Three films from Arab countries screening at Sundance Film Festival 2022

Ahram Online , Wednesday 26 Jan 2022

Three Arab films — ‘Sirens’ by Rita Baghdadi, ‘Warsha’ by Dania Bdeir, and ‘Your Dark Hair, Ihsan’ by Tala Hadid — are being screened within the ongoing Sundance Film Festival. For its 2022 edition, the festival is taking place online at Festival.Sundance.org between 20 and 30 January.

Arab films
(Photo: still from film Sirens by Rita Baghdadi)

Baghdadi’s documentary, Sirens, is participating in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. 

The film presents the lives of Lilas and Shery — the co-founders of Lebanon’s first all-female metal band. It is a look at the young artists’ dreams to become rock stars in a city with a long history of war and social turmoil that, they believe, is in need of the healing power of music. 

Baghdadi is an Emmy award-winning Moroccan American documentary filmmaker that specialises in bold, character-driven films. Her debut feature documentary, ‘My Country No More’, was awarded the Best Feature Award at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in 2018.

Her second documentary, ‘City Rising’, received an Emmy for Best Social Issue Film and is still being used as a tool against housing discrimination.

Screening in the Short Film Programme in Sundance, ‘Warsha’ is a short movie directed by Bdeir. The plot focuses on Mohammad, a Syrian migrant working as a crane operator in Beirut, who, one day, volunteers to take on one of the tallest and notoriously most dangerous cranes in Lebanon. 

Bdeir is a Lebanese Canadian award-winning writer and director born in Montreal. She is currently a member of the Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective, has a BA in Graphic Design from the American University in Beirut, and an MFA in directing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she received a full scholarship in her third year.

Another short to be screened at Sundance is Your Dark Hair, Ihsan. The film follows a man returning to his home in Northern Africa and remembering his childhood and the mother he lost as a child.

The director of the film, Hadid — who was born in London — is an Iraqi Moroccan filmmaker, photographer, and producer. She participated in the 2019 Rabat Biennale with her installation that was titled ‘Floodplain’.

Hadid’s work is also part of the Ruben Bentsov Moving Image Collection at the Walker Museum in the US. Her films have been screened at film festivals around the world, including Berlin and Venice.

The Sundance Festival’s annual programme includes several sections, including the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, World Cinema Documentary Competition, Short Film Programme, Special Screenings, among others.

Egyptian producer and screenwriter Mohamed Hefzy is on the jury of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Hefzy is part of a jury that features 16 internationally renowned critics and filmmakers that will view the competing films in their respective segments.

The Sundance Film Festival is an annual film festival organised by the Sundance Institute. It is the largest independent film festival in the United States. The festival gathers storytellers, filmmakers, film critics, and audiences from around the world.

It takes place every January in Park City, Utah; however, this year, it is being held completely online at Festival.Sundance.org.

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