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Middle East Film Series Shows Another Side of the Story

Jan. 11, 2010 – 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-2010, to take place at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, every other Wednesday, 6-9 p.m. beginning January 20.

This series of films will be shown and their social context discussed by Professor Laurence Loeb, U of U Department of Anthropology. Professor 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. The museum café at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts will be open prior to the film. These films are not rated and may contain mature subject matter.

Films and synopses below

BLISS, Wednesday, Jan. 20

Turkish, with English Subtitles. Turkey 2007, 105 Minutes.

When a young woman named Meryem is raped, her village custom requires that she be killed in order for the dishonor to be expunged from her family. A young man named Cemal, the son of the village leader, is given the task but at the last moment he has doubts. The pair goes on the run, followed close behind by local thugs intent on killing the girl. Luckily enough, Cemal and Meryem meet up with a charismatic man named Irfan, an ex-university professor who is embarking on a sailing trip, and needs a crew. Seems Irfan is running away too–in his case from a dead marriage and an empty life. Together this unlikely trio set forth on a voyage that will change all of their lives.

LEMON TREE, Wednesday, Feb. 3

Arabic, Hebrew and French, with English Subtitles. Israel 2008, 106 Minutes

Salma, a Palestinian widow – living there for decades – has to stand up against her new neighbor, the Israeli Defense Minister, when he moves into his new house opposite her lemon grove, on the green line border between Israel and the West Bank. The Israeli security forces are quick to declare that Salma’s trees pose a threat to the Ministers safety and issue orders to uproot them. Together with Ziad Daud, a young Palestinian lawyer, Salma goes all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court to try and save her trees.

RAJA, Wednesday, Feb. 17

Arabic and French, with English Subtitles. Morocco 2003, 112 Minutes

A cross-cultural drama about a wealthy middle-aged Frenchman’s yearning for a nineteen year local girl. Raja is an orphan literally and figuratively scarred by life. Fred is an emotionally bankrupt westerner living amid his plush garden. Fred’s attempt to seduce Raja, and their mutual attempt at manipulation, are fractured by their gross disparity of income, age and cultural sophistication.

DUNIA KISS ME NOT ON MY EYES, Wednesday, March 3

Arabic, with English Subtitles. Egypt 2006, 112 Minutes

After studying literature at Cairo University, Dunia, 23 years old, wants to become a professional dancer. She attends audition for an oriental dance contest where she recites Arabian poetry without any body movement. She explains to the perplexed jury that a woman can’t move her body or evoke act of love when society ask women to hide their femininity. She is selected and meets Beshir, an intellectual and activist who will supervise her thesis on ecstasy in Sufi love poetry. Their attraction is mutual. This could be liberation for Dunia but the constraints on women in Egyptian society go deeper than she suspects.

PERSEPOLIS, Wednesday, March 17

French, German and Persian, with English Subtitles. France 2007, 96 Minutes

In 1970s Iran, Marjane ‘Marji’ Statrapi watches events through her young eyes and her idealistic family of a long dream being fulfilled of the hated Shah’s defeat in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. However as Marji grows up, she witnesses first hand how the new Iran, now ruled by Islamic fundamentalists, has become a repressive tyranny on its own. With Marji dangerously refusing to remain silent at this injustice, her parents send her abroad to Vienna to study for a better life. However, this change proves an equally difficult trial with the young woman finding herself in a different culture loaded with abrasive characters and profound disappointments that deeply trouble her.

Teachers may register for credit through the U of U ($100 tuition for Middle East Studies 4880). For additional information, please call 581-5003 or see