UNT professor organizes first Arab film festival in Texas

Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 15:51


What: First annual Arab Film Festival, the first and only of its kind in Texas, presented by the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute

When: 6:30 to 10 p.m. April 19 (Friday) and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. April 20 (Saturday) and April 21 (Sunday)

Where: Angelika Film Center, 5321 East Mockingbird Lane, Suite 230, Dallas

Tickets: Free for students with ID, $5 for one ticket or $8 for two tickets

More information: Visit the CAMCSI website at http://cams.unt.edu/ for more information. “Like” the festival’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/arabfilmfestivaltexas, and visit to participate in daily trivia for a chance to win free tickets!


The Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute of UNT is pleased to announce its first annual Arab Film Festival, which will be shown April 19-21 in Dallas. This is the first and only Arab film festival in Texas and includes films from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and other Arab nations.

Several of the films have been shown in festivals around the world and received a multitude of awards. Among them:

  • “To Rest in Peace,” about people who are afraid to stop when they notice two dead bodies lying in the street of Kuwait in 1990, and the one man who does stop. The 18-minute narrative has been shown in 22 festivals and received 12 acknowledgments and awards.
  • “Teta, Alf Mara” (Grandma, A Thousand Times), is a documentary that puts a feisty Beirut grandmother at the center of film exercises concocted by her grandson to commemorate her many worlds. The film won several awards including the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Doha Tribeca Film Fest, receiving a $100,000 cash prize presented by actor Robert de Niro.
  • “La Vierge, les Coptes et Moi” (The Virgin, the Copts and Me),  tells the story of a French filmmaker of Egyptian origin who tries to capture miraculous apparitions of the Virgin Mary on film, overcoming obstacles to do so and, along the way, reconnecting with long lost relatives. The documentary was presented by the Association for the Distribution of Independent Cinema at the Cannes Film Festival

Tania Khalaf, Assistant Professor in the Department of Radio, Television and Film, organized the festival after traveling worldwide with her own films and seeing many great Arab films.

“The films selected are some of the best that have won awards from some of the world’s top festivals in Toronto, Dubai, Doha and Venice,” Khalaf said. “The films cover a wide range of topics and are sure to both touch and inform audiences.” 

The films are not limited strictly to those produced by Arab filmmakers. One of the films, “The Light In Her Eyes,” a documentary about a conservative Muslim preacher who founded a Qur’an school for girls 30 years ago, was co-directed by a Jewish-American filmmaker. Three filmmakers will attend so that festival-goers may meet and talk with them.

“The festival was put together for regular folks who like to explore different films and new experiences,” Khalaf said. “It’s my hope that people enjoy these award-winning films, and that they engage in discussion, meet some of the filmmakers, and leave with a fresh perspective on the Arab culture.”

The second day of the festival, April 20, starts with a 2 p.m. panel discussion about the dual role of media in reinforcing and breaking down stereotypes of the Arab world. Panelists include UNT professors Dr. Nada Shabout and Dr. Nancy Stockdale, TWU professor Dr. Mahmoud Sadri and two film directors, Fawaz Al-Matrouk (director of “To Rest in Peace”) and Julia Meltzer (director of “The light In Her Eyes”). Moderators will be Sara Masettti, a filmmaker and MFA candidate from UNT, and Hussain Fadwani, member of the Project Nur social justice organization at UNT.

“In most cases, the only window into the Arab world for those outside of the culture is through the media, and I feel those can be misleading at times,” said Khalaf. “The Arab world contains so much humor and heart and bringing that to the forefront is very important to me, especially in Texas where I have lived for almost 10 years now.”

Khalaf, who teaches international film at UNT, said she enjoys seeing her students appreciate the exposure to different perspectives of other cultures and wants to offer that to more people.  

“After discovering that Texas does not have an Arab film festival, I knew launching one was something I wanted to do,” she said. “As a filmmaker myself, I have traveled and screened at Arab film festivals across the globe and have experienced first-hand how rewarding the experience can be, not only for the filmmaker, but for the community.”

The festival will further the mission of CAMCSI to foster an appreciation for Arab culture by reaching a wide audience of students, scholars, businesses and the public, and supporting Arab and Muslim worlds-related cultural activities. Festival sponsors are the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute, UNT’s Media Library, the College of Visual Arts and Design’s Art Education Art History Department, UNT Multicultural Center, UNT Radio Television and Film Department, the UNT Department of World Languages, Literatures, & Cultures, and the Embrey Family Foundation.

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