The Gulf Today - Panorama - - COVER STORY -

slew of new ti­tles that cut a wide swathe in

of themes, con­cerns and styles rep­re­sents Arab cinema in the 43rd edi­tion of the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (TIFF, Sept.6 to 16), tes­ti­fy­ing to the sus­tained dy­namism and depth of ilm­mak­ing in the re­gion. At one end of the spec­trum, vet­eran Al­ge­rian ilm­maker Merzak Al­louache’s lat­est work world pre­mieres in the fes­ti­val’s Mas­ters side­bar; at the other, Pales­tinian wri­ter­di­rec­tor Bas­sam Jar­bawi will bring the cur­tains down on the Dis­cov­ery sec­tion with his de­but fea­ture.

What is par­tic­u­larly en­cour­ag­ing is that Jar­bawi has two other Arab ilm­mak­ers — Syria’s Soudade Kaadan and Is­raelipales­tinian Sameh

Zoabi — for com­pany in the Dis­cov­ery se­lec­tion, which, as the name sug­gests, is aimed at un­earthing and pro­mot­ing fresh cin­e­matic voices. In fact, most of the Arab direc­tors in the TIFF pro­gram this year are in their 30s or 40s and have sev­eral pro­duc­tive decades of ilm­mak­ing ahead of them.

High on ev­ery list of must-watch TIFF 2018 ilms will be Le­banese ac­tress-di­rec­tor Na­dine Labaki’s Caper­naum. This nat­u­ral­is­tic, deeply felt ex­plo­ration of the lives of marginalised chil­dren ek­ing out a pre­car­i­ous ex­is­tence on the streets of Beirut will play as a Spe­cial Pre­sen­ta­tion. Caper­naum pre­miered in the Cannes Com­pe­ti­tion ear­lier this year and won the Jury Prize. In 2011, Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now? earned the TIFF Peo­ple’s Choice Award.

Merzak Al­louache,

73, is one of the Arab world’s most cel­e­brated ilm­mak­ers. His new ilm, Divine Wind, shot in strik­ing black and white, is about a young man and woman who are as­signed the task of blow­ing up a pe­tro­leum ex­trac­tion site in the North African desert. Al­louache once again ex­plores the dan­gers of rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion.

While both are com­pletely in­doc­tri­nated, the two ji­hadists in Divine Wind have noth­ing in com­mon. The man is a new re­cruit and is as­sailed by doubts; the enig­matic woman is a more hard­ened soul.

But thrown as they are into a se­cret mis­sion that could be their last, they are drawn ever closer to each other, which puts their plans at risk.

Bas­sam Jar­bawi, who made an in­ter­na­tional splash with the short ilm Chicken Heads about a decade ago, will be in Toronto with Mafak (Screw­driver), about a man who, af­ter spend­ing more than a decade in an Is­raeli jail for a failed at­tack on a set­tler, strug­gles to ad­just to life af­ter im­pris­on­ment. On his re­turn to his home in Ra­mal­lah, he does not feel like the hero he is made out to be.

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