Dubai: The first-ever Arab Cinema Week is here

Ten days, 9 feature films, 6 shorts; with stories representing 11 Arab countries


Let’s first look at the amazing numbers — ten days, 9 feature films, and 6 shorts: with stories representing 11 Arab countries. Plus, four feature films in commemoration of 60 years of Algerian Independence, six special guests including Saleh Bakri and Bassel Ghandour, and films by nine female directors. Yes, Cinema Akil, Alserkal Avenue, an independent cinema in the UAE, has put together the first-ever edition of Arab Cinema Week, to represent stories and talent from the region, including Lebanon, Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, UAE, KSA, Qatar, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and more. Butheina Kazim, founder, Cinema Akil, said, “We have proudly partnered with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, the Goethe Institut Gulf Region and the Safar Film Festival to be able to make this a recurring event for Dubai and we have no doubt that the week will be a memorable journey for movie lovers across our communities.”


The first edition of Arab Cinema Week delivers on our mission of being the home of Arab independent cinema and filmmakers. In the absence of a national film festival, I am proud to dedicate our platform to celebrates the growing film industries in our region.

Butheina Kazim, founder, Cinema Akil

Curated by Rabih El-Khoury, Arab Cinema Week will be launched today (October 7) opening with BAFTA-winning Jordanian director Bassel Ghandour’s The Alleys; and screen Arab features and shorts including Michel Kammoun's film, Beirut Hold'em. Rabih, the program curator, said, “The program has been conceived to spark conversation and encourage discussion. There is an important dialogue to be held and a platform like Cinema Akil, which over the years has brought Dubai’s diverse communities together in the name of art and love of film, is the perfect setting to do this.” Also, the focus of the event will be films from Algeria to reflect on 60 years of Algerian independence (Karim Aïnouz’s documentary Mariner of Mountains (2021), Djaffar Gacem’s historic drama Héliopolis (2021), and Salah Issaad’s contemporary Soula; set to culminate in a screening of the 1966 classic, The Battle of Algiers), productions from Somalia’s independent industry, as well as a comprehensive short film program with films from the UAE, KSA, Qatar, Yemen and Sudan. Interestingly, most of the films at the event are being screened in the UAE for the very first time; and several of these are in the presence of their directors, giving the fans an opportunity to also meet with the creators. Becoming, an omnibus film by 5 female Saudi directors, presents a collection of stories joined by reflections on womanhood and will navigate the audience through the eyes of five different women. The film, which was a milestone production for the fast-growing film industry of Saudi Arabia, has already received critical acclaim at multiple festivals including the Red Sea Film Festival and Cairo Film Festival and will be presented by emerging talent Sara Mesffe. The program will also screen Beirut Hold’em (Michel Kammoun), as well as Egyptian director Omar El Zohairy’s 2021 dramedy Feathers, and Khadar Ahmed’s 2021 Djibouti-set Somali feature debut, The Gravedigger’s Wife.

From 7-16 October, Cinema Akil; 6-10 pm, Mondays to Thursdays & 3-10 pm, Fridays to Sundays

  • Becoming, an omnibus film by 5 female Saudi directors

  • 1966 classic, The Battle of Algiers

  • Jordanian director Bassel Ghandour’s The Alleys

In addition to hosting and screening innovative works of the Arab world's acclaimed and emerging artists, Arab Cinema Week will bring together a range of themes for Arab stories with filmmakers narrating their heartbreaks, their daily lives, their victories, their struggles and their moments of personal bliss.

Rabih El-Khoury, program curator, Arab Cinema Week

This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.

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