It must be an exciting time to run an Arab film festival this year, while the Arab Spring cascades across the region. But nail-biting too, not knowing if this year's selection of films will still be relevant two months from now. The 2011 Arab Film Festival got lucky: opening the Festival this year is The Cry of an Ant. It's the first film to cover the Egyptian popular revolution, which culminated in dictator Hosni Mubarak's resignation in February.
Cairo Exit touches on Egypt's broad social mix, drawing a romance across religious boundaries between Coptic Christian Amal and her Muslim boyfriend. In sheer scale, cultural mix, riches and poverty, Cairo so big as to be almost unimaginable from here. But it's just one city in the festival's huge world. Stray Bullet takes in a story of a young woman's future during the Lebanese Civil War of the 1970s, In the Belly of the Whale shows the claustrophobic world of the Palestinian-made tunnels under the border to Gaza's south, while Colourfest-winner Show & Tell brings an Australian perspective. It's wide terrain for one Festival to cover, but for four days it'll take you into a larger world.
Image from the short Once by Nayla Al Khaja.