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8 Arab Films Shortlisted at The Palm Springs International ShortFest

As Hollywood slowly but increasingly becomes representative of culturally diverse characters and storylines, Arab cinema is finally receiving the recognition it deserves on the international stage. Out of more than 6,000 submissions from 69 countries around the world, eight films from the region have qualified for the official selection at the annual Palm Springs International Shortfest this year.

Occurring virtually in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the largest festival for short films in the United States will premiere online from June 16 to June 22 for a week of curated screenings, panels, and classes led by the industry’s top experts. Read on to discover which eight Arab films have been shortlisted and are competing for some of the most prestigious awards in cinema.

Give up the Ghost (Jordan)

La Biennale di Venezia premiere and Gold Star winner of Best Arab Short Film at the El Gouna Film Festival, Give up the Ghost is the latest award-winning film from Jordanian director Zain Duraie that delves into the social commentary on gender roles in the region. Competing for Best Live-Action Short Over 15 minutes, the film explores the heartbreaking struggles between a couple unable to conceive a child of their own and the difficult choices the wife, Salam, must make in order to save their marriage.

Soukoon (Lebanon)

As a self-proclaimed activist and a UCLA fellow aiming to amplify the voices of Arab women through film, Lebanese director Farah Shaer sheds light on the inner turmoil of a young woman worrying she is pregnant while trying to deal with the fallout of her marital life falling apart. Soukoon world premiered at the 2019 Telluride Film Festival in Colorado and is in the running for the coveted Best of the Festival Award and the Best Student International Short.

So What if the Goats Die (Morocco)

After winning the highly acclaimed Short Film Grand Jury Prize at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, the Sofia Alaoui-directed So What if the Goats Die is now competing for Best International Short at Palm Springs. Following the story of a young shepherd who must brave the harsh natural elements and traverse the Atlas Mountains during winter in search of food to save his cattle, the short takes a twist when he stumbles upon a supernatural phenomenon.

Henet Ward (Egypt)

Weaving the dramatic intricacies of a Sudanese henna painter living in Egypt as she and her seven-year-old daughter help a bride prepare for her pending wedding, Morad Mostafa’s cinematic debut competing for Best Live-Action Short Over 15 Minutes uncovers the emotionally distressing realities thousands of minority refugees face in the Middle East.

Also Read: Cairo International Film Festival Opens Submissions in Line with Gender Parity Pledge

Arabian Alien (Saudi Arabia)

Offering a fresh perspective to the science-fiction genre, this romantic short from Riyadh-born filmmaker Meshal Al Jaser revolves around the life-changing journey a married Muslim man who suffers from depression undergoes when he unexpectedly meets a space alien in the desert. After its successful debut at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Arabian Alien is competing for the Best of the Festival award, which would then be eligible for submission to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Oscar consideration if crowned winner.

The Present (Palestine)

HERE IS THE TRAILER FOR THE PRESENT – WOOHOO!My latest short film, The Present, was officially selected in competition at the the 44th Oscar qualifying Cleveland International Film Festival, where it was supposed to have it's North America premiere. However, due to the current Covid19 situation in the world, the festival has had to go online this year! Introducing: CIFF44 Streams. Is this good? Is this bad? I have no idea. I think for sure there is something to be said about watching a film on the big screen surrounded with the energy and anticipation of those sharing the experience with you, but I am grateful that we have the technology available that allows us to adapt and share meaningful work much further afar than we ever have been in human history – especially during times like this. Cleveland's online festival has been Geo-blocked, which means you will only be able to access the festival films online if you are located within Ohio, USA.That said, there are some up and coming other festivals that the film has also been selected for that are also having to move online, that are NOT applying a geo-block, and I will try my best to let everyone know when they are announced. In the meantime, here is the trailer for the film, which I hope you like. And here is the link for CIFF44 Streams if you are in Ohio! The festival will run from April 15th-28th. The Present is part of the Shorts Program 13. Please share with all your Ohio based friends and family. (Surely everyone knows at least one person in Ohio, right!? :-)) love.

Posted by Farah Nabulsi on Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Palestinian-British filmmaker Farah Nabulsi’s first short brings to life the heartwrenching narrative of a man who sets out with his daughter to buy a wedding anniversary gift for his wife against all odds in the occupied West Bank. Hot off the success of winning Best Live-Action Short at the Oscar-qualifying Cleveland International Film Festival earlier this year, The Present now has its sights set on the Bridging the Borders Award.

Omé (Lebanon)

"OMÉ – أمي " Trailer

We are excited to finally reveal the official trailer of "OMÉ – أمي" Synopsis:بعد وفاة والدته ، يذهب إلياس البالغ من العمر تسع سنوات إلى أبعد الحدود متحديًا إيمانه لإعادتها من أحضان المسيح. ليَعبُر بذلك نحو حقائق إيمانية جديدة. Following the death of his mother, 9-year-old Elias goes to extreme lengths to naively bring her back from Jesus’ heaven all while defying his faith…

Posted by OMÉ-a short film by Wassim Geagea on Monday, August 19, 2019

Winner of the Silver Star for Best Short Film at the El Gouna Film Festival and another contender for the Best Live-Action Short Over 15 Minutes, Wassim Geagea’s Omé depicts a nine-year-old’s quest to naively bring his mother home from heaven when her untimely death causes him to question his faith.

Stallions of Palestine (Palestine)

This 30-minute documentary from US filmmaker Elise Coker shares the hardships a Palestinian family of horse breeders endure while raising champion Arabian horses–a “living symbol of their culture’s resilience”–in the West Bank. Stallions of Palestine is in competition for a Local Jury Award, which strives to promote understanding and acceptance between people.

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