Dubai Film Fest Reveals Arab Competition Lineup

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Omar Sharif

Laila Marrakchi's family drama "Rock the Casbah," starring screen legend Omar Sharif, is among the titles picked to compete for the festival's Muhr Arab competition plaudit.

LONDON – Laila Marrakchi's family drama Rock the Casbah, the follow-up to the filmmaker's Marock, is one of a slew of titles to be scheduled to unspool as part of the 10th edition the Muhr Arab competition strand at the upcoming Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF).

Marrakchi's movie features some of the Arab world’s most acclaimed actors, including Hiam Abbass, Nadine Labaki, Lubna Azabal, Morjana Alaoui and icon Omar Sharif.

The film is set over three days in Tangiers, Morocco and revolves around the revelations and reconciliations between three sisters during a family gathering for the funeral of patriarch Moulay Hassan (Sharif).

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Festival organizers also said award-winning Moroccan filmmaker Hicham Lasri will bring his second feature, They Are the Dogs, from its world premiere at this year's Festival de Cannes.

The movie tells the story of Majhoul, an old man imprisoned in 1981 during massive demonstrations for reform in Morocco. Upon his release 30 years later, a documentary team helps him find his family and reconstitute his life in a society in constant evolution.

Cherien Dabis, whose debut feature, Amreeka, won numerous international awards, returns to DIFF with May in the Summer. While Amreeka dealt with being Arab in the U.S., May in the Summer focuses on being an Arab American in the Arab world.

It details the story of sophisticated New Yorker, May Brennan, who returns to her childhood home of Amman, Jordan, for her wedding. Shortly after reuniting with her sisters and their long-divorced parents, familial and cultural conflicts lead May to question the big step she is about to take.

DIFF artistic director Masoud Amralla Al Ali said: "From the festival’s inauguration, we took the promotion and expansion of Arab cinema as our primary objective. The field for the Muhr Awards has grown from year to year because it is recognized in the region as a key platform for a film’s release and a powerful endorsement from the filmmaker’s peer community."

Al Ali noted that the films chosen to compete "are the newest in the region, they are topical and powerful, and they present a cross-section of what is of concern in the Arab world at this moment."

Moroccan New Wave cinema director Jillali Ferhati will return to DIFF with Pillow Secrets, about a young woman who's drawn violently back to her past after her mother’s death when she learns that she is the daughter of a dictatorial prostitute who ran her neighborhood with an iron fist.

The Muhr Arab Feature awards winners will be unveiled at the closing ceremonies of the 10th annual DIFF, which runs from Dec. 6-14, 2013.