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Meet The Middle East Through Its Films

Jan. 23, 2008 – Film is the medium through which a culture creates itself. As the Middle East evolves its silver-screen identity, the University of Utah Middle East Center and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, in collaboration with the Salt Lake City Film Center attempt to bring that identity to Americans by sponsoring a series of films from the region. The Middle East through its Films-2008 will be shown at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, every other Wednesday, 6-9 p.m. beginning January 30.

This series of films will be shown and their social context discussed by Professor Laurence Loeb, U of U department of anthropology. Loeb says this is a great opportunity to see the Middle East through the eyes of its filmmakers. “There is probably no better or immediate way for non-specialists to appreciate the complex nuances of Middle Eastern people, their lives and foibles, than through the fiction-films they make about themselves.” The film series is free and open to the public. These films are not rated and may contain mature subject matter.

Films and synopsis

Live and Become, Wednesday, Jan. 30
The most popular film of the fifty-fifth Berlin International Film Festival is a film about a poor child from Ethiopia, the son of a Christian mother, who persuades her child to pretend to be Jewish so he can get asylum in Israel during the famine in the mid-1980s. He is an excellent student but lives in fear that he will be discovered as neither a Jew nor an orphan. He learns about Judaism and western values, including racism, but manages to accomplish his dream.

Kilometre Zero, Thursday, Feb. 14
This is a story of ethnic conflict between Kurds and Iraqis in the context of the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, a time when Kurds, a despised minority, were conscripted to serve in the Iraqi army. Paired with an Iraqi taxi driver, a Kurdish conscript has orders to drive the body of a dead soldier across the country for burial. Scenes between the men are interwoven between comic incompetence of Iraqi soldiers and officers.

Paradise Now & West Bank Story, Wednesday, Feb. 27
Paradise Now is an award winning political thriller that examines the motivations of terrorism in an insightful and unvarnished way. This film received the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film and was nominated for an Academy Award.

West Bank Story is a delightful, Academy Award winning, musical set on the West Bank that features a forbidden love between a Palestinian woman and an Israeli soldier.

Border Café, Wednesday, Mar. 12
A young widow takes over her late husband’s truck stop café, keeping hidden in the kitchen so as not to cause a scandal in Iran’s conservative society. But her brother-in-law, out of familial obligation, wants to take her as a wife and also take over the café. Meanwhile, a Greek trucker who is a frequent café customer is slowly entranced, first by her sublime cooking ability and then by her.

Yacoubian Building, Wednesday, Mar. 26
The lives and loves of a handful of Egyptian aristocrats, some rich, others living in shabby gentility, set the stage for this epic-scale drama, based on a best-selling Egyptian novel. The Yacoubian is a luxury apartment building built in Cairo in the l930’s. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, it still has charm and a reputation for elegance but is beginning to show its age. The lives of those living there provide a look at a wide range of Egyptian society.