Saturday, June 18, 2005

Press Release

Welcome to the 4th Annual Toronto Arab Film Festival!

The Toronto Arab Film Festival (TAFF) celebrates its 4th anniversary this year.  The only Canadian festival of its kind, TAFF promotes the rich diversity of Arabic cinema.  Running from July 20-24 at the NFB and Bloor cinemas, tickets to all screenings are by donation, except for DOOR TO THE SUN and ALEXANDRIA... NEW YORK, which are $10. For complete box office, programme, schedule and party details please visit www.taff.ca.

"Of our 9 feature films, 6 documentaries, and 21 short works, most are Toronto premiers. We have films from Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, USA, Australia, but almost half (15) are from Canada.  Arab Canadian filmmakers finally have a festival to call home," enthuses Vicky Moufawad-Paul, Executive Director.

The opening night film, VIVA LALDJERIE, by director Nadir Mokneche, follows the story of three women: a mother, her daughter, and a prostitute who live in the heart of Algiers.  Known in Europe as the “Algerian Almodovar,” Mokneche’s newest film is a must see. Opening night party at the NFB.

The festival spotlight on Palestinian Cinema begins with a documentary homage to the nation’s foremost comic artist, NAJI AL-ALI: AN ARTIST WITH VISION.  The spotlight ends with the poignant feature film, RANA’S WEDDING, about a delayed marriage that takes place at an Israeli check point.  The crowning film in this spotlight is DOOR TO THE SUN, an epic drama which vividly chronicles the dispossession of one Palestinian family over three generations, beginning in 1943 and ending in the present.  DOOR TO THE SUN was in the Cannes official selection and is recognized as the most important Palestinian historical fiction to date.

“Cut us up, cut us down: Arab experiences in the diaspora” is a fitting title for our spotlight on hybrid works from Canada, the USA and Australia.  For example, AADAN, Ruba Nadda’s short 2004 film was funded by the CBC show ZED with the intention of a TV broadcast; the producers of the show said that the film was a public service announcement for Islam and demanded a number of changes.  Ironically, AADAN was also shunned at some festivals in the Middle East for being too Western.

Closing Night Gala with ALEXANDRIA... NEW YORK. One of only three directors to ever receive a lifetime achievement award from the Cannes, Youssef Chahine’s autobiographical feature film is the fourth chapter of his beloved Alexandria series.  ALEXANDRIA... NEW YORK was slated to premier in the USA at the New York Film Festival but was censored at the last moment.  Festival executives claimed that the Egyptian musical was too critical of America. The Washington Post explained that although Chahine had been a long time admirer of New York, this film “is a cinematic divorce paper.”  Party at Blur on Bloor immediately following the film.

The Toronto Arab Film Festival is a non-profit, non-sectarian collective of Arab Canadian independent media artists.  Even in its fourth year TAFF still has not received government funding, and is organized entirely as a labour of love.

Contact: Vicky Moufawad-Paul: torontoarabfilmfestival@yahoo.ca