A Cinematic Journey Through the Arab World Back in Westchester

Industry: Entertainment

The annual film series ANA Contemporary Arab Cinema is the anti CNN. It is a chance to go behind the headlines to understand the Arab World as Arabs see it.

New York (PRUnderground) September 8th, 2014

The 3rd edition of ANA Contemporary Arab Cinema is returning to the Jacob Burns Film Center (http://www.burnsfilmcenter.org/) in Pleasantville, NY from September 17 to the 24th.

Featuring 12 award-winning films, a mix of documentaries and feature length dramas, ANA highlights the talent of Arab directors from North Africa to the Levant giving viewers a chance to travel through cultures and be engulfed in stories from a region that oft times is the leading piece on the nightly news, and hardly ever in a good way.

A few of films, like Omar, The Square and Wadjda, are already audience favorites, having garnered rave reviews along the way.

A couple, May in the Summer and Return to Homs, premiered at Sundance. The rest, were mostly shown in the Arab region, and at select international festivals, but have not enjoyed stateside distribution.

Among them, are three Lebanese documentaries Heritages, The Lebanese Rocket Society and Sheherazade’s Diary and the features, Moroccan Adios Carmen, Egyptian Factory Girl and Kurdish Before Snowfall.

Arab films have gained popularity on the festival circuit. “We are competing with distributors like Sony Classics, Gathr, Fortissimo and Cohen Media for titles that they pick up at festivals and want to release nationwide,” says series’ curator Lina Matta . “Of course, that’s terrific news for the filmmakers. They’ve worked incredibly hard and with great passion to get their films made. But, for me, it’s frustrating to see a film, then have to wait a full year to bring it to the ANA audience.”

“The challenge while screening through all the movies is to find ones that are the “entire package” – a compelling story, high production values, great acting and international appeal,” says Matta. “More than ever, films can cut through to the heart, transcending news reports, and political pontifications. Some films, though, are too niche or too local. They may play well to the home viewer, but will not translate beyond borders. The Middle East is going through upheavals on so many fronts, and its important, that the message be in the hands of a mature and responsible director.”

Opening night kicks off Wednesday September 17 with Rock the Casbah directed by Laïla Marrakchi and featuring the ubiquitous Hiam Abbass, the multi-hyphenated Nadine Labaki and a special appearance by Hollywood legend, Omar Sharif. The screening will be followed by a reception.

A couple of the films will have in-person appearances by special guests. Others will be followed by Skype conversations with either the director, the producer or a featured actor. “It’s very generous of them to accept this technique, says Matta, for many, the time difference necessitates that they wake up in the middle of the night, but such is their passion, and for the audience, of course, it’s an incredible treat.”

“The Jacob Burns Film Center has been an amazing partner,” adds Matta.  “They’re very supportive of the series, and their audience are an intellectually curious and film savvy bunch. ANA has gained its own loyal fanbase of viewers who look forward to this week of watching movies, gaining new insights, having great post-movie conversations, and just catching up with each other. ”

For more information visit the website: http://anaarabcinema.com/

Tickets are available online.

Location: Jacob Burns Film Center, 364 Manville Rd., Pleasantville, NY 10570.

About ANA Contemporary Arab Cinema

Annual film series promoting contemporary Arab movies and directors. My partner is the Jacob Burns Film Center based in Pleasantville, NY. Together we build bridges and discover the world.

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Lina Matta

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