Bedouin City Rahat To Host Inaugural Middle Eastern Film Fest
"The Taste of Apples is Red" is a drama by Syrian filmmaker Ehab Tarabieh about Israel’s Druze community. (Screenshot)

Bedouin City Rahat To Host Inaugural Middle Eastern Film Fest

First-of-its-kind event to couple dozens of films from region with culinary fair as organizers hope to transform city into a pillar of culture

The Bedouin city of Rahat in Israel’s southern Negev desert is set to host an inaugural film festival showcasing movies from the Middle East and Mediterranean regions.

The Rahat Film Festival for Cinema From the Mediterranean and Middle East opens on February 2, and will feature a wide variety of movies from Israel, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Kosovo, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

It will take place over four weekends in February at the Rahat Fine Arts Center, which opened last year.

“I selected 40 films out of the 400 that I watched,” Daniel Alter, artistic director of the festival, told The Media Line. “There are films from Iran and Saudi Arabia. From Saudi Arabia, we included a unique movie from a female director – the best in the kingdom – which will open the festival.”

This festival was born in Rahat. People here are working on these things all the time.

Alter is referring to the award-winning 2012 film by Haifaa al-Mansour called “Wadjda,” the first feature film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and also to be directed by a Saudi woman. It tells the story of a young girl named Wadjda living in Riyadh and her desire to ride a bicycle even though it is forbidden in her country to do so.

“The Taste of Apples is Red” – a drama by Syrian filmmaker Ehab Tarabieh about Israel’s Druze community – will have its nationwide premiere at the event on February 10. The movie showcases the story of a respected sheikh, whose brother disappeared during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and who returns to the Golan Heights after living in exile for 47 years. Tarabieh is slated to speak with the audience after the film.

A still image from Yosef Abu Mediam’s 2011 film “Zira.” (Courtesy)

Another notable film, “Zira,” was produced by local Rahat resident Yosef Abu Mediam. It depicts the war between Israel and Gaza in 2008, known in Israel as Operation Cast Lead.

Films at the festival will be screened in Hebrew with Arabic subtitles, as well as in English, French and several other languages, according to Alter.

Alongside these cinematic offerings, the event also will include a culinary fair with a range of dishes prepared by Intisar Al-Sheikh, an award-winning local chef. Visitors will be able to sample foods corresponding to the films’ countries of origin.

“This festival was born in Rahat,” Alter said. “People here are working on these things all the time.”

Alter has helped organize several cultural events in the city, including its first-ever coffee festival last fall, which saw some 6,000 visitors.

One of the goals of these initiatives is to reshape the public’s perception of Rahat, Israel’s largest Bedouin city.

The Rahat Community Center in southern Israel’s Negev desert in a 2012 photo. (Wikimedia Commons)

Fuad Ziadna, director of the Rahat Community Center, said that he hopes these efforts will show people that the city is a great place to visit.

“We now have a cultural center and cinematheque in Rahat,” Ziadna told The Media Line. “In my view, it’s a bridge of peace, love and cooperation. It’s very important to bring cinema to this city so that people will come and see very positive things [happening] and this is something I am always working on.”

Ziadna added that Rahat is filled with young people and that encouraging them to participate in cultural events has become a major project for the city.

“With regard to culture we’ve opened an arts center and we have two large theatres, cinemas and a music school,” he noted. “We’re inaugurating new festivals and the goal is to have these festivals each year. We’re always bringing new things to Rahat.”

 

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