SPRING 2010 FLIM SERIES SHOWCASES THE BEST OF MIDDLE EAST CINEAM
In Spring 2010, the MESP showcased five films from the region, which not only captured the imagi- nation of the audience but also, in the words of a local Syracuse resident who frequented the film screenings, “opened [their] eyes to a whole new world.”
Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven, an Oscar-nominated film, explores questions of poverty and in- equality in Iran through the prism of childhood innocence and the love that is shared between a brother and sister. The simple plot revolves around a lost pair of shoes but is told with such artistry to convey a deeply poignant story about personal sacrifice and triumph that is both inspiring and uplifting. Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir, another Oscar-nominated film, deconstructs the psychology of war and memory, focusing on the Israel army’s role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinians during the Lebanese Civil War. By coupling stark animation with an emotional soundtrack, the film brilliantly captures the trauma that an Israeli soldier goes through as he tries to remember the details of his involvement in the massacre. What starts off as a nightmare where the protagonist is chased by 26 dogs turns into a superbly crafted story about the always-blurry lines between innocence and guilt.
The Visitor is a poignant film about a lonely and defeated economics professor who unexpectedly encounters two illegal immigrants, a Syrian musician and his Senegalese girlfriend, living in his vacant New York City apartment. Although the story that unfolds tells us little about these two immigrants, we do see how their presence transforms the professor from a hopeless widower into somebody once again ready to embrace life. The main theme is conjuncture: the unlikely relationships that develop between humans; ex- periencing art as a means to the universal; and the unfortunate clash of politics and justice, in this case the treatment of illegal immigrants from the Middle East during the Bush administration.
The film Amreeka chronicles the adventures of a single mother who leaves the West Bank with her teenage son with dreams of an exciting future in the promised land of small town Illinois. The director man- ages to offer a glimpse into the lives of a family of immigrants and first generation teenagers caught between their heritage and the new world, and the search for a place to call home. And finally, Captain Abu Raed is a film about an airport janitor who is mistaken for a pilot. The janitor goes on to inspire children from a poor neighborhood in Jordan to dream, think big and not be limited by their circumstances.