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10/08/2017 - 13:29hs

Arab film festival kicks off with immigration theme

A restored production from 1957, the first movie was screened this Wednesday at CineSesc, in the city of São Paulo, tells the story of a Lebanese man that migrated to Brazil.

São Paulo – From the mountains of Lebanon, living a bucolic day-to-day life, taking care of his farm and feeding the animals, a father decides to move to Brazil in search of wealth to his family. Portraying a country and the reality of immigration from the mid-part of last century, the movie “Where to Go”, opened the 12th Arab World Film Festival this Wednesday (9) evening at CineSesc, in the city of São Paulo, in a packed movie theater.

Press Release

Lebanese man talks to his sister-in-law about immigrating

With the original name “Ila Ayn?”, the black and white movie is from 1957 and was screened for the first time in Brazil in the festival’s opening, which is organized by the Institute for Arab Culture and the São Paulo Social Service for Trade (SESC-SP) and sponsored by the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce. The film, directed by Lebanese Georges Nasser was restored and presented at the Cannes Film Festival, France, this year. In addition to the opening, the movie will be shown again on Sunday (13), at 9 pm.

Differently from most of stories known by Brazilian, “Where to Go?” doesn’t portray a successful immigration. The head of the family comes to Brazil, leaving his wife taking care of the house, the farm and the two sons, and spends the next twenty years without making contact. The boys grow up and help take care of everything, but only when the youngest is already a grown man and wants to immigrate to Brazil that the father returns. He, however, doesn’t bring good news.

Despite the family drama, the movie shows a Lebanon of breathtaking scenery, of houses embedded in the mountains and a simple, beautiful daily life of taking care of chickens, milking cows and having good friendships with neighbors. There’s financial difficulties, but the marriage of the oldest son with the neighbor has plenty of food, a lot of dancing and solidarity. The Lebanese way of dating and marrying, done in a small near-family cycle, is also shown.

Isaura Daniel/ANBA

Silvia Antibas (C) attended the opening

“It’s the first fiction film to cover the Arab immigration in Brazil,” says Geraldo Adriano Godoy de Campos, curator of the festival alongside Silvia Antibas, cultural director of the Arab Chamber. The festival’s theme is “The Territory That Crosses Me” and, according to Campos, will connect important aspects of the subject: the Arab migratory flows that helped build Brazilian society and the current flows of migrants and refugees.

“It will cover the relationship of people with the territories at a time when we are facing globally the issue of the forced human displacement,” says Campos. The curator defines the festival’s program as an invitation to assert the stance and role that cinema has in the face of proliferating narratives that support the building of walls, increase of barriers, deportation of people and xenophobia.

The festival runs until August 16 and will have 11 film productions. Mohamad Orra Mourad, director of the Arab Chamber, who have seen many of the movies that will be screened, says that are all high-quality and underscores the presence of both documentaries and fiction features in the festival, plus current and past realities. According to the Mourad, the movies convey the message that material things are not as valuable as those people are born entitled to, such as freedom and the right to come and go as they please. 

Isaura Daniel/ANBA

Packed room at the opening of the festival at CineSesc

At the festival’s opening, Icarabe’s president, Mohamed Habib, highlighted the differences between current and past Arab displacements. According to him, Arabs were always nomads by choice, but nowadays they are being forced to leave. The president said that the festival has everything to do with the current scenario. “The Middle East is facing a complex, never-before-seen crisis, and Brazil is also facing its own crisis.”

According to the Arab Chamber’s cultural director, the organization is sponsoring the initiative because it believes it’s important to promote the Arab culture. “It’s our way of showing the culture, the way of thinking of Arabs,” Antibas told ANBA. At the festival’s opening, the director underscored the expansion that the Arab Chamber is doing in the cultural area and showed to be really moved by the topic of the first movie, Arab immigration, which is part of her own family story.

The opening also was attended by the director and writer of the movie “Yamo”, the Lebanese Rami Nihawi. The production will be screened this Friday (11) at 7 pm, followed by a debate with the director. The movie is a documentary based on the story of Nihawi’s mother and portray Lebanon’s Civil War and its effects on the collective memory of the country and in peoples’ daily lives. It’s never been exhibited in Brazil before, according to Icarabe.

Isaura Daniel/ANBA

Directors of the Arab Chamber attended the festival?s opening

Nihawi is also the producer of another important movie in the festival, which is “Off Frame AKA Revolution Until Victory.” The documentary is a co-production by France, Palestine, Lebanon and Qatar, directed by Mohanad Yaqubi. Campos points out that it was done based on archive images of what was left of Palestinian cinema, recovered by the director, who travelled the world after the archives. “The Palestinian cinema had to face, throughout its history, the destruction of its films, the negatives, the reels,” says Campos.

All the movies will be screened at CineSesc and the tickets can be bought at the venue's box office. Also part of the program is the concert Al-Mu’tamid, scheduled for next Saturday (12) at concert hall Sala São Paulo, in São Paulo. In the concert, musicians from Morocco, Portugal and Spain play songs based on the poems of 11th century poet and king Al-Mu’tamid. He ruled what today is the territory that comprises South Portugal to Gibraltar.

Quick info
12th Arab World Film Festival 2017
August 9 to 16, 2017
Place: Cinesesc
Rua Augusta, 2075, Cerqueira César - São Paulo - SP
Information: 55 11 3087-0500 - email@cinesesc.sescsp.org.br
Tickets: full BRL 12 (USD 3.85) – half ticket BRL 6 (USD 1.92) – SESC Members BRL 3.50 (USD 1.12)
Program: http://www.icarabe.org/node/3127

*Translated by Sérgio Kakitani

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