Films from six MENA countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon will take part in the short film festival in North America.
The annual Palm Springs International ShortFest has announced its 2021 lineup that will showcase 295 films from June 22 to 28. Eight films from the Arab world will be among the titles screening at this year’s event, which includes 32 world premieres.
It is the biggest event for short films in North America, a designated awards-qualifying event for the Oscars, Baftas and their Spanish equivalent the Goyas, and offers prizes of up to $25,000 for winners.
This year, however, Shortfest takes on even greater significance as the first festival in California to hold all of its screenings in cinemas, albeit with limited capacity.
The festival’s Arab selections were made from six MENA countries including Palestine, Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.
The Arab movies that are set to premiere include Borekas, Al-Sit, Drought, Ain’t No Time for Women, I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face, The Promised, What We Don’t Know About Mariam, The Girls Who Burnt the Night, and Nour Shams.
Saleh Saadi’s semi-autobiographical film Borekas is named after the popular Palestinian snack his father would treat him to on a weekend. The film centres on a father and son granted an unexpected opportunity to bond after their car breaks down on the way to the airport. The film is Saadi’s first and competes for the Best LGBT+ Short prize.
Suzannah Mirghani’s Al-Sit tells the story of a 15-year-old Sudanese girl called Nafisa who’s torn between the love of her life in her cotton-farming village and her parents’ plans for an arranged marriage abroad. It features in Palm Springs’ Women on Top section, where it will compete for the Best Live Action Short Over 15 Minutes and Young Cineastes prizes.
When two Saudi sisters are refused permission to go to the grocery store while helping their mother prepare for an engagement party, things escalate surprisingly quickly. Sara Mesfer’s The Girls Who Burnt the Night will compete in California for the Best Live Action Short Over 15 Minutes and Best Student International Short prizes.
Shams’s only son desperately wants to leave Saudi Arabia to try his luck at becoming a rapper. Shams, however, is a little more traditional and simply wants her golden boy to settle down and have a family. Director and screenwriter Faiza Ambah’s Nour Shams will compete for Best Live Action Short Over 15 minutes.
The only Lebanese film at this year’s festival, Remi Itani’s Drought follows Carine, a Beirut property agent who frequently finds herself in empty apartments waiting for clients to show up. The film will compete for Best Live Action Short Under 15 Minutes.
What We Don’t Know About Mariam centres on Mariam, who goes to the hospital with her family after suffering from severe pain in her abdomen. After an examination, tensions escalate between Mariam and her husband. It will compete for Best Live Action Short Over 15 Minutes prize.
Ahmed El Ghoneimy’s documentary The Promised details the tension between the government-appointed guards who watch over the historic Fustat site in Old Cairo and local residents. The film will screen in the festival’s City Symphony section, featuring titles about life in cities around the world, and compete for the Best Documentary Short prize.
I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face will compete for the Best of the Festival Award and Young Cineastes Award.
Ain’t No Time for Women from Tunisian-Canadian director Sarra El Abed, which is set in Tunis and features dialogue in Arabic and French. This intimate documentary is set in a Tunis hair salon that becomes an arena for political discussion on the eve of the country’s presidential elections. The chaos – and frequent humour – of the lively discussions often mirror the turmoil of Tunisia’s democracy.