It sounds like a pairing that was too perfect to resist: When the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center kicks off the 4th annual New Orleans Middle East Film Festival today, just one day after Thanksgiving, it will do so with a film from … Turkey.
An image from the comedy ‘The Time That Remains,’ which will close out the 4th annual New Orleans Middle East Film Festvial.
But when Zeitgeist honcho Rene Broussard scheduled director Theron Patterson’s dark comedy “Dark Cloud” as his festival’s opening-night selection, he wasn’t necessarily trying to be cute. He was trying to get the festival started with a bang.
“It was one of my absolute favorites from the Toronto Film Festival,” Broussard said. “It’s a U.S. premiere (and) it’s a very hysterically funny film that becomes really moving and wrenching as it progresses.
“It starts out as pure slapstick comedy, a la Chaplin and Buster Keaton: It’s about a father and son dealing with grief following the death of the mother. And after she dies, the father, who was by all accounts a very happy, normal individual, just feels like he’s living under a dark cloud, and everything he does turns comically, slapstick, outrageously funny — sort of a Rube Goldberg machine, where one thing sets off a chain reaction and everything that can possibly go wrong does go wrong.
“It’s hysterically funny, yet it’s a film about grief and mourning, and you’re just totally taken in by this really charming hapless guy. It’s really a wonderful film.”
“Dark Cloud,” which screens at 8 p.m. tonight at Zeitgeist, leads the way for the annual 10-day celebration, featuring screenings of 55 new films selected to shed light on the region’s various conflicts, cultures and issues.
This year’s lineup, Broussard said, will feature films from or about Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Qatar, Syria, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Middle Eastern food, music, dance, discussions and visual art are also on tap, as well as appearances by a number visiting artists from all over the world.
Other highlights include:
- The U.S. premiere of “The Secret World,” presented by visiting filmmaker Nicholas Rowe. Described as “a Palestinian adaptation of ‘The Lord of the Flies,’” it screens at 7 p.m. Saturday.
- The documentary “Pearls on the Ocean Floor,” which focuses on Iranian women artists. Directed by Robert Adanto, it plays at 9 p.m. Saturday.
- The award-winning Egyptian short film “The Maid,” a 19-minute film that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Presented by visiting filmmaker Heidi Saman, it screens after the drama “Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story” starting at 7 p.m. on Dec. 3.
- The documentary “The Mist: A Documentary About Life and Art in Iran,” presented by visiting filmmaker Maryam Habibian. It screens at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4.
On closing night, Dec. 5, the festival tries to lighten things up again, with director Elie Sulieman’s comedy “The Time That Remains,” another of Broussard’s favorites selections this year. It screens at 8 p.m.
“(Sulieman) does very delightful Palestinan comedies, looking for little nuggets of humor among the tragedy, and very wry,” Broussard said. “A lot of fun.”
The 4th annual New Orleans Middle East Film Festival starts with an opening reception at 6 p.m. tonight and runs through Dec. 5, with screenings and other events daily. All events are at Zeitgeist, 1618 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
Single-event tickets are $7 ($6 for students and seniors, $5 for Zeitgeist members), except for those for opening- and closing-night events, which are $1 more. All-access passes are $70 ($60 for students and seniors; $50 for members).
4TH ANNUAL NEW ORLEANS MIDDLE EAST FILM FESTIVAL SCHEDULE
Friday, November 26:
- 6:00 p.m. – OPENING RECEPTION: 4th NEW ORLEANS MIDDLE EAST FILM FESTIVAL + 2nd INTERNATIONAL MUSLIM ARTISTS EXHIBITION.
- 8:00 p.m. – DARK CLOUD (Turkey) U.S. Premiere.
- 9:30 p.m. – performance by contemporary dancer-choreographer of Palestinian/Syrian origin, LEYYA TAWIL from DANCE ELIXIR and musician DAVE EASLEY.
Saturday, November 27:
- 4:00 p.m. – LETTERS FROM MY NEW HOME (Lebanon)
- 5:30 p.m. – UNVEILED VIEWS: MUSLIM WOMEN ARTISTS SPEAK OUT (Turkey, Iran)
- 7:00 p.m. – THE SECRET WORLD by visiting Australian filmmaker Nicholas Rowe. U.S. Premiere. (Palestine)
- 9:00 p.m. – PEARLS ON THE OCEAN FLOOR (Iran)
Sunday, November 28:
- 4:30 p.m. – A ROAD TO MECCA (Middle East)
- 6:30 p.m. – TEHRAN HAS NO MORE POMEGRANATES
- 8:00 p.m. – TO SHOOT AN ELEPHANT (Palestine. Gaza Strip. December 08 – January 09) (Palestine)
Monday, November 29:
- 7:00 p.m. – ON THE WAY TO SCHOOL (Turkey)
- 8:30 p.m. – TURKISH SHORTS (Turkey)
Tuesday, November 30:
- 7:00 p.m. – INSIDE THE CULTURE OF RESISTANCE: A Conversation With Suheir Hammad And Reg E. Gaines with INDECISIVE MOMENTS (Palestine)
- 9:00 p.m. – THE DANCING BOYS OF AFGHANISTAN
Wednesday, December 1:
- 7:00 p.m. – LIFESOURCE: FILLING POINT + BESIEGED WATERS with MEMORY OF THE CACTUS (Palestine)
- 9:00 p.m. – TWO LEGGED HORSE (Iran)
Thursday, December 2:
- 7:00 p.m. – MIDDLE EASTERN SHORTS (Egypt, Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, Bahrain, United Arab Emerites)
- 9:00 p.m. – SOUNDS OF BEIRUT (Lebanon)
Friday, December 3:
- 7:00 p.m. – SCHEHERAZADE, TELL ME A STORY with THE MAID by visiting filmmaker Heidi Saman (Egypt)
Saturday, December 4:
- 5:30 p.m. – TEA ON THE AXIS OF EVIL (Syria)
- 7:00 p.m. – THE MIST: A Documentary About Life and Art in Iran by visiting Iranian filmmaker Dr. Maryam Habibian with BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY (Iran, Iraq, Syria)
- 8:30 p.m. – JERUSALEM MOMENT 2009: Seven documentary films by seven young directors, Palestinian and Israeli (Palestine, Israel)
Sunday, December 5:
- 2:00 p.m. – LEAPS AND BOUNDS (Kurdistan, Iraq)
- 4:00 p.m. – AISHEEN (STILL ALIVE IN GAZA) (Palestine)
- 6:00 p.m. – RACHEL (Palestine)
- 8:00 p.m. – THE TIME THAT REMAINS by Elia Sulieman (Palestine) + Closing Reception