Monday, August 23, 2004

PR NEW YORK: Annual Film Series on Middle East 8-23-04

ArteEast Announces New Season of “Cinema East”

New York, NY, August 17, 2004 - ArteEast, in collaboration with the Department of Middle East Studies at NYU, presents the second year of its annual film series, Cinema East, from September 11th to December 4th in New York City. In its fall season, Cinema East features over ten U.S and New York premiers as well as other cutting-edge films from Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Iran, Tunisia and Egypt.

On the occasion of the third anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the program opens with a special evening featuring the penetrating documentary About Baghdad. Directed by a collective of filmmakers, activists and academics, this new film addresses the current situation in Iraq as the denizens of the city reflect on the occupation and their ambivalences about their new political realities. The collective’s filmmakers will be present to address audience’s questions.

Another season highlight is The Lizard, a taboo-breaking comedy about a fugitive criminal masquerading as a Mullah (religious leader). Directed by Kamal Tabrizi, The Lizard proved to be both controversial and the highest grossing film in Iranian history. Also featured is You are My Love by Egypt’s most renowned filmmaker Yousef Chahine. Produced in 1957, this lighthearted musical starring Farid Al Atrash and Shadia, is a well-known classic of Arab Cinema.

Many of the most prominent filmmakers will be making appearances this year, including renowned Lebanese photographer and filmmaker Fouad Elkoury, who will present an evening of his films, including his recently completed Moving Out; Hala Khalil, an upcoming young Egyptian director, will showcase her debut feature film, The Best Times; Palestinian director Raed Helou will screen his award-winning film about life in Ramallah under siege, Hopefully for the Best; Tunisian Rida Behi will speak at the screening of his beautifully shot feature The Magic Box; and Sabine El Chamaa will discuss her short feature, How Beautiful is the Sea.

All Cinema East screenings take place at NYU’s Cantor film center and begin at 6 PM. General admission: $9. Students (w/valid ID) and senior citizens:$7. Advance tickets and season passes can be purchased online beginning September 1. To purchase tickets and for complete program details please visit our website at

To obtain screeners and press passes or to schedule interviews with guest filmmakers, please contact Fariah Amin at 917.981.1526 or via email at

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Fall 2004 Program

Saturday, September 11, 6 PM

A special screening on the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks of 2001

New York Premiere
About Baghdad by InCounter Productions (Iraq/U.S.A, 2004, 89 min, BetaSP)
Shot in Iraq by a filmmaking collective of independent activists, academics, and artists, this compelling documentary follows Sinan Antoon, an Iraqi poet, who returns to his native Baghdad after twelve years of exile in the United States. His conversations with Baghdadis of all stripes build a complex portrait of resilience amid the chaos immediately following the US invasion in 2003. Schoolchildren, poets, professors, even asylum inmates express relief at the ousting of Saddam, skepticism about the interloping Americans (and émigré Iraqis like Antoon himself) who have not suffered decades of trauma, and their regrets, hopes and fears for their country in a tumultuous new era. In English and Arabic w/English subtitles

Preceded by

New York Premiere
no news… by Bushra Azzouz (U.S.A., 2002, 13 min, DVCam)
Set in the aftermath of September 11th, no news... is an Arab-American woman’s personal reflection on the cycles of violence, war and terrorism that have plagued both the U.S. and the Middle East and their repercussions in her family history.

Post-screening panel discussion with InCounter Productions team Sinan Antoon, Suzy Salamy, Bassam Haddad, Adam Shapiro, and Maya Mikdashi

Saturday, September 18, 6 PM
New York Premiere
The Lizard by Kamal Tabrizi (Iran, 2004, 110 min, 35 mm)
Now banned in Iran by clerics disgruntled by for its impious slapstick, The Lizard has nonetheless become a smash hit (reformist President Muhammad Khatami allegedly arranged a private screening). In a brilliant comic set-up, a petty thief escapes prison by disguising himself as a mullah. Inevitably, he’s forced undercover for longer than expected and, while struggling with his unwieldy new wardrobe, finds himself becoming the revered leader of a small-town mosque. The result is a smart, sincere comment on contemporary Iran: biting and sardonic, but also surprisingly religious. In Farsi w/English subtitles

Post-screening panel discussion with Mazyar Lotfalian (Yale University) and Negar Azimi (Harvard University)

Friday, September 24, 6 PM

A special program in collaboration with the Film Department at NYU’s Directors’ Series.


You Are My Love by Youssef Chahine (Egypt, 1957, 120 min, 35 mm)
A classic of Arab cinema, You Are My Love is a delightful, lighthearted musical directed by Egypt’s most renowned filmmaker and starring popular singers Farid Al Atrash and Shadia. Out of economic necessity, two Cairene families decide to marry their children. But Farid and Yasmina cannot stomach one another. Farid is secretly leading a busy nightlife, singing in a fashionable club and carrying on a love affair with its star belly dancer. Yasmina is having an affair with another man. But As they plot together to dupe their families, they can’t help but fall in love. In Arabic w/English subtitles. Print courtesy of the Egyptian National Film Center.

Saturday, October 2, 6 PM U.S. Premiere
Mashallah by Eytan Harris (Israel, 2004, 62 min, Digibeta)
In 1985 in Jerusalem, two cab drivers were brutally murdered three days apart. The first was an Israeli Jew; the second was and a Palestinian, Khamis Totangi, the absent subject of this subtle and surprising documentary. With grace and a sure sense of plot, Eytan Harris weaves together the stories of the victim’s family, the murderer, the investigators and even a part-time poet, who adds a fascinating element of literary intrigue to this tale of lives forever linked by tragedy. In Hebrew & Arabic w/English subtitles

U.S. Premiere
Hopefully for the Best by Raed Helou (Palestine, 2004, 42 min, DVCam)
Director Raed Helou describes Ramallah during the tense winter before the US invasion of Iraq as “calm, like snow on graves, and angry as an old woman who has lost everything.” The curious monotony of life during an uprising is the subject of the peripatetic camera that roams the rain-slashed streets of Ramallah. In brief encounters with Ramallah’s street sweepers, bakers and hummus makers, anxiety simmers below the surface, but everyone seeks a bit of “normal” life in the early morning, before political realities take hold of the day. In Arabic w/English subtitles

Introductory remarks by Ryan LaHurd, President, Near East Foundation

Post-screening panel discussion with filmmaker Raed Helou and Hamid Dabashi (Columbia University)

Saturday, October 16, 6 PM
‘K’ by Shoja Azari (U.S.A./Morocco, 2002, 85 min, 35 mm)
In this elegant adaptation of three Kafka stories, Azari takes the characters from a monotonous sales bureau to a palatial mansion that transmutes into a tomblike fort, from desert sun to the shabby imperialism of a colonial outpost. Shot in stark black and white, the film evokes the unease and bewilderment that dogs Kafka's K, exploring humanity’s deepest anxieties and fears in facing the modern world.

Post-screening panel discussion with filmmaker Shoja Azari, executive producer Shirin Neshat, and actors Oz Phillips and Mohammed Ghaffari

Saturday, October 30, 6 PM U.S. Premiere
The Best Times by Hala Khalil (Egypt, 2004, 113 min, 35 mm)
The latest box-office hit from Egypt, The Best Times marks the new wave of social drama in Egyptian cinema. Popular actress Hanan Turk is Salma, a young woman who struggles with an overwhelming sense of loneliness after the unexpected death of her mother, is forced to leave her stepfather’s house in a rich suburb of Cairo, she returns to Shobra, the popular neighborhood where she grew up. A series of anonymous letters and a cassette of her beloved singer Mohammed Mounir send her on a journey to rediscover her past and her relationship with her estranged stepfather. In Arabic w/English subtitles

Post-screening panel discussion with filmmaker Hala Khalil and Mona Eltahawy (Arabic Women’s eNews)

Saturday, November 6, 6 PM

An evening with renowned Lebanese film director and photographer Fouad Elkoury

Fouad Elkoury gained international recognition for his powerful photos of war-torn Beirut and landscape photography. In recent years, he has turned his lens to cinema. Join us for an evening showcasing his work.

U.S. Premiere
Jours tranquilles en Palestine directed by Sylvain Roumette and written by Fouad Elkoury (France, 1998, 13 min, Beta SP)
This film tells an often forgotten story of Palestine: that of a pre-Israeli society happily living on its land. Using old photographs found by the Arab Image Foundation and the voices of five women born in Palestine before 1948, the film recalls ordinary moments of life before the current history of violence and suffering. In French w/English subtitles

U.S. Premiere
Letters to Francine by Fouad Elkoury (France, 2002, 43 min, Beta SP)
Through the filmmaker’s email correspondence with his friend Francine and a two-year project photographing Turkey, this film uses a rich layering of sound and image to draw intimate contrasts between the way the photographer sees a landscape but cannot see his own body and illness. In French w/English subtitles

U.S. Premiere
Moving Out by Fouad Elkoury (France, 2004, 26 min, Beta SP)
A woman and her two children move out, leaving her husband alone in their home. As the film follows two days of packing and moving, it reveals a history of tension and lovelessness. In French w/English subtitles

Post-screening panel discussion with filmmaker and photographer Fouad Elkoury and Walid Raed (Cooper Union)

Saturday, November 20, 6 PM
Deep Breath by Parviz Shahbazi (Iran, 2003, 82 min, 35 mm)
In a rare cinematic vision of young urban Iran this sophisticated portrait of alienated youth (more than the title is a nod to Godard's Breathless), Kamran and Mansour spend their time "vagabonding" through Tehran, snatching cell phones, stealing cars, and driving aimlessly. After picking up a hitchhiker, a chatty student named Ayda, one man is consumed by the hope she gives him, the other yields to his overwhelming despair. Wry and bittersweet, Deep Breath is. In Farsi w/English subtitles

Post-screening panel discussion with Shouleh Vatanabadi (NYU) and Godfrey Cheshire (Film Critic, NYC)

Saturday, December 4, 6 PM

New York Premiere
The Magic Box by Ridha Behi (Tunisia, 2002, 88 min, 35 mm)
Raouf is haunted by dreams that point to a failing marriage. For solace, he immerses himself in his current project, a film that transports him back to his youth in the small town of Kairouan where he grew up in fear of his strict traditionalist father, and in awe of his dashing uncle, a traveling movie projectionist whose influence led to a lifelong love of cinema. Compared by some critics to Cinema Paradiso, this beautifully shot film provides a window into the complexities of life in the Maghreb. In French and Arabic w/English subtitles

Preceded by

New York Premiere
How Beautiful is the Sea by Sabine El Chamaa (Lebanon, 2003, 10 min, Beta SP)
After an apocalyptic explosion, a woman ventures into the streets and finds herself by the sea. There she meets a man who, much like her, wears a protective uniform. Incapable of sensing nature, or one another, they ponder the possibility of shedding their uniforms. In Arabic w/English subtitles

Introductory remarks by H.E. Mr. Hatem Atallah, Ambassador of Tunisia to the United States

Post-screening panel discussion with filmmakers Ridha Behi and Sabine El Chamaa and Joshua Schreier (Vassar College)

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Cinema East is a collaborative project of ArteEast, Inc., and the Department of Middle East Studies at NYU. This program is supported by the Egyptian-American Professional Society/EAPS; Arabic Women’s eNews; the Kevorkian Center, NYU; the Film Department, NYU; the Middle East Institute of Columbia University and Egypt Air. It is funded in part by People Helping People Help Themselves and the New York Council for the Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support is provided by the Egyptian Consulate, NYC; the Tunisian Embassy, Washington DC; Near East Foundation; Moon and Stars Project Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, NYU, and Print Icon.

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ArteEast is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization established in 2003 by a group of film programmers, filmmakers, artists and educators to promote the visibility of the arts and cultures of the Middle East in the United States through collaborative projects with Universities, community groups, museums and cultural institutions. It supports the production and presentation of artistic work pertaining to the Middle East in various media, including, but not limited to, art, music, theater, and film with a unique multicultural approach to covering a wide spectrum of Middle Eastern artists and viewpoints. Please visit our website at for more information about the organization and our programs.

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