Seven Arab films to be screened at 71st Berlinale

Mona Sheded, Thursday 4 Mar 2021

Lebanon’s Memory Box is competing for the Golden Bear

Memory Box
Memory Box

The first stage of the 71st edition of the Berlin International Film Festival “Berlinale,” the Industry Days, is being held online from 1 to 5 March 2021. The majority of the selected films will be available for viewing online only to the industry representatives and accredited members of the press.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival is taking place in two stages: the Industry Days and Summer Special (9-20 June) during which the audience will be able to watch the films selected for cinema screenings in the presence of the filmmakers.

Some 139 films from all over the world are participating in this edition, 15 are competing for the Golden and Silver Bears, 11 in the Berlinale Special Section; 12 are competing for the second edition of Encounters Competition, while the Berlinale’s international short film competition comprises 20 entries. Other sections include Panorama (19 films), Forum Programme (17 films), Forum Expanded (18 films), Berlinale series programme (six films), Generation competition (15 films) and PerspektiveDeutsches Kino (six films).

Seven Arab films -- from Egypt, Palestine and Lebanon -- will be screened in several Berlinale sections, with one of them -- Memory Box -- competing for the Golden Bear.
The Lebanese drama Memory Box is directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. The film stars Rim Turki, ManalIssa, PalomaVauthier, ClémenceSabbagh, and Hassan Akil.

The film focuses on Maia who lives in Montreal with her teenage daughter Alex. On Christmas Eve, Maia receives a box containing the journals, tapes, and photos she had entrusted to her best friend who fled to Paris to escape the civil war in Beirut.

With Memory Box, Lebanon competes for the Golden Bear after 39 years of not being represented in the main competition. The last time a Lebanese film had competed for the Golden Bear was in 1982 with Beirut the Encounter directed by BorhaneAlaouié.

Egypt and Palestine's co-production documentary As I Want, the debut film by Samaher Al-Qadi, competes for the Encounters awards. The film portrays the director joining an anti-harassment women protest in 2013, in Tahrir Square, using her camera as a protection and also to document the protests of a burgeoning women’s rebellion.

Three Arab films will screen in the Panorama section competing for the audiences award: Souad by Ayten Amin (Egypt), Death of a Virgin and the Sin of Not Living (Lebanon), and Miguel's War (Lebanon).

Souad is a co-production by Egyptian producer Sameh Awad, Tunisian producer Dora Bouchoucha, producer and screenwriter Mohamed Hefzy, Egyptian producer Mark Lotfy, and Wim Wenders through Germany’s Road Movies.

The story deals with the impact of social media on young girls and follows two sisters who live in the small Delta city of Zagazig in Lower Egypt. Mahmoud Ezzat co-wrote the script with Ayten Amin.

Death of a Virgin and the Sin of Not Living follows the story of four young Lebanese men as they travel to visit a sex worker for the first time. The film stars Etienne Assal, Adnan Khannaz, Jean Paul Franjieh, and Saad Elle Dankoura.

Born in Orange County, California, and raised in Batroun, Lebanon, George Peter Barbari is an Argentinean-Lebanese filmmaker. Death of a Virgin and the Sin of Not Living is his directorial debut drawn from personal experience.

Miguel's War is written and directed by Lebanese filmmaker Eliane Raheb.

The film is a portrayal of a man who confronts the ghosts of his past. After fleeing war and repression 37 years ago, Miguel returns to Lebanon where he traces hidden longings, unrequited love, and tormenting feelings of guilt.

Two experimental projects participate in the 16th Forum Expanded: Seven Years Around the Nile Delta, by Egyptian filmmaker Sharief Zohairy, and All of Your Stars are But Dust on My Shoes, by Lebanese artist and filmmaker Haig Aivazian.

Seven Years Around the Nile Delta is the result of an eight-year-long cinematic journey, a mix of road movie and travelogue, contemplating the diversity of 32 cities and villages of the Nile Delta.

All of Your Stars are But Dust on my Shoes is a video installation in Forum Expanded. It tracks the public administration of light and darkness as an essential policing tool. The video moves between cities like New York and Paris, with the artist's native Beirut setting the central pulse. 

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