and reflections on the universal themes that connect us all. Here’s to the filmmakers, the stories told, and the continued growth of the vibrant cinematic landscape in the Middle East.