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CINEMA from the world of Islam


credits produced by Gareth Richards Š RISC 2011 Users may copy pages from this pack for educational use, but no part may be reproduced for commercial use without prior permission from RISC. cover: Visual Dhikr 8www.visualdhikr.com

This publication has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union as part of its Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme. Its contents are the sole responsibility of RISC and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.


understanding islam: challenging islamophobia In 2010 the Exploring Islam Foundation commissioned YouGov to survey public perceptions of Islam, Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad. A majority (60%) of the 2152 respondents said they didn’t know very much about Islam and obtained most of their information about Islam from the TV news (57%) or newspapers (41%) rather than directly from Muslim organisations. Perceptions were generally negative: • 50% associate Islam with terrorism • 13% associate Islam with peace and 6% with justice • 16% think that Islam promotes fairness and equality • 41% disagree or strongly disagree that Muslims have a positive impact on British society • 69% believe that Islam encourages the repression of women. Many organisations are trying to challenge these misconceptions by raising awareness of the belief, practice, history and cultures of Islam, and highlighting the contribution of Muslims to society. Reading International Solidarity Centre (RISC) has created a portal for teachers and facilitators who want to challenge Islamophobia: www.challenging-islamophobia.org.uk It brings together resources that offer innovative and creative approaches for dealing with controversial issues that will engage young people. It shows how every area of the curriculum offers possibilities to explore alternative perspectives on the role of Islam in Britain and the wider world. RISC is producing its own teaching resources and activities to support teachers and facilitators who want to make their own contribution to give young people the opportunity to become truly global citizens. This review of cinema from the world of Islam is part of this task.


film title 11’09”01 – September 11

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2002

Venice Film Festival (2002): FIPRESCI Prize and Unesco Award

Eleven directors from 11 countries each contribute an 11-minute short reflecting on the events of 11 September 2001. A village teacher in Iran tries to explain to her young students what’s happened. City kids in Burkina Faso think they’ve spotted Osama bin Laden. A deaf Frenchwoman in Manhattan writes a Dear John letter to a man who has left that morning for work at the World Trade Centre. A Chilean remembers Allende. Events recall other deaths. A mother endures more than her son’s death. And so on. The tone varies, as do the locales. Most stories are about others coming to terms with the events of the day, and undertaken with complete freedom of expression.

‘An often brilliant, always revelatory, deeply interesting omnibus film’ – Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

134 mins. Dirs. Youssef Chahine, Amos Gitai, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Shôhei Imamura, Claude Lelouch, Ken Loach, Samira Makhmalbaf, Mira Nair, Idrissa Ouedraogo, Sean Penn, Danis Tanovic

‘this may be that rarity, a portmanteau film that exceeds the sum of its parts’ – Time Out ‘it's a beautifully eloquent, compassionate and thought-provoking work of collaborative cinema’ – Sukhdev Sandhu, Daily Telegraph

Various

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A Thousand Months (Mille Mois)

2003

Cannes Film Festival (2003): Le Premier Regard and Award of the Youth

Set during Ramadan in 1981, A Thousand Months tells the story of Medhi, a seven-year-old boy (Fouad Labied) who lives in the Atlas Mountains. His job is to watch over the chair of the teacher at school – a privileged task and the chair itself is a precious currency for bartering. His mother Amina (Nezha Rahil) and grandfather make him believe that Medhi’s father has gone to work in France, when in fact his father is in a local prison. This charming and beautifully shot film focuses on Medhi’s relationship with the village, his friends and a world of stories that revolve about Medhi and the inanimate, but evocative and symbolic chair.

‘Through telling these diverse stories, A Thousand Months shows how ordinary lives are shaped at a precise historical moment by the forces of religion, politics and economics. Refreshingly, Bensaïdi also encourages viewers to come up with their own interpretation of events…. It's humane, assured, democratic filmmaking’ – Total Film

124 mins. Dir. Faouzi Bensaïdi Morocco / France / Belgium

‘a stark but lovely evocation of the many melodramas that simultaneously haunt and enliven’ – Slant Magazine

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Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets

2000

Amiens International Film Festival (2000): Audience Award

Ali, Kwita, Omar and Boubker are street kids. The daily dose of glue sniffing represents their only escape from reality. Since they left Dib and his gang, they have been living on the portside of Casablanca. They live in constant fear of Dib’s revenge. Ali wants to become a sailor – when he was living with his mother, a prostitute, he used to listen to a fairy tale about the sailor who discovered the miracle island with two suns. Instead of finding his island in the dream, Ali and his friends are confronted with Dib’s gang. Matters are getting serious.

‘An engaging and powerful piece of work, with real compassion for Morocco's unnoticed, unlamented army of homeless children’ – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian ‘it's the beguiling performances from the three young children that are really captivating, and it's their sense of the comic and the tragic elements of their predicament that gives the film its enjoyable energy’ – Jamie Russell, BBC ‘Ayouch captures the squalid Casablanca settings in breathtaking wide-screen, and his fluid, inquisitive camera subtly exposes the longing and desperation harbored by his characters’ – Mark Holcomb, Village Voice

90 mins. Dir. Nabil Ayouch Morocco

Cologne Mediterranean Film Festival (2001): Grand Prix Montréal World Film Festival (2000): Prize of the Ecumenical Jury Ouagadougou Panafrican Film and Television Festival (2001): Grand Prize Etalon de Yennega / Unicef Award for Childhood

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At Five In The Afternoon (Panj É Asr)

2003

Cannes Film Festival (2003): Jury Prize

“At five in the afternoon comes death,” claims a haunting snatch of poetry in this equally haunting picture from Iranian director Samira Makhmalbaf. As schools readmit girls in the post-Taliban Afghanistan, one girl tries to learn more about democracy and how to become president. One of the first feature films to emerge from post-Taliban Afghanistan (making it a worthy companion piece to Siddiq Barmak’s excellent Osama), this follows Noqreh (Agheleh Rezaie) as she struggles to redefine her role as a woman despite the protestations of her cranky, conservative father (Abdolgani Yousefrazi). Yet with death and misery everywhere, freedom seems an unlikely luxury.

‘a politically-charged film that makes salient points about the still-repressed position of women in Afghanistan and, implicitly, Makhmalbaf's own country of Iran’ – Film 4

105 mins. Dir. Samira Makhmalbaf Iran / France

International Film Festival of India (2003): Golden Peacock

‘as a young Muslim woman with an impressively robust sense of creative entitlement, her view of post-Taleban society is more valid than most’ – Wendy Ide, The Times

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Brick Lane

2007

Dinard British Film Festival (2007): Best screenplay and Silver Hitchcock

A young Bangladeshi woman, Nazneem, arrives in 1980s London, leaving behind her beloved sister and home, for an arranged marriage and a new life. Trapped within the four walls of her flat in East London, and in a loveless marriage with the middle aged Chanu, she fears her soul is quietly dying. Her sister Hasina, meanwhile, through letters to Nazneed, tells of her carefree life back in Bangladesh, stumbling from one adventure to the next. Nazneen struggles to accept her lifestyle, and keeps her head down in spite of life’s blows, but she soon discovers that life cannot be avoided - and is forced to confront it the day that the hotheaded young Karim comes knocking at her door.

‘Gavron's movie finds an unfashionably gentle, human optimism in the face of all this, and a sympathetic performance from Chatterjee makes it plausible’ – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

101 mins. Dir. Sarah Gavron Britain

San Sebastián International Film Festival (2007): C.I.C.A.E. Award

‘A sensitive and occasionally poetic film, Brick Lane is an absorbing tale of personal empowerment and emotional growth’ – Claudia Puig, USA Today

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Caramel

2007

San Sebastián International Film Festival (2007): Audience Award

Caramel revolves around the intersecting lives of five Lebanese women. Layale (Nadine Labaki) works in a beauty salon in Beirut along with two other women, Nisrine (Yasmine Al Masri) and Rima (Joanna Moukarzel). Each one has a problem: Layale is stuck in a dead-end relationship with a married man; Nisrine is no longer a virgin but is set to be married and in her conservative family where pre-marital sex is not accepted; Rima is attracted to women; Jamale (Gisèle Aouad), a regular customer and wannabe actress, is worried about getting old; Rose (Sihame Haddad), a tailor with a shop next to the salon, is an old woman who had devoted her life to taking care of her mentally unbalanced older sister Lili (Aziza Semaan), but has found her first love. Labaki’s tale paints everyday people with everyday problems.

‘It’s sentimental, warm-hearted and occasionally irreverent, a chick flick filled with small stories that have a universal resonance’ – Wendy Ide, The Times

95 mins. Dir. Nadine Labaki Lebanon

Stockholm Film Festival (2007): FIPRESCI Prize

‘Caramel is a feisty, funny and rather rude look at a set of friends who work at a beauty parlour’ – Rob Mackie, The Guardian ‘exuberant sensuality and astute commentary on the way Lebanese women sit uncomfortably in the crosshairs of their country’s clash between patriarchal tradition and Westernized modernity’ – Ella Taylor, Village Voice

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Couscous (The Secret of the Grain)

2007

César (2008): Best director, Best film and Best writing – original

Mister Beiji, a weary 60 years old, is still grinding it out at the shipyard, in a job that has become more painful as the years have worn on. A divorced head of family, he desperately tries to remain close to his loved-ones, a task made the more difficult because of family break-ups and seething tensions which seem to be about to erupt, and which financial difficulties only exacerbate. In this delicate part of his life, it seems like everything contributes to his feeling of uselessness. He has carried the weight of what he sees as his failure for a long time and his only thought is to overcome it by founding his own business - a restaurant. But it isn't going to be easy. That doesn't keep him from dreaming about it, talking about it, mostly to his family. That family is, little by little, drawn together around the plan, which has for one and all taken on the symbolic value of a quest for a better life.

‘this movie about exile, loneliness, the nature of families, self-respect and the pursuit of dreams encompasses comedy and tragedy with understanding, compassion and a total absence of sentimentality’ – Philip French, The Observer

151 mins. Dir. Abdellatif Kechiche France

European Film Awards (2008): FIPRESCI Prize Lumiere Awards (2008): Best director Venice Film Festival (2008): FIPRESCI Prize

‘a deeply involving tragicomedy, combining warmth with an unexpected level of complexity, and delivering a fiercely unsentimental commentary on the sexual politics of family and food’ – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

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Days of Glory (Indigènes)

2006

Cannes Film Festival (2006): Best Actor & François Chalais Award

A revealing look at the brave contributions made by North African soldiers who fought for France during World War II in this emotionallycharged war drama. The year was 1943 and France had been bending to the will of Nazi Germany for three long years. In order to break Hitler's powerful grip, the first French Army was recruited in Africa. Comprised of 130,000 North Africans who were willing to put their lives on the line, the fearless fighters were contemptuously dubbed indignes (natives) by many French, despite their remarkable sacrifice. The selfless efforts of these remarkable men ultimately transcend their superiors' contemptuous disregard for their service by providing invaluable aid during one of the world's darkest hours.

‘It is a chronicle of courage and sacrifice, of danger and solidarity, of heroism and futility, told with power, grace and feeling and brought alive by first-rate acting. A damn good war movie’ – A.O. Scott, New York Times

120 mins. Dir. Rachid Bouchareb Algeria / France

César Awards (2007): Best writing Lumiere Awards (2007): Best Screenplay Étoile d’Or (2007): Best film

‘Rachid Bouchareb's superb movie tells the shameful story of the African colonial soldiers who fought in the Second World War and were then cruelly betrayed’ – Philip French, The Observer

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Gubra

2006

Malaysian Film Festival (2006): Best Film / Best Screenplay / Best Actress

Written and directed by Yasmin Ahmad, Gubra is a sequel to her earlier film Sepet. The film concerns Orked, who in the earlier film dealt with the death of the boyfriend she adored. Picking up years later, Orked is married to someone in the advertising world, works as a professional herself, and continues to be brought into the chaotic world of her parents. A second storyline concerns two prostitutes who attempt to better their position in life after listening to a Muslim couple who greatly encourage them. When Orked’s father begins to suffer from a serious medical condition, she begins to spend even more time with her parents, and eventually meets Alan, the brother of her deceased boyfriend. Soon she must decide if she wants to continue with her marriage or give in to her feelings for the brother.

‘Gubra is not just a love story. It is also a meditation on what it means to love, to live and to have faith… But what is remarkable is also Yasmin's singularly non-judgmental eye. Her camera remains mostly still, observing her characters as they endure emotional upheavals in carefully framed tableaus. There is genuine curiosity and engagement in her gaze. Thus she invites the audience to be engaged as well’ – Ong Sor Fern, Straits Times

109 mins. Dir. Yasmin Ahmad Malaysia

‘While expertly balancing comedy and melodrama, Ahmad makes pointed social observations, and stresses the need for forgiveness and compassion’ – Ronald Bergan, The Guardian

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Holy Warriors – Richard the Lionheart and Saladin

2005 120 mins. Dir. Richard Bedser Britain

prizes

synoposis / notes Feature-length docudrama that sets out to debunk myths surrounding the Third Crusades of the 12th century, suggesting that Richard the Lionheart was not the noble hero of the history books, while Saladin, emerges with credit as his role in uniting the majority of Muslims under his rule is revealed.

reviews ‘Terrific drama-documentary... an epic, near-cinematic account’ – The Guardian ‘Worked wonderfully... these reconstructions look convincing and an enthralling history lesson' – Daily Telegraph ‘A dramatic and evocative exploration of the struggle for Jerusalem... finely and richly told, this is a fascinating tale’ –Daily Mail ‘A drama-doc of epic proportions... topnotch experts and well-paced reconstruction... an excellent bit of television’ –Time Out

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In The Name Of God (Khuda Kay Liye)

2007

Asian First Film Festival (2008): Swarovski Trophy

Telling the story of two musician brothers from an affluent Pakistani family, In the Name of God (Khuda Kay Liye) highlights the different paths they chose for their lives and their subsequent experiences. One brother is taken in by the radical message of a hardline Muslim cleric while the other travels to Chicago to become a musician only to be arrested and tortured by the United States authorities.

‘It came from nowhere to become the most successful Pakistani film of all time. Bold, striking and widely acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, Khuda Kay Liye focuses on the lives of Muslims in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the Bush administration’s “war on terror”’ – Andrew Buncombe, The Independent

168 mins. Dir. Shoaib Mansoor Pakistan

Cairo International Festival (w007): Silver Pyramid

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In This World

2002,

BAFTA Awards (2004): BAFTA Film Award

February 2002. Jamal and his older cousin Enayat are Afghans living in Shamshatoo refugee camp in Peshawar, north-west Pakistan. Enayat’s uncle Wakeel decides to send him to London. Jamal brokers an introduction to a ‘people smuggler’, and persuades Wakeel that he, as an English speaker, should accompany Enayat. They travel in the back of pick-up trucks across desert into Iran. They reach Tehran by an illicit route and, concealed in a fruit truck, are driven towards the mountainous border. On foot they cross a snowy Kurdish-controlled pass and enter Turkey. At Istanbul they and other refugees are locked in a freight container on a ship bound for Italy. En route most suffocate and die, including Enayat, but Jamal survives. In Trieste he steals to procure a train ticket to Paris, and reaches Sangatte refugee centre. He is befriended by Yusif, and at Calais the two stow away under a lorry bound for England.

‘an urgently realistic account of the grim commerce in human beings’ – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

88 mins. Dir. Michael Winterbottom Britain

Berlin International Film Festival (2003): Golden Bear British Independent Film Awards (2003): British Independent Film Award

‘Michael Winterbottom's bleak study of asylum-seekers has a biting topical resonance’ – Philip French, The Observer ‘a masterpiece. That’s due less to the salience of its storyline than to the clarity of vision that director Winterbottom and screenwriter Grisoni bring to the film …. The details of their journey – the shifting landscapes, the creeping asphyxiation – are rendered in an improvisatory style that sears our souls all the more intensely’ – Sukhdev Sandhu, Daily Telegraph

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Journey of Hope (Reise der Hoffnung)

1990

Academy Awards (1991): Best Foreign Language Film

In a village in eastern Turkey, tales of the economic success of Turks in Switzerland inspire Haydar to convince his wife Meryem that they must go. He sells their livestock and small plot of land in exchange for passage for two. He wants to leave their seven children in the care of the eldest and his parents; his father advises him to take one son to be educated in Europe, as economic insurance. The three set off for Istanbul, Milan, and Switzerland, stowing away on a ship. At Lake Como, they pay the rest of their money to unprincipled men who abandon them at an Alpine pass before a blizzard. Father and son are separated from Meryem. Will anyone reach the land of promise?

‘Hauntingly photographed and caringly made, Journey of Hope addresses the immigrants’ plight with plenty of compassion, yet has very little left over for its audiences. Less a drama than a list of grievances, Koller captures not hope but despair’ – Rita Kempley, Washington Post

109 mins. Dir. Xavier Koller Switzerland / Turkey

Locarno International Film Festival (1991): Bronze Leopard

‘moving in its depiction of these Kurdish refugees' struggle against the odds…. This film is one long cry of anguish’ – Steve Davis, Austin Chronicle

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Man Push Cart

2005

London Film Festival (2005): FIPRESCI Prize /

Early every morning, Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi), a Pakistani immigrant, struggles to drag his heavy cart along the streets of New York to his corner in midtown Manhattan, where he sells coffee and bagels. He encounters a wealthy Pakistani businessman who offers him some work and financial assistance—promising also to introduce him to the NY music scene. He also spends time with a young Spanish woman who works in a nearby newspaper and magazine kiosk. He is haunted by the death of his wife and is unable to spend time with his son. Just as it appears that he is making some progress improving his life, an event occurs that pushes him back down again.

‘Free of contrived melodrama and phony suspense, it ennobles the hard work by which its hero earns his daily bread’ – Roger Ebert, Chicago SunTimes

87 mins. Dir. Ramin Bahrani USA

‘Ahmad's concerns – his sadness and his striving – become universal. Though his early-morning riser's world is gray and threaded with melancholy, it becomes, in the end, a place we recognize’ – Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

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The Message

1977

Academy Awards (1978): Nominated for Best Original Score (Maurice Jarre)

This handsomely-mounted historical epic concerns the birth of the Islamic faith and the story of the prophet Mohammed – who, in accordance with the tenants of Islam, is never seen or heard. In Mecca in the 7th century, Mohammed is visited by a vision of the Angel Gabriel, who urges him to lead the people of Mecca to cast aside the 300 idols of Kaaba and instead worship the one true God. Speaking out against the corrupt political and military leaders who rule Mecca, Mohammed and his followers struggle to worship God as they see fit, which eventually leads them into exile in Medina. However, one day God gives Mohammed a message to return to Mecca and take up arms against their oppressors – while recruiting as many followers as they can along the way. With the help of his uncle, a brave warrior named Hamza, Mohammed and his followers return to Mecca to liberate the city in the name of God.

‘Determined to make an enlightening primer on the basic teachings of Islam, Akkad balances Koranic exposition with the kind of spectacular set pieces expected in Hollywood-style religious extravaganzas’ – UCLA Film & Television Archive

177 mins. Dir. Moustapha Akkad Pakistan / Kuwait / Morocco / Libya / UK / Lebanon

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Moolaadé

2004

Cannes Film Festival (2004): Un Certain Regard Award

In an African village this is the day when six 4-9year-old girls are to be circumcised. All children know that the operation is horrible torture and sometimes lethal, and all adults know that some circumcised women can only give birth by Caesarean section. Two of the girls have drowned themselves in the well to escape the operation. The four other girls seek ‘magical protection’ (moolaadeé) by a woman (Colle) who seven years ago refused to have her daughter circumcised. Moolaadé is indicated by a coloured rope. But no one would dare step over and fetch the children. Moolaadé can only be revoked by Colle herself. Her husband's relatives persuade him to whip her in public into revoking. Opposite groups of women shout to her to revoke or to be steadfast, but no woman interferes. When Colle is at the verge of fainting, the merchant takes action and stops the maltreatment. Therefore he is hunted out of the village and, when out of sight, murdered.

‘A story told in music, vivid imagery and ritualistic movement’ – Susan Walker, Toronto Star

124 mins. Dir. Ousmane Sembene Senegal

Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival (2005): Jury Award

‘a powerfully acted and colourfully shot polemic. A perceptive observation of daily life in an African village that celebrates female bravery and solidarity’ – Film 4 ‘This powerful movie addresses female mutilation as both a cruel practice to be abolished and as a metaphor for the traditional subjugation of women in a society dominated by self-regarding men …. It ends affirmatively with the women on the point of controlling their destinies’ – Philip French, The Observer

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My Name Is Khan

2010 165 mins. Dir. Karan Johar India

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Rizvan Khan, a Muslim man from India, moves to San Francisco and lives with his brother and sister-in-law. Rizvan, who has Aspergers, falls in love with Mandira. Despite protests from his family they get married and start a small business together. They are happy until September 11, 2001 when attitudes towards Muslims undergo a sea-change. When tragedy strikes, Mandira is devastated and they split. Rizvan is confused and very upset that the love of his life has left him. To win her back, he embarks on a touching and inspiring journey across America.

‘This riotously overstuffed and enormously enjoyable drama races forward with incredible drive as its Muslim protag seeks out the U.S. president to give him one message: "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist’ – Jay Weissberg, Variety ‘It's stunningly shot and tackles plenty of hard topics – its deceptively light touch gets heavier as things progress. It's a shame that much of the intended audience will not see this wellintentioned, slickly constructed and just plain likable film, for reasons that are very little to do with the film itself’ – Phelim O’Neill, The Guardian

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No One Knows About Persian Cats

2009

Cannes Film Festival (2009): Un Certain Regard

Recently released from prison, two young musicians decide to form a band. Together, they search the underworld of contemporary Tehran for other musicians to persuade them to join the band. Forbidden by the authorities to play in Iran, they plan to escape from their secret existence and dream of performing in Europe. But, their only problem is that they have no money and no passports.

‘This is ultimately not a happy story, as befits the subject, but it's a vivid snapshot of a hitherto under-publicised scene. And it’s a welcome reminder – in our blasé download era – that in some cultures, music can still be not only hard to find but also, as the phrase goes, as serious as your life’ – Jonathan Romney, The Independent ‘A raw, scary, despairing film that, like most of the best Iranian films, has been banned at home’ – Philip French, The Observer ‘an inventive way of giving a voice to the music-crazed kids that the current regime would rather silence’ – Wendy Ide, The Times

106 mins. Dir. Bahman Ghodabi Iran

Miami Film Festival (2010): Audience Award São Paulo International Film Festival (2009): Critics Award

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Osama

2003

British Film Institute Awards (2003): Sutherland Trophy

Based on the true story, this movie tells the tale of a little girl who has grown up in poverty and under oppression. The Taliban make women’s lives a living hell; they cannot even go outside without being accompanied by a man. With her father dead, the little girl, her mother and her grandmother are struggling to survive. So, out of desperation, her mother cuts away her hair and essentially turns her into a boy named Osama. Now, Osama must venture into the world of men to make money, but can she keep her secret hidden from the Taliban?

‘A captivating film about the treatment of women under the Taliban regime, Osama focuses on the individual and collective scars that the years of repression have had on Afghanistan’ – Film 4

83 mins. Dir: Siddiq Barmak Afghanistan

Cannes Film Festival (2003): AFCAE Award Golden Globes (2004): Golden Globe

‘This first feature out of post-Taliban Afghanistan takes a straightforward, even unpromisingly obvious premise and transforms it into a film of power, suspense and sophistication’ – Time Out

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Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)

2010

Academy Awards (2011): Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film

Rachid Bouchareb (Indigènes) returns with a stunning, dramatic portrayal of the Algerian struggle for independence seen through the eyes of three brothers. After losing their family home in Algeria, the brothers follow different paths in France: one joins the French army to fight in Indochina, the second becomes a leader in the Algerian independence movement and the third joins the Parisian criminal underworld in the clubs of Pigalle. The men’s paths come together once more in Paris as they are drawn to violent crime and radical politics.

‘Rachid Bouchareb offers a gripping insight into the Algerian independence struggle through the lives of three brothers’ – Philip French, The Observer

138 mins. Dir. Rachid Bouchareb Algeria / Belgium / France / Italy

‘Bouchareb makes subtle points here about the damaging legacy of colonial rule’ – Alistair Harkness, Scotsman ‘It's a big, bold film defined by a reserved passion, a stately style and strong performances from its three leads’ – Time Out

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Paradise Now

2005

Berlin International Film Festival (2005): Amnesty International Prize and Blue Angel

Two young Palestinian men – Khaled and Said – have been friends since childhood. They are both recruited to carry out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. The two men are allowed to spend what is presumably their last night alive with their families. However, since absolute secrecy must be maintained and they can tell nobody of their mission, theirs can be no proper farewell. The next morning, the men are brought to the border. The bombs have been attached to their bodies in such a way as to make them completely hidden from view. However, the operation does not go according to plan. Separated from each other and left to their own devices, it's up to them to face their destiny and stand up for their convictions.

‘Paradise Now takes its place in the traditional choreography of our liberal debate about terrorism: the question of whether the suicide bombings are justified is generally answered in the negative, though with the proviso that they have to be explained or contextualised. And that is what this film tries to do, powerfully, plausibly and valuably’ – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

90 mins. Dir. Hany AbuAssad Palestine

European Film Awards (2005): Best screenwriter Golden Globes (2006): Best Foreign Language Film

‘A considered film about a difficult subject’ – Film 4 ‘this provocative, troubling film is essential viewing’ – Jonathan Romney, The Independent

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The Clay Bird

2002

Cannes Film Festival (2002): FIPRESCI Prize

Set against the backdrop of the turbulent period in the late 60’s leading up to Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan, The Clay Bird tells the story of a family torn apart by religion and war. A young boy, Anu, is sent off to a strict Islamic school, or madrasa, by his deeply religious father Kazi. As the political divisions in the country intensify, an increasing split develops between moderate and extremist forces within the madrasa, mirroring a growing divide between the stubborn but confused Kazi and his increasingly independent wife. Touching upon themes of religious tolerance, cultural diversity, and the complexity of Islam, The Clay Bird has universal relevance in a crisis-ridden world.

‘With compassionate restraint, Masud challenges the intimate link of religious fundamentalism to national power’ – Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post

89 mins. Dir. Tareque Masud Bangladesh

Marrakech International Film Festival (2002): Best Screenplay

‘refreshingly without egotism or conceit. It's a vision of childhood with its own beguiling simplicity and gentleness, alternating an intense family chamber drama with breathtaking crowd scenes and giant setpieces. It is quietly superb filmmaking, and Masud makes it look as easy as breathing’ – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

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The Edge of Heaven (Auf der Anderen Seite)

2007

Cannes Film Festival (2007): Best screenplay

The fragile lives of six people connect on emotional voyages toward forgiveness and reconciliation in Germany and Turkey. Nejat disapproves of his widower father Ali's choice of prostitute Yeter for a live-in girlfriend. But changes his mind when he discovers she sends money home to Turkey for her daughter's education. Yeter's sudden death distances father and son. Nejat travels to Istanbul to find Yeter's daughter Ayten. However, political activist Ayten is already in Germany, having to flee the Turkish police. There, she meets Lotte who invites rebellious Ayten to stay in her home, a gesture not pleasing to her conservative mother. When Ayten is eventually arrested, she is deported and imprisoned in Turkey. Lotte travels to Turkey, where she gets caught up in the seemingly hopeless situation of freeing Ayten.

‘This elegant, complex drama builds its virtuoso layerings, but then grants us the intelligence to think about their real-world implications – to discern the pattern beyond the pattern. You'll come out thinking, rather than (as in HeadOn) reeling’ – Jonathan Romney, The Independent

121 mins. Dir. Fatih Akin Germany

European Film Awards (2007): Best screenwriter German Film Awards (2008): Film Award in Gold

‘This is an intriguing, complex, beautifully acted and directed piece of work, partly a realist drama of elaborate coincidences, near-misses and near-hits, further tangled with shifts in the timeline - and partly an almost dreamlike meditation with visual symmetries and narrative rhymes’ – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

CINEMA  FROM  THE  WORLD  OF  ISLAM    

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Times And Winds (Bes Vakit)

2006

Istanbul International Film Festival (2006): Best Film and FIPRESCI Prize

Set in a tiny, poor village, leaning on high cliffs, facing the vast sea, its outskirts laced with olive groves. The inhabitants of the village are simple, hard-working people who struggle to cope with the tough natural features of the land. They live by the rhythm of the earth, air, and water, of the day, the night and the seasons. Time in this village is divided into five times with the prayer call sounding. All things human happen in these five times. Three children, passing from childhood into adolescence, all aged twelve-thirteen, grow up slowly, swinging back and forth between rage and guilt.

‘Here is an utterly involving movie about childhood, by turns mesmeric and shocking; it is as addictive as a soap opera, and mysterious as a dream’ – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian ‘Erdem's magnificent, and magnificently simple, film is a portrait of a mountain village and its Muslim inhabitants: it's about three children and their families, the rigours and beauties of the landscape, the pleasures and agonies of childhood, the inevitability of growing up’ – Jonathan Romney, The Independent ‘deserves consideration for entry into the pantheon of great films about rural communities’ – Mike McCahill, Telegraph

110 mins. Dir. Reha Erdem Turkey

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Turtles Can Fly

2004

Berlin International Film Festival (2005): Crystal Bear and Peace Film Award

Set in his native Kurdistan on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq. The devastation to this land and its inhabitants is revealed in the matter-of-fact perspective of the children and is equally displayed with every poignant detail of its unbearable nature. Thirteen-year-old Kak is known as "Satellite" for his installation of dishes and antennae for local villages looking for news of Saddam. He is the dynamic leader of the children in the Kurdish refugee camp at the border of Turkey and Iraq, organizing the dangerous but necessary sweeping and clearing of the minefields. He then arranges trade-ins for the unexploded mines. The industrious Satellite falls for an orphan – a sad-faced girl travelling with her brother Henkov, who appears to have the gift of clairvoyance. The siblings are taking care of 3-year-old Risa, whose connection to the pair is discovered as harsh truths are unveiled.

‘Ghobadi has written a spiritual bulletin from the war-ravaged Middle East, and placed children at the centre of the action… It is a fiercely sombre story, compellingly sited in the here and now’ – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

98 mins. Dir. Bahman Ghobadi Iran / Kurdistan

Rotterdam International Film Festival (2004): Audience Award San Sebastián International Film Festival (2004): Best Film

‘Ghobadi leads us through a dangerous world where adults are strangely scarce and children run their own lives in the shadow of impending doom’ – Time Out ‘It's a soaring achievement, without ever leaving the ground’ – Michael Sullivan, Washington Post

CINEMA  FROM  THE  WORLD  OF  ISLAM    

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Cinema from the world of Islam  

List of 25 films from Muslim countries. Covering a range of contemporary issues, from gender to terrorism, race relations to development, th...

Cinema from the world of Islam  

List of 25 films from Muslim countries. Covering a range of contemporary issues, from gender to terrorism, race relations to development, th...

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