Behind the Caftan

Even in the best of times, the American view of Arabs is steeped in stereotypes, prejudice, and sensationalist headlines from abroad. In the current climate, the 12th annual Arab Film Festival isn’t just another cultural event on the calendar but an essential antidote to fear and loathing. The intimate humanist sagas playing today eschew politics in favor of such universal themes as the elusiveness of everyday happiness. In Samira’s Garden, a Casablanca newlywed isolated and ignored at her older husband’s country abode seeks male companionship. Another Moroccan fish out of water, an architect living in Paris, returns to Fez for a visit and ignites the simmering frustrations of peers desperate for change in Burned Hearts. Out of Coverage centers on a Syrian who, after 10 years of caring for an imprisoned friend’s family along with his own, finds he has fallen for the other man’s wife. The human comedy, it’s plain to see, unfolds in the Arab world the same as it does in the West.

Screenings start at 1 p.m. at the Clay, 2261 Fillmore (at Clay), S.F.
Oct. 17-28, 2008

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