Posted by: Sarah Standish | February 2, 2012

Extra credit: Portland International Film Festival

A number of Arab films, or movies with related subject matter, are being shown this year at Portland’s annual International Film Festival.  An easy and fun way to receive extra credit is to see one of the movies below and write a reflection on it.  Please note that due to the nature of the film festival, I am unable to screen movies before hand for their content, and most films are unrated.  Please exercise your own good judgment in choosing which films to see, and do extra research if you have any concerns.

International Film Festival screenings often fill up quickly, so you are strongly advised to buy tickets ahead of time or show up very early.

All information below is from the film festival website itself.


Issawi’s powerful story is set in contemporary Cairo, where the struggles of a pair of star-crossed lovers reflect on the many social and cultural taboos that complicate survival. Amal is an 18-year-old Coptic girl living in the slums. Her Muslim boyfriend Tarek is planning to leave on an illegal boat crossing to Italy. Amal tells Tarek she is pregnant, but he gives her an ultimatum—come with him or have an abortion. Despite her love for him, she rejects both choices. She cannot bear to consider the future she faces as a poor woman in Egypt, reflected in the lives of her sister and best friend: one makes grave sacrifices so her son can have a better life while the other prepares for a surgery to feign her virginity so she can enter into a loveless marriage to an older, wealthy foreigner. But what to do?

Fri, Feb 17, 2012
at 8:45 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)

Sun, Feb 19, 2012
at 5 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)


Grandma, A Thousand Times is filmmaker Mahmoud Kaabour’s poetic cinematic tribute to his feisty, larger-than-life grandmother. Teta Kaabour is an 83-year-old family matriarch and sharp-witted queen bee of an old Beiruti quarter. In the apartment where she raised six children and 13 grandchildren, she now spends her days smoking Argileh and drinking endless cups of coffee, alone with memories of her beloved violinist husband (who’s been dead for 20 years). Bearing his grandfather’s name as well as his likeness, the filmmaker is clearly his grandmother’s favorite. This affection allows for an intimate portrait comprised of recollections, revelations of closely guarded recipes, and hilarious family observations. Touching without being sentimental, this lyrical study is a testament to the importance of preserving personal histories destined to pass with the people who have lived them.

Fri, Feb 24, 2012
at 8:45 PM (World Trade Center Theater)


In a remote Lebanese village, Christians and Muslims have lived together all their lives, largely in peace despite occasional flare-ups precipitated by external forces. Although semi-isolated from the outside world, landmines nevertheless surround the countryside and intermittent television reception makes all aware of the religious conflicts that grip the country. To combat their edgy men from absorbing outside tension and localizing violence, the women are constantly inventive in creating distractions—everything from importing Ukrainian showgirls to baking hash cookies to keep everyone mellow. But when there is a death from crossfire outside the village, it is time for stronger measures. Labaki’s warm, charming story of female solidarity and good sense, broad and uplifting, won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and is this year’s Lebanese submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Sat, Feb 11, 2012
at 8:30 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)

Mon, Feb 13, 2012
at 6 PM (Lake Twin Cinema)

Mon, Feb 13, 2012
at 8:30 PM (Lake Twin Cinema)


A broken family under incestuous patriarch Salih lives uneasily within the gated courtyard of a dilapidated house in Baghdad. Meriam, Salih’s pregnant daughter, has fallen silent, refusing to tell her father what’s wrong. She finds some protection from Salih’s young second wife, Kerima, and his pre-teen son, Muhanad. Meanwhile, with the family struggling for money, Muhanad must work in the street shining shoes, and, more ominously, the entire household must live with a sullen and imperious boarder, a man who works as a white-collar killer and who has taken Kerima under his spell. Rasheed moodily captures Baghdad’s beautiful, colorful surroundings and the brooding angst of life in a militarized society, slowly juxtaposing the suffering with unexpected flashes of loveliness that reveal unexpected resilience in the wake of catastrophe.

Sun, Feb 19, 2012
at 2:30 PM (Lloyd Mall 6)

Sat, Feb 25, 2012
at 1 PM (Lloyd Mall 6)


When he’s not working in his cousin’s concrete business, aimless college dropout Jawdat, who lives in the quiet Palestinian town of Iksal inside West Bank Israel, spends most of his free time looking for new women—Muslim, Christian, or even Jewish, it makes no difference—and working his cell phone. When Jawdat’s father, Salem, an olive farmer as intense as his son is laidback, decides that an Israeli cell phone tower is poisoning their village with radiation, he draws the townspeople—and his reluctant son—into a fight with the Israelis. Through their interactions and struggles, writer/director Sameh Zoabi addresses complicated issues of second-class citizenship and social grievances among Israel’s segregated Palestinian minority—as well as the confusions of young adulthood—with an appealing mixture of humor and keen political awareness.

Sun, Feb 26, 2012
at 12 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)


The little-known stories of Muslim freedom fighters and a Paris mosque that sheltered Jews during World War II are woven into a gripping wartime espionage drama inspired by actual events. Younes, a young, unemployed Algerian immigrant, survives Nazi-occupied France by hawking black market goods. Arrested by police, the apolitical and unaware Younes agrees to spy on the Paris Grand Mosque and its shrewd imam who is suspected of providing Jews with false identification papers while feigning cordialities with a Gestapo major. A dangerous cat-and-mouse game ensues when Younes befriends a charismatic cabaret singer with a secret identity, prompting an awakening to the terror and injustices at play and a change of loyalties despite the extreme risks. In a time of religious tension and valiant resistance across the Middle East, Free Men resonates as a powerful reminder of the timeless struggle for liberation.

Sun, Feb 12, 2012
at 5 PM (Lake Twin Cinema)

Tue, Feb 14, 2012
at 6 PM (Cinemagic)

Mon, Feb 20, 2012
at 2:30 PM (Lloyd Mall 6)



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