And Speaking of Film Festivals: UNT Launches First Arab Film Fest in North Texas

Last night the Dallas International Film Festival kicked-off at LOOK Cinemas in Addison (you can read our preview here). In its seventh year, the Dallas IFF has certainly become the centerpiece of local festival circuit. But the film festival scene continues to get ever more crowded. Case in point: Yesterday a release dropped in my inbox for a new, and rather exciting, addition to the local scene: the Arab Film Festival Texas. Launched by the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute at UNT and hosted at the Angelika Film Center, the fest will run from April 19-21, and it will feature eleven films from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and other Arab nations, as well as panel discussions and visiting filmmakers.

The lineup looks solid and relevant, and it is positive to see an event that engages an often overlooked ethnic subset of the Dallas-Fort Worth community while broadening awareness at large of cinema that is rarely shown in the region. This is exactly what a film festival can do, filling the gaps in between what is normally exhibited in a given region in a way that is poised to raise the volume on and deepen an important cross-cultural conversation.

The full lineup is below, and there is also a video trailer introducing the fest.

Arab Film Festival Texas promo from Tania Khalaf on Vimeo.







The Light In Her Eyes (Documentary) – (FILMMAKER IN ATTENDANCE)

Director: Julia Meltzer, Laura Nix

Syria, 85 min

Houda Al-Habash, a conservative Muslim preacher, founded a Qur’an school for girls in Damascus 30 years ago. Every summer, her female students immerse themselves in a rigorous study of Islam. A surprising cultural shift is under way-women are claiming space within the mosque. Shot right before the uprising in Syria erupted, The Light in Her Eyes offers an extraordinary portrait of a leader who challenges the women of her community to live according to Islam, without giving up their dreams.

Festivals & Awards

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam – Dubai International Film Festival MujerDOC – Arabian Film Days – Sarasota Film Festival – Woods Hole Film Festival  -Transylvania International Film Festival – Bergen International Film Festival – Anthropological Film Festival Israel – Margaret Mead Film Festival – One World Film Festival – Women’s Film Festival




Join us at the Angelika Theater for a free panel discussion on the dual role of media in reinforcing and breaking down stereotypes of the Arab World. This lively discussion will include visiting filmmakers and scholars.


  • Dr. Nada Shabout. (Associate Professor Art Education and Art History, UNT & Director of Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute)
  • Dr. Mahmoud Sadri (Sociology Professor, UNT & TWU)
  • Dr. Nancy Stockdale (Associate professor of History, UNT)
  • Julia Meltzer (Filmmaker, Fulbright Scholar)
  • Fawaz Al Matrouk (Filmmaker)

Moderated by:

  • Sara Masetti (Filmmaker & MFA Candidate, Radio-TV-Film, UNT)
  • Hussain Fadwani (Project Nur Social Justice Organization, UNT)


3:30PM – SESSION 2

The Invisible Policeman (Documentary)

Director: Laith Al-Juneidi

Palestine/Netherlands/UAE, 59 min

The divisions and conflicts of the West Bank city Hebron are reflected in the sharp rift between the public and private life of Abu Sa’eed, a lieutenant in the Palestinian National Authority Police Department. In uniform, he’s an authority figure and protector; out of uniform, he’s just another disempowered Palestinian man helpless to protect his large family from daily indignities and abuses. This compassionate portrait looks for hope amid the harsh realities of a caring father’s predicament.

Festivals & Awards

First Prize: Best Mid-Length Documentary Award – Beirut International Documentary Film Festival – Official Selection International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam –
Muhr Arab Documentary Competition – Dubai International Film Festival


5:00PM –  SESSION 3

12 Angry Lebanese (Documentary)

Director:  Zeina Daccache

Lebanon, 85 min

A theatre director specializing in working with disadvantaged and traumatized people, Zeina Daccache struggled to set up Lebanon’s first prison-based drama project in the country’s notorious Roumieh Prison. For 15 months, 45 inmates, some completely illiterate, found themselves working together to present an adaptation of the famous stage play ’12 Angry Men’, here re-named ’12 Angry Lebanese’. Through their newfound creative outlet, we witness the prisoners coalesce into a slick, professional ensemble. Inspiring and honest, this account of the prisoners’ journey demonstrates the positive effect of art therapy and the positive effect on some of the most ostracized individuals in society.

Festivals & Awards

Asia Pacific Screen Awards, Best Documentary Feature Film Nomination – First Prize, Festival du film de Compiegne – Noor Award Arab Film Festival, San Francisco Los Angeles – Official Selection, Doc Leipzig Generation Doc – First Prize, Dox Box International Documentary Film Festival – Muhr Arab Award, Best Documentary, Dubai International Film Festival – People Choice Awar, Dubai International Film Festival


8:00PM – SESSION 4 – two films

To Rest in Peace (Narrative) – (FILMMAKER IN ATTENDANCE)

Director: Fawaz Al-Matrouk

Kuwait/USA, 18 min

Occupied Kuwait, 1990. Two dead bodies lie in the street. Day after day, everyone passes them by, afraid to stop. Except one man.

Festivals & Awards

First Look Festival – Norwich Film Festival – LACMA Muse Young Directors Night – Irvine Film Festival – Super Shorts Int’l Film Festival – Mizna’s Twin Cities Arab Film Festival – Best Short Film, Brantford Film Festival – Tacoma Film Festival – Best Student Short, SoCal Film Fest – Crystal Palace International Film Festival – Big Bear Lake International Film Festival – Paul Leder Award, Central Florida International Film Festival – Best Student Short, NYC International Film Festival – LA Shorts International Film Festival – Best Amateur Short, Real to Reel International Film Festival – Short Film Champion, World Cup Film Awards – Breckenridge Festival of Film – AmPav Cannes Emerging Filmmaker Showcase – LA New Wave International Film Festival – Gulf Film Festival – First Place in Cinematography, Kuwait International Film Retreat – Second Place in Directing and Editing, Kuwait International Film Retreat – Dubai Film Festival – Best world song Hollywood Music in Media Awards – Silver Prize, PAGE International Screenwriting Awards – Script Finalist, Super Shorts Film Festival – Finalist, American Gem Script Competition.


Uncle Nashaat (Documentary)

Director: Aseel Mansour

Jordan/Palestine, 70 min

Nashaat is a Palestinian fighter who was killed by the Israelis in 1982. When Aseel, Nashaat’s nephew, comes across a fact that makes him doubt the circumstances of his uncle’s death, he embarks on a quest to find the truth.
Not only does this quest lead him to disturbing facts, but it also makes him understand the real reasons behind his broken relationship with his father during his childhood.




Habibi (Narrative)

Director: Susan Youssef

Palestine, 85 min
Two students in the West Bank are forced to return home to Gaza, where their love defies tradition. Qays is so smitten with Layla that he graffitis the town in love poetry from Majnun Layla, a 7th-century Arabian poem. But Majnun Layla means ‘Madman for Layla’ and Layla’s family believes Qays is crazy. They insist she marries a more stable, conventional man. The couple is forced into secret meetings and, ultimately, a dreadful choice between happiness and survival.

A hit at Venice, Toronto and Dubai, this daring film is an epic tragedy about a star-crossed couple determined to use love as their compass to navigate an ugly world.

Festivals & Awards

Dubai International Film Festival, Winner, Best film, FIPRESCI Awards, Best

Actress, Best Editor – Cinema Novo Festival, Winner Camera Novo – Palm Springs International Film Festival – Venice Film Festival – Toronto International Film Festival – Busan International Film Festival


5:00PM SESSION 2 – three films

The Hookah Experience (Documentary) – (FILMMAKER IN ATTENDANCE)

Director: Fatimah Jawad

USA, 2:30 min

“The Hookah Experience” sheds light on the role of smoking customs in today’s generation.


41 days (Narrative)

Director: Ahmed Abdelaziz

Egypt, 21 min

Seven year-old Youssef is forced to endure a forty-day period of mourning when all he wants to do is watch football.


Teta, Alf Marra (Grandma, A Thousand Times) (Documentary)

Director: Mahmoud Kaabour

UAE/Qatar/Lebanon, 48 min

“Teta, Alf Marra” is a poetic documentary that puts a feisty Beiruti grandmother at the center of brave film exercises concocted by her grandson to commemorate her many worlds before they are erased by the passage of time and her eventual death.

Festivals & Awards

Best Film: London International Documentary Film Festival – Best Film: Mumbai Film Festival (Celebrate Age Category) – Audience Award for Best Documentary: Doha Tribeca Film Fest (100,000$ cash prize presented by actor Robert de Niro) – Audience Award for Best International Documentary: Dox Box Film Festival (3,000$ cash prize) – Special Jury Mention for filmmaker Mahmoud Kaabour: Doha Tribeca – Special Jury Mention at DocsDF Mexico for filmmaker Mahmoud Kaabour for “an outstanding way of telling a story.”



La Vierge, les Coptes et Moi / The Virgin, the Copts, and Me (Documentary)

Director: Namir Abdel Messeeh,

Egypt/France, 85 min

Namir is a French filmmaker of Egyptian origin. One day at home in Paris, his mother, a Copt (Egyptian Christian), attempts to convince him of miraculous apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Egypt’s Coptic community. Skeptical, Namir travels back to Egypt to get to the bottom of this bizarre phenomenon. Everyone interferes with his plan to capture the explanation of the mystery on film: his overcritical parents and his financially concerned producer. On his journey, Namir rediscovers his past and, against the will of his mother, reconnects with long lost relatives. In the end, an unexpected occurrence leads Namir to success.

Festivals & Awards

Sydney Film Festival, Australia – Arab Film festival Berlin, Germany – Rochelle Film Festival – ACID, Cannes Film Festival – Krakow Film Festival – Festival Cinema Africano – Audience Award, Berlinale Panorama – Audience Award, Visions du Reel, Nyon – Best Arab Documentary, Doha Tribeca Film Festival – Prix Film en Cours, Belfort Film Festival

 Image: From Uncle Nashaat