Spotlight on Syria: Houses Without Doors

houses-without-doors-2016-Avo-Kaprealian-003

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.

bde9b0e2fab2850ae441a4b6288dc975

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.

Advertisements

Programmer Notes: Opening Night Selections

HalalLove-stillI am so excited to bring to Cape Cod another edition of the Cape Cod Festival of Arab & Middle Eastern Cinema. For a couple of years now I have wanted to add comedies to the program, but I was never able to get the ones I wanted until this year. Opening night at the Chatham Orpheum Theater (Thursday, May 4, 6 p.m.),, after a wonderful reception with Middle Eastern food and cash bar, I am proud to present to you the feature comedy from Lebanon, Halal Love (and Sex) by Assad Fouladkar.

Halal Love (and Sex) was chosen because it is funny, at times dramatic, well acted, and overall a wonderful film, but also because this is a comedy I feel you will relate to, even as different as our countries are. In the film, we meet three romantic couples at different stages in their relationships. Living in a Muslim country, and being Muslims themselves, the rules and codes of their religion and culture restrict how they can behave, but there are also certain “loopholes” that give the characters some hope that they can resolve their romantic issues. This is something I think people who follow other religious traditions will relate to, but also, all of us can find ourselves in the situation of being stuck between what our hearts desire and what our communities will allow.

Humor is an essential human coping mechanism, but from the images we see of Lebanon, the Middle East, and the Arab world, one would think there is no sense of humor in these places. We only hear about terrorism, refugees, anti-Americanism, and religious extremism. So, although this film is a comedy, I believe it is still a vitally important film to screen this year, and I hope you will join be there tomorrow night.

To read more about Halal Love (and Sex) and its director’s thoughts about making the film, check out this story in Variety from when the film was screened at Sundance  last year.

18119506_791511167678237_5634968043991553126_nIn addition to the reception and screening of Halal Love (and Sex), we will be showing E.A.S., a short film by Kays Al-Atrakchi, an Iraqi-Italian filmmaker living and working in the United States. The film takes place in the U.S. in the near future, at a time when Arab-Americans must hold special ID cards. It was a film Al-Atrakchi made before President Trump was in office. In his director’s statement, Al-Atrakchi says, “When I came up with the original idea that ended up becoming E.A.S., I imagined a fictional America where Arab immigrants were viewed as hostile and national ID databases and interment camps were quickly becoming the law of the land. I could never have imagined that my fictional vision of an increasingly paranoid America would be so close to becoming reality.”

We are hoping to discuss this short film with Al-Atrakchi via Skype right after it screens, so please join us for this.

Opening Night is Thursday, May 4, with a reception at 6 p.m. and the screenings starting at roughly 7 p.m. Tickets ($25 including the reception) are still available online or at the box office at the Chatham Orpheum Theater, 637 Main St., Chatham.

ArtSpring Theme is Freedom of Expression

ArtsSpring _April 27_

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

HalalLove-HTFile.jpg

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.