The 28th Annual Arabian Sights Film Festival
April 19–30, 2023

The Arabian Sights Film Festival will be presented in conjunction with the 37th annual Washington, DC International Film Festival, the umbrella organization of Arabian Sights.

Dirty Difficult Dangerous

WISSAM CHARAF - Lebanon, France - 2022 - 83 mins - View trailer

Winner of the Venice Film Festival's Europa Cinemas Label Award, Dirty Difficult Dangerous portrays a forbidden love in present-day Beirut. Ethiopian migrant house maid Mehdia is in love with handsome Syrian scrap metal collector Ahmed. The two make an unlikely pair. Ahmed escaped from Syria after having been hit by shrapnel from a bomb, and Mehdia tries to free herself from her suffocating employer. As a result of his wounds, Ahmed is affected by a mysterious disease and his body is slowly transforming into metal. As Ahmed's physical condition starts to get worse, the couple seizes an opportunity to flee Beirut in a desperate attempt to start over elsewhere. The film is a captivating allegorical story that employs a combination of seriousness and humor to highlight the sociopolitical struggles of marginalized communities in Lebanon.—Various sources

In Arabic with English subtitles

North American Premiere

The (In)famous Youssef Salem

BAYA KASMI - France - 2022 - 97 mins - View trailer

In this entertaining comedy, Youssef Salem is a previously unsuccessful Maghrebi novelist whose new book, Toxic Shock, becomes an unexpected hit and is shortlisted for the Goncourt, France's most coveted literary honor. Overnight, Youssef transforms from eternal loser to the most talked-about best-selling author in Paris. Distraught by the surprising success of his novel in which he depicts the failings of his family in a thinly veiled way, he goes to great lengths to prevent his parents from reading it. Youssef has to face the true price of success for the first time as he struggles with the fallout precipitated by the achievement of his dream and the weight of his family's and community's judgment. Despite its humorous theme, the film provides rich reflection on the serious matter of family ties, immigration, culture, and literature.—Various sources

In French with English subtitles

US Premiere

The Island of Forgiveness

RIDHA BEHI - Tunisia - 2022 - 90 mins - View trailer

In Person: Director Ridha Behi

Helmed by one of the leading Tunisian directors, The Island of Forgiveness transports viewers to the 1950s on the island of Djerba before Tunisia's independence, when Djerba was home to a multitude of ethnic backgrounds and diverse religions and everyone lived harmoniously side by side. Accomplished author and professor Andrea Licari, a Tunisian of Italian descent, returns to his native Djerba from Rome to scatter his mother's ashes. While he's there, he is flooded with nostalgia, including memories about family, friends, and secrets, and he's consumed by the burgeoning political unrest in the Muslim community over the French occupation. The film stars legendary actress Claudia Cardinale as a sharp-talking grandmother. Like all of Ridha Behi's films, The Island of Forgiveness has a magical quality.—Various sources

In French with English subtitles

East Coast Premiere

Mediterranean Fever

MAHA HAJ - Palestine - 2022 - 108 mins - View trailer

When Waleed knocks on his new neighbor Jalal's door to complain about the noise distracting him from his writer's block, the men discover they are in the same line of work: making excuses for a living while their wives go off to jobs. Waleed (Amer Hlehel) is a failed novelist and Jalal (Ashraf Farah) is a small-time crook; perhaps Waleed can gain some character and plot insights if he tags along on Jalal's shady escapades? What the chronically depressed Waleed offers in return changes daily and develops darkly. Writer-director Maha Haj finds black humor in these two flawed but very human figures and generosity in the shifting nature of their fraught friendship, expertly portrayed by the two leads. Haj builds universally recognizable comedy into the film's cultural milieu—middle-class Arab life in Haifa—as well as an implied history specific to these striving citizens of a lost homeland.—Judy Bloch

In Arabic with English subtitles

Our Brothers

RACHID BOUCHAREB - France - 2022 - 92 mins - View trailer

On a Saturday night in December 1986, Paris's Latin Quarter teems with protesting students and baton-happy cops following the passage of an infamous education reform bill. Meanwhile, the bodies of two young men lie unclaimed in the morgue. For now, only a kindly morgue attendant will "say their names." Within days, both names—Malik Oussekine and Abdel Benyahia—resonate as causes célèbres in this film based on the true story of two lives cut short by unrelated police violence on the same night. Each of these children of immigrants was striving to be part of French society In a fast-paced yet thoughtful narrative, director Rachid Bouchareb weaves two families' searches for their sons with the intricate machinations of a police coverup. The crisscrossing thread in this weave is the motorcycle cops themselves, menacing posses that were ubiquitous in Paris at the time. It's when they dismount that trouble begins.—Judy Bloch

In French with English subtitles

Of Related Interest


MARIE-CASTILLE MENTION-SCHAAR - France - 2022 - 110 mins - View trailer

Based on the lives and careers of twin sisters Zahia and Fettouma Ziouani (Oulaya Amamra and Lina El Arabi, respectively), who created the celebrated Divertimento Orchestra, director Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar's inspiring film offers delightful insights into the musical mind and a compelling story of young women defying the odds—and society—to live their dreams. That the girls are immigrants from the lower-class suburbs of Paris is only one of the hurdles to overcome. In that supposedly sophisticated city, Zahia must struggle for respect and even the opportunity to follow her passion. When she finally gets the chance to meet her idol, the celebrated conductor Sergiu Celibidache (Niels Arestrup), he tells her "conducting isn't for women." Meanwhile, Fettouma's teacher denies her a coveted award she clearly deserves. The two young women struggle to bring music to people normally denied its charms. Their perseverance yields an uplifting experience for viewers.—Dave Nuttycombe

In French with English subtitles


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