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Middle East Film Series Shows Another Side of the Story

Jan. 26, 2009 – Now more than ever, the Middle East is introduced to Americans through newscasts of violent warfare, poverty and aggression. Yet film makers from the region tell a different tale. The University of Utah’s Middle East film series provides viewers a personal glimpse into the lives, loves, struggles and languages of the complex peoples and cultures of this region.

The University of Utah Middle East Outreach Program and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, in collaboration with the Salt Lake City Film Center, present The Middle East through its Films-2009, to take place at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, every other Wednesday, 6-9 p.m. beginning January 28.

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 synopses below

The Kite, Wednesday, Jan. 28
Arabic, with English Subtitles. Lebanon 2008, 80 Minutes. This film is part of the Global Lens 2008 film series from Global Films Initiative,
In director Randa Chahal Sabbag’s “fairytale for troubled times,” sixteen-year old Lamia must cross a border checkpoint between Lebanon and Israel to marry a man she has never met. Neither she nor her betrothed are eager to consummate a marriage to a stranger-a matter further complicated by Lamia’s surprising admission that she is in love with the Israeli soldier guarding the border. Sabbag’s enchanting drama about marriage and tradition is underscored by delicate symbolism and artful references to politics of Lebanon’s territories that have been annexed.

Times and Winds, Wednesday, Feb. 11
Turkish, with English Subtitles. Turkey 2006, 111 Minutes
Young teen Omer contemplates the unthinkable as he bitterly struggles under the loveless emotional yoke of his scornful Muslim cleric father. Yakup, Omer’s best friend, obsesses over a beautiful school teacher. Yildiz recoils from burgeoning womanhood, and from the sordid carnal realities she has grown too old to ignore. Times and Winds contrasts a parochial society’s unending chain of cruelty with the pagan natural world’s eternal and sensual beauty in this film by Reha Erdem.

Unwanted Woman, TUESDAY, Feb. 24
Persian, with English Subtitles. Iran 2005, 103 Minutes
From acclaimed director Tahmineh Milani, comes this searing tale about the struggles of women in modern-day Iran. Poor Sima puts up with her philandering and abusive husband, Ahmed, even when he asks her to cover for him on a trip with his girlfriend Saba. In an Iran where unmarried couples can be arrested for fraternizing in public, Sima must accompany the couple on their trip to protect her husband. But a surprising turn awaits the trio when they stop in a town where a man has just murdered his wife for her alleged affair.

Caramel, Wednesday, March 11
Arabic, with English Subtitles. Lebanon 2007, 93 Minutes
Six women in Beirut seek love, marriage and companionship and find duty, friendship and possibility. Four work at a salon: Nisrine, engaged to Bassam, with a secret she shares with her co-workers; Jamale, a divorced mother of teens, a part-time model, fearing the encroachment of time; Rima, always in pants, attracted to Siham, a client who smiles back; Layale, in love with a married man, willing to drop everything at a honk of his horn. There’s also Rose, a middle-aged seamstress, who cares for Lili, old and facing dementia. Rose has a suitor; Layale has an admirer on the police force. Is delight a possibility? Is caramel a sweet or an instrument of pain?

The Band’s Visit, Wednesday, March 25
Hebrew and Arabic, with English Subtitles. Israel 2007, 87 Minutes
On an ordinary day, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrives in Israel from Egypt for a cultural event, only to find there is no delegation to meet them, nor any arrangements to get to their destination of Petah Tiqva. When they find their own ride, they arrive instead at the remote town of Beit Hatikva. Stuck there until the next morning’s bus, the band settles in as best it can, each of the members attempting to get along with the natives in their own way. What follows is a special night of quiet happenings and confessions as the band makes its own impact on the town and the town on them.