Morocco, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria without leaving Dearborn? Or better yet, without leaving the Arab American National Museum?
The museum is sponsoring the third annual Arab film festival, a series of first-rate films from the Arab world. These films feature a range of different countries and narratives highlighting all aspects of life.
The movies are cutting edge and award-winning. According to the Museum’s promotional materials, “one film took home a 2006 Academy Award.” One was banned in Egypt and features that nation’s biggest pop star. Which one? I can’t give the plot away.
Wafa Amayreh, a museum staff member who worked on the festival, said it is an important event because this will be the only place people will have the chance to see many these films. She pointed out that one of them, “Le Grand Voyage,” was the first film to ever be filmed in Mecca.
Some of the movies were filmed under grueling conditions. “Ahlaam” was “filmed in Iraq by a crew who were forced to arm themselves for protection,” according to Amayreh. It featured three Iraqis in Baghdad surviving in the midst of war in the bombed-out ruins of a psychiatric asylum. The tales of these three Iraqi lives say so much about the human cost of America’s invasion.
One exciting film is making its Midwestern premier. “Driving to Zigzigland” should strike home for many. It is about a Palestinian cab driver in Los Angeles. It is set against the theme of a post-9/11 America, where many Arab and Muslim immigrants struggle to make it while being viewed with suspicion. Throw in his audition for a Hollywood film, the Department of Homeland Security, and you have an interesting tale that reflects Arab America today.
The films also present stories that break the stereotypes of Arabs too common in the American media. One made in Morocco is a short but insightful story about rock music in the Arab world. In a culture clash familiar to many Arab Americans, a music fan seeks to express love for heavy metal music in a culture that makes no sense of it. The aspiring metal drummer struggles to win his family’s approval.
“Make a Wish” is a compelling and heart-warming journey into the simple things in life under occupation. Mariam, a young Palestinian girl, “will do whatever it takes to buy a birthday cake.” Her journey for this one simple pleasure unfolds into a nightmare, one that captures the precariousness of life in the face of foreign military occupation.
Documentaries at this year’s festival highlight numerous other stories, from drug use and teen pregnancy in the lives of homeless Cairene teenagers, to dance and poetry, to a short conversation with a woman in Sidon, Lebanon in line at a gas station during Israel’s bombardment.
The museum put together a list of sponsors as impressive as its list of films. The Metro Times, 101.9 WDET FM, The Wallace Foundation and an arts commission with the State of Michigan all support this festival.
The film festival will also provide for discussion and analysis, in case you want to talk about what you see. Wadad Abed, co-founder of the Bustan Al-Funun Foundation, and film critic Serena Donadoni will discuss the first night of films on Friday, November 2nd.
On the following night, there will be a stimulating discussion of the “Politics of Identity,” with Rima Hassouneh, lecturer at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Najah Bazzy, transcultural nurse consultant; and Matthew Stiffler, graduate student in American culture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Do not miss this opportunity to see excellent, artistic and thought-provoking movies, especially the kind that you will not be able to see on television.
For more information visit www.arabamericanmuseum.org or call 313.582-AANM.