Cinema Akil to host first Arab Cinema Week in Dubai

The 10-day event will showcase a diverse range of films from across the region from Friday

The cosy and independent Cinema Akil is gearing up for the inaugural showcase, which aims to advance the dialogue around the region's film industry. Photo: Cinema Akil
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Cinema Akil, the only independent cinema in the UAE, is holding its first Arab Cinema Week. Starting Friday, the 10-day event, taking place at the venue in Alserkal Avenue, will screen nine feature films and six short films.

The programme includes stories and talent from and about the Arab world, representing 11 Arab countries with nine female directors showing their work, some of which are being screened in the UAE for the first time.

“The first edition of Arab Cinema Week delivers on our mission of being the home of Arab independent cinema and filmmakers,” said Butheina Kazim, founder of Cinema Akil.

“In the absence of a national film festival, I am proud to dedicate our platform to annually present a range in the programme that also celebrates the growing film industries in our region; giving them the attention they very much deserve.”

Cinema Akil has tied up with the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Goethe-Institut Gulf Region and the Safar Film Festival in order to make Arab Cinema Week a recurring event in Dubai.

Programme curator Rabih El-Khoury said the event has been designed “to bring together a range of themes for Arab stories” where filmmakers can explore “their heartbreaks ... their victories, their struggles and their moments of personal bliss.”

Opening with Bafta-winning Jordanian director Bassel Ghandour’s debut feature The Alleys, the programme will also focus on films from Algeria to reflect on 60 years of the nation’s independence. Productions from Somalia as well as a diverse range of short films from the Middle East will also feature.

Directors of various films will be in attendance for discussions as well as one with acclaimed Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri on October 9.

“The programme has been conceived to spark conversation and encourage discussion, all of which will be made possible with the presence of creators at their respective screenings,” said El-Khoury.

“There is an important dialogue to be held and a platform like Cinema Akil, which over the years has brought Dubai’s diverse communities together in the name of art and love of film, is the perfect setting to do this.”

Here are some of the films showing at Arab Cinema Week.


Five stories by five Saudi directors take an intimate look into the kingdom’s ever-changing society. Directors Hind Alfahhad, Jowaher Alamri, Noor Alameer, Sara Mesfer and Fatima Al-Banawi each weave a story that explores Saudi identity and experience in both personal and universal ways.

'The Alleys'

Set in East Amman, Ali, a hustler, poses as a businessman to keep his relationship with girlfriend Lana a secret. But their plan starts to fall apart when Aseel, Lana’s mother, is mysteriously blackmailed by a voyeur who has filmed the couple. To protect her daughter and their reputation, Aseel seeks the help of Abbas, a ruthless gangster.

'The Battle of Algiers'

Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers is considered one of the most influential political films in history. The gritty 1966 docudrama about the Algerian National Liberation Front’s battle for independence against French colonisers in the 1950s and early ’60s is a case study in modern warfare.

Over time, the documentary has had a profound influence and has been studied by everyone from the Black Panthers, the IRA and South African militants to the George W Bush administration in Iraq.

'Beirut Hold'em'

In a country on the edge of war and bankruptcy, ex-con gambler Ziko and his childhood friends fight their way up through lower-middle class Beirut to make something out of their lives.

Lebanese-French director Michel Kammoun presents a gritty and powerful film which depicts the struggle of existence for people who must navigate life as if playing a game of Russian roulette.

Arab Cinema Week runs from October 7 to 16 at Cinema Akil. More information is available at

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