Seoul cinema takes on Arab and Indian flavors

By Claire Lee

Arab and Indian film festivals bring diversity to Korean theaters

  • Published : May 21, 2013 - 19:52
  • Updated : May 21, 2013 - 19:52
Seoulites may want to take a short break from local and Hollywood films in May and June, as two upcoming film festivals are bringing Indian and Arab movies to the city.

One is the Arab Film Festival, to be held from June 5 to 9 at Artnine Theater in Sadang-dong. According to its organizers, they are screening a total of nine films, including two that have never been screened in Korea. The films deal with a variety of themes from the Arab region, including war and terrorism, unrequited love, and women’s issues. 
A scene from “God’s Horses,” a 2012 Moroccan film by Nabil Ayouch which will be screened during the upcoming Arab Film Festival in Seoul next month. (BIFF)

This year’s lineup includes “God’s Horses,” a 2012 Moroccan film directed by Nabil Ayouch. The movie is about the 2003 Casablanca bombings, a series of suicide bombings that took place in Casablanca, Morocco.

A total of 45 people were killed in the attacks, including the 12 suicide bombers.

The film follows young boys growing up in a Moroccan slum, where they have very little to look forward to, and how they eventually get involved with fundamentalist martyrdom. It competed in the Un Certain Regard section at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Another notable entrant is Omani film “Aseel,” which is being screened in Korea for the first time. It tells the story of a 9-year-old Bedouin boy named Aseel who struggles to preserve his culture and protect his camel when excessive tourism results in a natural disaster in his village.

UAE filmmaker Jamal Salim’s drama “Royal Love” is being shown in Korea for the first time as well. It is a compelling love story between a man and a married woman who slips into a coma after being involved in a terrible accident.

This year’s lineup also includes “The Battle of Algiers,” the famous 1966 war film by Italian filmmaker Gillo Pontecorvo. The movie is based on the Algerian War against the French Government in North Africa from 1954 to 1962.

Other films include Canada-based filmmaker Maryam Najafi’s “Kayan,” a tale of a Lebanese single mother struggling in a male-dominated Lebanese community in Vancouver, Canada. The director won the New Currents award at last year’s Busan International Film Festival.

“Many would think Arab culture and customs are very different from the ones in Korea,” said the festival’s programmer Cho Young-jeong through promoters.

“While that may be true, there are also a lot of similarities between the two cultures. Just like us, Arabs are very family-oriented, enjoy singing and dancing, and treat their guests with the same generosity and warmth you would expect here in Korea.”
A scene from “Veer-Zaara,” a 2004 Indian romantic drama film directed by Yash Chopra which will be featured at this year’s Indian Film Festival in Seoul. (India Film Festival)

After its Seoul edition, the Arab Film Festival will have a separate Busan edition from June 25 to 30 at Busan Cinema Center. Its full lineup will be posted at http://fest.korea-arab.org/ by later this week, organizers said.

Meanwhile, the 2013 Indian Film Festival in Seoul is being held at CGV Yeouido from May 24 to 28. A total of six films are being screened, including “Veer-Zaara,” a 2004 Indian romantic drama co-starring Shahrukh Khan and Preity Zinta as star-crossed lovers against the backdrop of the conflict between Pakistan and India.

Those who are interested in India’s fashion industry may want to check out “Fashion,” a 2008 Indian drama about an aspiring supermodel from a small town who wants to break into the glitzy fashion industry in Mumbai. For more information about this year’s Indian Film Festival, visit cgv.co.kr.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)