Film

Sundance selection features smattering of Middle Eastern films

Most prominent are Rita Baghdadi’s feature documentary 'Sirens' and Image Nation Abu Dhabi's psychological thriller 'Watcher'
Sundance selection features smattering of Middle Eastern films

The release of details of films set to be screened at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival (which runs January 20-30 next year) points to a strong line-up of independent cinema, with the programme punctuated with a modest selection of films with Middle Eastern links.

Most prominent in the World Cinema Documentary competition section is Rita Baghdadi’s feature documentary Sirens, which follows Slave to Sirens, the first and only all-woman thrash metal band in the Middle East. According to the synopsis, “amid a backdrop of political unrest and the heartbreaking unraveling of Beirut, five bandmates form a beacon of expression, resistance, and independence”.

Director Rita Baghdadi follows founders and guitarists Lilas Mayassi and Shery Bechara as they are joined by vocalist Maya Khairallah, bassist Alma Doumani, and drummer Tatyana Boughaba, and their grit is tested as they grapple with the complexities of friendship, sexuality, and the destruction around them. Sirens is Rita Baghdadi’s third documentary feature, acting as director, producer, and cinematographer.

In addition, Image Nation Abu Dhabi’s psychological thriller Watcher is set to have its world premiere at Sundance, directed by writer/director Chloe Okuno, the film stars Maika Monroe (It Follows), Karl Glusman (Nocturnal Animals) and Burn Gorman (Enola Holmes). The film, which will compete in the US dramatic competition at the festival, is a co-production between the Academy Award-winning Image Nation Abu Dhabi and Spooky Pictures.

Watcher

Also screening in the World Cinema Documentary section is Director Alon Schwarz’s Tantura (Israel) as he revisits former Israeli soldiers of the Alexandroni Brigade as well as Palestinian residents in an effort to re-examine what happened in the village of Tantura where a large-scale massacre allegedly occurred  in 1948 when hundreds of Palestinian villages were depopulated in the aftermath of war.

Though a US documentary, also is interest is Jihad Rehab from director Meg Smaker – which includes as a co-producer, ‘Anonymous – Saudi Arabia’ – which follows the journeys of three men as they are released from Guantanamo Bay and enter into the world’s first rehabilitation centre for terrorists. Shot over three years, the film follows these men through a yearlong deradicalisation programme and their subsequent release back into society after nearly two decades in detention.

Jihad Rehab

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