x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 October 2017

Dublin Arabic Film Festival opens with full house

Sophie Boutros' Solitaire opens fourth edition of Irish fest

Sinead El Sibai, a representative of festival sponsor Dubai Duty Free, Jim Sheridan and Zahara Moufid at the opening night of Dublin Arabic Film Festival. Courtesy Dubiln Arab Film Festival
Sinead El Sibai, a representative of festival sponsor Dubai Duty Free, Jim Sheridan and Zahara Moufid at the opening night of Dublin Arabic Film Festival. Courtesy Dubiln Arab Film Festival

The Dublin Arabic Film Festival opened for its fourth edition on Friday night with a sold out screening of Sophie Boutros’ topical comedy Solitaire – a wry look at the love/hate relationship and simmering tensions between long term ‘frenemies’ Syria and Lebanon, told through the medium of a family gathering – at the city’s Irish Film Institute.

Speaking to The National ahead of the opening film, festival director Zahara Moufid said: “We want to show people in Ireland a whole variety of different Arabic countries, issues and culture so they know about all the different cultures in the Arab world. Sometimes you say Arab and they don’t really know where it’s from. The UAE and Morocco are very different, for example, we even speak differently.”

She added: “People don’t realise that ‘Arab’ can mean anything – Christian, Muslim, Jew or Druze and they can all live together happily.”

Moufid admits that her hometown of Dublin isn’t renowned as one of Europe’s centres of Arab culture, but she says the local population are eager to learn more – as evidenced by the full house at the opening night screening: “Irish people are very curious,” she says. “And the local Arab population loves it too, because we try and bring the very best movies from the Arab world.”

She adds that Ireland is a unique position to understand prejudice against Arabs: “Irish people have had similar perceptions in the past with terrorism, so we hope to spread the same message that we’re not all bad, just the same as they weren’t all bad when they had their issues.”

Despite the festival’s underlying cultural purposes, however, Moufid insists it’s not all about the ‘message’. Looking towards the rest of this year’s programme she notes: “We have more movies directed by women this year than ever before. We have movies about Palestine, but not that usual heavy political thing – it’s about surfing, we have a fun Syrian movie. We’re bringing that culture to the Irish people and showing there’s great talent in Arabic countries, not just the stuff you see on the news.”

President and curator of the festival, Jim Sheridan, the Oscar-nominated director of films including My Left Foot and In the Name of the Father, agreed that the festival has an important cultural and political purpose, though he revealed the original reasons for its creation where a little less highbrow: “It’s funny. A friend of mine’s son, who’s a journalist, said to me why did you start the festival? I had all these reasons about sharing cultures, but that’s just PR really, he says. “If I’m honest, Zahara came to me and said ‘We have to start an Arab film festival, and we have to get Omar Sharif to come to Dublin', so that’s what we did. I went and had dinner with him in Paris four years ago – the best lamb in Paris, he claimed. He came to the opening edition, and here we are, four years later.”

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Read more:

Sophie Boutros talks about her new film Solitaire which is out this week

World premiere review: Regional race tensions play out in Lebanese comedy Solitaire

What to expect from Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival 2017

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* Look out for our full interview with Jim Sheridan in The National this week

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