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Closing Night: Yallah! Underground

This year the festival was diverse in its offerings, but with a common goal of offering different views of life in Arab and Middle Eastern countries.

So often I hear from people who say they think Muslims should be doing more to combat terrorism or people who have never heard of Arabs who are not anti-American fundamentalists. This is a fundamentally broken system of media at work, presenting only horrifying images to us, with no element of hope. This is why the Arab Spring was so surprising to us, in the U.S., at least. We didn’t know there were regular, normal people in the Arab world. We didn’t know there were courageous revolutionaries who want the same things we want: freedom of expression, tolerance, and the ability to pursue their lives without undue government interference.

The Closing Night Selection is Yallah! Underground, a film by Farid Eslam that shows us alternative, underground artists in Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon. These are young musicians and artists with something to say who are not afraid to say it. It is so inspiring to see younger musicians expressing themselves joyfully on stages in front of other young people having a great time. There is always the need to share music, around the world, and always the need to come together and experience the arts, whether as a release from the tensions of life, or as a provocation to change our lives. I am so happy to be presenting this film tonight, co-sponsored by WOMR, at their studios in Provincetown.

The film will be preceded by I Am Palestine, a short film by Farid Kirreh and Kai Staats that profiles various Palestinians. You can watch a trailer for that film here. One of the directors, Kai Staats, will join us via Skype for Q&A (hopefully!). I look forward to seeing you all tonight in Provincetown

The Cape Cod Festival of Arab & Middle Eastern Cinema closes tonight, Sunday, May 7, at 7 p.m. with Yallah! Underground at WOMR Studios, 494 Commercial St., Provincetown. Tickets ($15) can still be purchased online this afternoon, and then at the door.

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Spotlight on Syria: Houses Without Doors

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Director Avo Kaprealian in “Houses Without Doors”

One of the great discoveries I’ve made for myself over the years programming this festival is the world of Syrian documentaries. In our very first edition of the Cape Cod Festival of Arab & Middle Eastern Cinema we showed a film called A Flood in Ba’ath Country by Omar Amiralay, which brilliantly and cinematically documented the Syrian people in a remote area under the previous Assad regime. I’ve seen that film many times now and even showed it again in a subsequent edition of the festival. Each year I have become aware of additional documentary work being done by Syrian filmmakers, sometimes anonymously created and shown online only, and sometimes more successfully disseminated through mostly Western film festivals, such as the Tribeca Film Festival or the Berlin International Film Festival.

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Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “El Topo” is incoroporated into the Syrian documentary “Houses Without Doors.”

Early this year, I found Avo Kaprealian’s film Houses Without Doors. I was stunned by the filmmaker’s courage—not only because he was filming in Aleppo even after being arrested and having his footage destroyed, but also because of the uniqueness of his vision. The film, shot from the Kaprealian family’s window in Aleppo, documents the changes to their Al-Midan neighborhood as the war in Syria escalates. The neighborhood is home to many Syrians of Armenian descent, including the filmmaker. His footage is combined with audio and sometimes video of other films, including two  films about Armenian, Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes, as well as the neo-surrealist midnight movie El Topo by Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodoroswky, creating a mesmerizing contemplation on the interconnectedness of Armenian refugees who came to Syria and the current plight of Syrians seeking asylum in other countries.

It is really unfortunate that Avo will not be able to join us tonight at the screening at Wellfleet Preservation Hall (7 p.m. Friday, May 5) because he is a very interesting filmmaker with a great passion for cinema. I did, however, have the opportunity to “talk” with Avo virtually, and I will be playing a portion of my audio interview with him after the screening tonight.

Before Houses Without Doors, we will screen the short film Daesh Girl by Abdul Almutairi, a Saudi filmmaker who made this film while studying film in the United States. This film tells the story of a young woman who joins ISIL in order to free her girlfriend. Almutairi will be able to join us from Saudi Arabia tonight via Skype after we screen his film. We previously screened Almutairi’s film 1991 in Wellfleet, so it is really exciting to bring him back this year.

Houses Without Doors screens tonight, Friday, May 5 at 7 p.m. at Wellfleet Preservation Hall, 335 Main St., Wellfleet. For tickets and information on this screening as well as the entire festival schedule, click here. Tickets will also be available at the door 30 minutes before screening time.

ArtSpring Theme is Freedom of Expression

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The Cape Cod Festival of Arab & Middle Eastern Cinema will be participating in ArtSpring Cape Cod, a brand new festival of diverse arts offerings on Cape Cod in the months of April and May. The whole thing kicks off tonight at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis. Really hoping to see everyone there. It’s a totally free event from 5 – 7 p.m. today, Thursday, April 27th, and you can learn all about not only this festival, but other great arts programming coming up this next month. We’re all connected by the theme of Freedom of Expression

Check it out…. http://www.artspringcapecod.org

The Cape Cod Festival of Arab & Middle Eastern Cinema Returns!

Full 2017 Festival Schedule and Tickets Available Here

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The Cape Cod Festival of Arab and Middle Eastern Cinema is a biennial showcase for fIlms from filmmakers in the Arab world, the Middle East, and the diaspora. The festival seeks to foster understanding about the cultures of these diverse countries and regions through the art of cinema and to bring Arab and Middle Eastern films to a receptive Cape Cod audience who might otherwise never see these films.

This year’s festival opens Thursday, May 4 with a screening of Assad Fouladkar’s Halal Love, a Lebanese comedy about regular everyday people working with their Muslim faith and their romantic entanglements, trying not to sacrifice either. The film will screen as part of the Opening Night festivities at the Chatham Orpheum Theater in Chatham, Mass., after a pre-screening reception featuring Middle Eastern hors d’oeuvres and cash bar.

The Closing Night film, is Farid Eslam’s Yallah! Underground, a documentary that features Arab musicians and artists in four countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel), including Zeid Hamdan, Shadi Zaqtan, and Maii Waleed Yassin, with an eye toward music and art as political and social comment in an area of the world that has recently been experiencing a major cultural and generational shift. The screening is co-sponsored by WOMR-FM (92.1FM) Outermost Community Radio and will be held at their studios in Provincetown at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 7.

Full 2017 Festival Schedule and Tickets Available Here

The Cape Cod Festival of Arab & Middle Eastern Cinema was produced by Rebecca Alvin’s Cape Cod Film Society, a project of the Provincetown Community Compact, a not for profit 501(c)3 organization. This program received support from the Chatham Local Cultural Council, Provincetown Local Cultural Council, aMCClogond Wellfleet Local Cultural Council.