2023 Arab Film Fest Tulsa
Returning to Circle Cinema Thu 11/9-Sun 11/12
Curated by Mizna and supported by the Tulsa Artist Fellowship
Renowned film and lit organization Mizna brings its Arab Film Fest Tulsa back for a third year in collaboration with Circle Cinema and Tulsa Artist Fellowship, presenting contemporary Arab and SWANA (Southwest Asian and North African) directors and showcasing a deeply underrepresented, diverse, and brilliant world of film.
Individual program tickets are $8 each unless noted. If you purchased an All-Access Pass while they were available, you will be notified by email about how to see the films when you arrive.
Thu 11/9: Critically acclaimed Palestinian feature + opening party
7:00p film: "Mediterranean Fever" Dark comedy
Dir. Maja Haj (Palestine, Germany) | 108min | Arabic with English subtitles | Watch the trailer
About the film Aspiring writer Waleed lives in Haifa with his wife and children and suffers from chronic depression. Repelled by outside interaction, Waleed’s attempts at isolation are interrupted by the arrival of a new neighbor and small-time crook Jalal, who forces him out of his shell. He develops a close relationship with Jalal, with an ulterior plot in mind. As the two become close, the scheme to hire an assassin leads them into a journey of dark encounters.
About the director Maha Haj was born in Nazareth in 1970. She graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a degree in English and Arabic literature. Her cinematic experience was derived from her work as an artistic designer in productions of The Time That Remains by Elia Suleiman, The Attack by Ziad Douairi, and On the Hill by Rafael Natjari. She wrote and directed the short film Oranges (2009) and the documentary Behind These Walls (2010). In 2015 she shot her first feature film Personal Affairs which was selected in 2016 for Cannes Film Festival’s Official Selection “Un Certain Regard” and was critically acclaimed. The film also won the Haifa Film Festival’s Best Feature Award in 2016 and the Mediterranean Film Festival of Montpellier’s Critics’ Award, among others.
9:00p: Opening Party after the film
Stay after the movie and join us for a festival kickoff party in the gallery! Featuring food by Shawkat Mediterranean Grill and music by Atomic Culture.
Fri 11/10: Black Arab Lens - Sudan
8:00p film: "The Dam" Political art film
Dir. Ali Cherri (Sudan, Lebanon) | 84min | Arabic with English subtitles | Watch the trailer
About the film 'The Dam' is a political fable about the power of imagination set against the backdrop of the Sudanese revolution. In Sudan, near the Merowe Dam, Maher works in a traditional brickyard fed by the waters of the Nile. Every evening, he secretly wanders off into the desert to build a mysterious construction made of mud. While the Sudanese people rise to claim their freedom, his creation slowly starts to take a life of its own.
About the director Born in Beirut, Ali Cherri is a visual artist and filmmaker living in Paris. Combining films, videos, sculptures and installation, his work examines the construction of historical narratives. Ali is the Artist in Residence at the National Gallery in London (2021/22) and has been awarded with the Silver Lion for promising artist at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia (2022). His short films The Disquiet and The Digger have been shown in prominent film festivals. The Dam, a fiction shot in Sudan during the revolution, is his debut feature film.
Sat 11/11: Western Sahara Indigeneity & Environment + live Filmmaker Talk
2:00p film: "DESERT PHOSfate" Experimental doc
**special pay-what-you-can screening**
Plus short film "The Year of Balls" before the feature
Dir. Mohamed Sleiman Labat | 58min | Arabic with English subtitles | Watch a video about the director |
Live post-film virtual talk and Q&A with filmmaker and NSU professor Tiffanie Hardbarger (Cherokee Nation)
About the film DESERT PHOSfate is about indigeneity, environment, sustainability, and history in the western Sahara. It weaves through the story of phosphate, exploring multi-layered narrations about sand particles, plants and human displacement. The film explores ways of telling about realities, metaphors and poetics in the desert. It highlights connections between colonial practices, traces of anthropocentric mineral extractions and the loss of indigenous ways of knowing and telling about the world based on narratives and philosophies rooted in the Sahrawi way of living.
About the director Mohamed Sleiman Labat is a Sahrawi visual artist and writer based in Algeria. He is the founder of Motif Art Studio in Samara refugee camp near Tindouf in the Hamda desert. Established in 2017, the studio is where the artist experiments with discarded materials found in the camp to make meaningful visual pieces as well as facilitates cross-generational learning through the arts, particularly focusing on the preservation of traditional storytelling and oral history. It is now a hub for artistic practice in the remote desert, whilst serving as a space for Saharawi youth to gain skills and explore their creative potential.
Sat 11/11: Anticolonialism from the Hollywood of the Arab World
7:30p film: "Kira & El Gin" Epic historical action
Dir. Marwan Hamed (Egypt) | 175min | Arabic with English subtitles | Watch the trailer
About the film Cairo, 1919. The Great War has left Egyptian soldiers of the Empire traumatized, the Spanish Flu has ravaged the country, and nationalist leaders are being deported amid fervent protests. Unphased by the tumult, Abdel Qader, an apolitical drug peddler known as the Jinn, continues to do business with the colonizers. But when injustice comes knocking, he finds himself joining hands with an underground resistance unit led by Ahmed Kira, a physician in the good books of the British. Adapted from Ahmed Mourad’s novel 1919 (2014), Kira & El Gin is a rousing anticolonial drama set during the Egyptian independence movement of the 1920s.
About the director Marwan Hamed is a prominent Egyptian prominent filmmaker with over 20 years of experience in producing and directing films, commercials, TV drama series, and music videos. Marwan’s debut feature The Yacoubian Building (2006) was the most expensive film ever made in the history of Egyptian cinema at the time and screened at some of the world's most prestigious film festivals, winning numerous awards. In 2014, Marwan directed The Blue Elephant, which received several awards at many film festivals, and in 2019, he directed the film’s second installment Blue Elephant: Dark Whispers. The film dominated the box office, becoming the highest-grossing film in Egyptian history at the time. His latest film Kira & El Gin became the highest-grossing film in the history of Egyptian cinema.
Sun 11/12: Lebanon Focus
2:00p film: "Kash Kash" Socio-political pigeon documentary
Dir. Lea Najjar (Lebanon, Germany, Qatar) | 90min | Arabic with English subtitles | Watch the trailer
About the film Beirut is torn apart by a corrupt political elite, anti-government protests, and one of the biggest explosions of the 21st century. But above the roofs of the city emerged an unexpected bearer of hope: the pigeon game of chance, “kash hamam.” Every evening, in the golden sun above the labyrinthine streets, swarms of pigeons fly out of their cages and fill the sky. Their flight follows the choreography of an ancient tradition. Each player holds their own flock and lets it circle above their house, trying to lure the neighbors’ pigeons onto their own roof in order to catch the birds and expand their flock. During the dystopian times of the recent political collapse of Lebanon, the film embarks on a journey from roof to roof. When everything perishes, why do we hold on to flying? Kash Kash observes a city in turmoil from the perspective of three pigeon players and a young girl fighting to release her own birds.
About the director Lea Najjar was born in Vienna and grew up in Beirut, where she attended high school and university. She studied at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg and finished her diploma in documentary directing with her first feature film, Kash Kash. The documentary celebrated its world premiere at the CPH: DOX in Copenhagen, where it won the NEXT:WAVE competition in the categories of Best Debut and Emerging Filmmaker from the International Scene, before going to other critical acclaim.
3:30p: Closing Party between the two film programs
In between the final two programs of the festival, join us for a special closing party in the gallery! Featuring food by My Moroccan Oven and music by Atomic Culture.
Sun 11/12: Finale Double Feature - The Bonds of Women Outsiders
Ticket includes admission to both films!
4:30p first feature: "Les Chenilles" Immigrant drama
Dir. Michelle and Noel Keserwany (Lebanon, France) | 30min | Immigrant drama | Arabic with English subtitles | Watch the trailer
About the film Asma and Sarah meet while working as waitresses in France. They both come from the Levant and carry the shadows of their pasts, each in their own way. Finding a common ground that traces back to the time when the city of Lyon was connected to their homeland via the Silk Road, they form a tentative friendship. The film explores exploitation–then and now–as well as female solidarity, friendship, and solace
About the directors Michelle Keserwany and Noel Keserwany are Lebanese musicians, writers, and filmmakers. The sisters are known for their satirical music videos that criticize the Lebanese corrupt political system. Ever since Michelle co-wrote Capernaum with director Nadine Labaki (Academy Award nominee, winner of the Prix du Jury in Cannes 2018 and Best Script Award at Stockholm IFF), they started their own film projects, including the political documentary Slow Burn, a co-production between France and Lebanon, produced by Special Touch Studios and supported by the CNC. Between 2019 and 2021, they both received grants from the French Institute to reside at La Cite des Arts in Paris and work on their film projects. They live between Beirut and Paris. Les Chenilles is the sisters’ debut short fiction film and was awarded the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the 2023 Berlinale.
Second feature: "Queens" Feminist road adventure
Dir. Yasmine Benkiran (Morocco, France) | 83min | Arabic with English subtitles | Watch the trailer
About the film Zineb is a convicted drug dealer nearing the end of her prison sentence. When the authorities threaten to place her misbehaving daughter Ines in a child protection center, Zineb breaks out of jail, collects the girl, hijacks a truck, and takes to the road. Asma, a young mechanic who happens to be a passenger in the truck, is forced to act as a driver for Zineb and Ines. The trio embark on a long escape that takes them across the rugged red terrain and flower-filled valleys of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains to finally reach the Atlantic ocean.
About the director Yasmine Benkiran grew up on the Moroccan Atlantic coast. She studied philosophy and communication sciences in Paris and had her first film experiences in Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and London, before entering French national film school La Fémis’ screenwriting workshop (l’Atelier Scénario). Yasmine writes for both television and cinema and has written two books about Morocco as well as a series of podcasts about Alice Guy, the world's first female director. In 2018, Yasmine directed her first short film, Winter Time (Tangier IFF, Off-courts Trouville). Queens is her first feature film.