Alex Ritman talks to Haider Rashid, whose new film tackles immigration and the struggle for acceptance
The exodus of immigrants from northern Africa to southern Europe has been a regular subject in regional film festivals. Last year's Abu Dhabi Film Festival saw Moussa Haddad's Harraga Blues follow the story of two Algerian friends who yearn to cross the Mediterranean, while Hesham Issawi's debut feature Cairo Exit, which premiered in Dubai, looked at the issue from within Egypt. But this year's Gulf Film Festival looks at the struggles of those who have actually made the move.
Set in Florence, It's About to Rain centres on an Algerian father, alongside his two Italian-born sons, a man who is Italian in all but his place of birth yet finds himself living in a society that continues to reject him and his family.
"For Italy, it's a very new topic," says the director Haider Rashid, who himself is Italian with an Iraqi heritage. "Normally immigrants are set in the box of stereotypes, whether it's criminal or some sort of magical stereotype."
And in Italy, where immigration has become a major topic of debate, the film - according to Rashid, the first from a second-generation director - is getting a lot of traction ahead of its release next month.
"We're portraying immigrants with the aspect of normality, which has never been done in the country. Another important element is that the main character is played by a fully Italian actor, which made it interesting because a lot of people came out of the cinema confused, wondering whether he was Algerian or Italian."
Rashid says Italy's citizenship laws are to be revised soon and he's been approached by associations looking to use It's About to Rain, which also has the support of two MPs who have signed new proposals to change the laws. "There's definitely a message in the film saying that if you're born in a place and you're raised in a place and you speak with the accent from that place, you're pretty much from that place and should be recognised as such."
It's About to Rain screens tomorrow at 5.15pm in Grand Cinemas 9, Dubai Festival City
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