MENA 2020: diverse narratives, cultures and perspectives

Sharing the works of filmmakers of the Middle Eastern and North African diaspora

The 2020 edition of the Middle East and North African (MENA) Film Festival is taking place online until Nov. 27 and offers a variety of works by filmmakers from the Middle Eastern and North African diaspora. The virtual film festival offers the public a chance to discover films that shed light on a variety of cultures, diverse dialogues and stories.

This year, MENA presents 20 short films and three feature films. Comedy, documentary, experimental films and more have been included in the film festival’s programming.

The festival offers a variety of works, providing a space for the voices of artists that are a part of Middle Eastern and North African communities. MENA also aims to provide a place for emerging artists and new voices to share their work and create a welcoming space for various dialogues.

My Dream Goes All the Way to Iran (2019), directed by Negar Mojtahedi, documents the stories of six Iranian-Canadians sharing the most painful and beautiful moments of their journeys from Iran to Canada. The film is a powerful portrait of the Iranian expatriate, portraying an immigrant population that is often misunderstood and misrepresented. The movie depicts the realities that refugees and immigrants face, uprooting their lives for a hopeful future.

Directed by Franco-Tunisian director and writer Manele Labidi, Arab Blues (2019) tells the story of psychoanalyst Selma (Golshifteh Farahani) who comes back to Tunis after living in France for 10 years. Selma has decided to set her practice as a shrink in Tunis, which is seen as a skeptical practice in the capital of Tunisia. Presented as a comedy, Arab Blues opens a window into modern Tunisia but also presents cultural clashes in a humorous form.

Amphitheater (2019) by Qatari filmmaker Mahdi Ali Ali, tells the story of a photographer named Sarah who follows a rebellious girl in her hideout: an amphitheater. Sarah is intrigued by the girl’s behavior and captures her in candid portraits.

There is also the coming-of-age film from Lebanese director Oualid Mouaness, 1982 (2019), which depicts 11-year-old Wissam, who is determined to confess his love to his classmate Joanna on the last day of school. Meanwhile, school teacher Yasmine, alongside other teachers, try to mask their fears as many are on different sides of the political divide. The story is set during the beginning of the 1982 Lebanon War.

Voice of Silence (2016) by Iranian director Panahbarkhoda Rezaee is a documentary narrative that tells, through a photographer’s lens, the story of the Iran-Iraq war that lasted from 1980 to 1988. The movie gives a voice to the victims of the war.

MENA offers the chance for the public to engage with a variety of works coming from different places in the Middle East and North Africa. This is a great opportunity to get to know the various stories and perspectives of Middle Eastern and North African filmmakers.

Many events happen in the Middle East and North Africa that tend to be less spoken of in Canada and the virtual film festival is a great place to experience the different realities lived in these areas and authentic Middle Eastern and North African works.

The virtual film festival serves as a cultural experience where walls are broken down and different dialogues are presented in space, without geographical divides. MENA serves to celebrate the many cultures present in the world and share stories that tend to be less known.

The MENA Film Festival is on until Nov. 27. Tickets are sold onlineViewers can obtain a pass for full virtual screenings for $40, giving the opportunity to the audience to see as much as they want, and individual passes for $10 each.

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