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ALFilm: Spotlight on Arabic cinema

Berlin's Arab Film Festival celebrates its 13th birthday this month over six days and four locations.

Memory Box. Photo: AlFilm

Known for thought-provoking cinema that uproots stereotypes about the Middle East and North Africa and offers insight into current political and social issues, Berlin’s ALFilm – Arab Film Festival – celebrates its 13th birthday this month with a stellar line-up of 45 feature films, documentaries and shorts. It takes place over six days at Kino Arsenal, City Kino Wedding, Kino in der KulturBrauerei and Silent Green, from April 20 to 26, with many screenings followed by talks with invited directors, actors and producers.

Look out for Karim Aïnouz’ immersive documentary Mariner of the Mountains (21/04, 20:00, KulturBrauerei; 25:04, 19:00, City Kino Wedding), Haider Rashid’s Europa, which sees the filmmaker address the growing far-right threats Arab migrants face in Europe (23/04, 21:30, City Kino Wedding; 25/04, 22:00, Arsenal), and Omar El Zohairy’s scathing and humorous social satire Feathers, about a birthday party magic trick that goes wrong and turns the authoritative patriarch into a chicken. It offers a critical look at current political issues, and, like Europa, Feathers is fascinating in the way it uses the cinematic language of other genre films like thriller and horror tropes in order to open the spectator’s eyes and allow them to uncover the deeper social grievances addressed by the filmmaker (20/04, 19:30, Arsenal; 22/04, 21:00, City Kino Wedding).

Of particular interest this year is the festival’s spotlight dedicated to Lebanon: under the title ‘From Civil War to Chaos: A Tribute to Filmic Resistance’, many films address how cinema is made in times of crisis. A hot ticket this year will be Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s Memory Box, which premiered at last year’s Berlinale in Competition. It focuses on the importance of (hidden and recovered) recollections, as well as how vital role of memory when civil war threatens history and political discourse (21/04, 19:00, Arsenal; 22/04, 19:30, KulturBrauerei). As solid as it is, the unmissable entry in this Spotlight programme is without a doubt Eliane Raheb’s doc Miguel’s War (23/04, 19:30, KulturBrauerei), which chronicles the story of a gay man who has grown up oppressed and shamed during the Lebanese civil war.

Check out the full programme and book your tickets here. Happy screenings.

ALFilm / April 20 to 26 / Kino Arsenal, City Kino Wedding, Kino in der KulturBrauerei, Silent Green.