A Timely Topic: The 2023 Middle East Now Film Festival


Iranian chef Saghar Setareh, who will present her book and give a cooking demonstration at Middle East Now

Tues. 10 –  Sun. 15:  MIDDLE EAST NOW FILM FESTIVAL.  Cinema La Compagnia (via Cavour 50/r)  and Cinema Astra (piazza Beccaria 9). Screenings will be in the original language with Italian and English subtitles.

The world of the Middle East is vast, varied, and full of stories. Starting on October 10 and continuing through October 15, the Middle East Now film festival promises to bring some of these stories to light. From the Afghan documentary The Etilaat Roz by Abbas Rezaie to a show on Palestinian skateboarding, Middle East Now offers a diverse selection of entries. The theme of this year’s festival is “permanent transitions,” a spotlight on the constantly changing state of political, cultural, technological, and social happenings in the world, which present both opportunities and dilemmas. Middle East Now invites its guests to reflect on these themes. The event will be held in two venues: Cinema La Compagnia and Cinema Astra.

Middle East Now has selected feature films, documentaries, short films, and animated films to showcase at the festival. The movies were produced from 2021 to 2023 and come from a host of countries in the region, specifically Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Libya, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Oman, and Yemen.  The entries will be competing for the “Middle East Now Jury Award” and “Middle East Now Audience Award,” with the “Middle East Now Staff Award” and “Best OFF Award” dedicated to short films.

The film showings will be split into three sections: socio-political transitions, next-wave transitions, and transitions of life and beyond. For 2023, Middle East Now will have a Palestine focus, with the first and last movies presented set in Palestine. The festival’s opening movie will be A Gaza Weekend by Basil Khalil, with the showing beginning at 9 pm on October 10. This 2022 award-winning movie in the second section is a comedy which follows a British journalist who, after being unable to leave Israel due to a virus-imposed embargo, realizes that Gaza is the safest place in the region. The first section will begin with the film Hawar, Our Banished Children on October 11 at 6 pm. Hawar, Our Banished Children is a film by Pascale Bourgaux that follows a Yazidi mother who, after being sold into sexual slavery and bearing a child she was forbidden from seeing, crosses into Kurdistan to see her daughter in secret after having been apart from her for four years.

In collaboration with Museo Novecento of 20th and 21st Century Art, Middle East Now is proud to present the LANDING exhibition, a series of photographs taken over the course of eight years by Maen Hammad, curated by Roï Saade. These photographs are the result of documentation of the Palestinian skateboarding scene, highlighting its purpose and cultural relevance. For some of these Palestinians, skating is a means of escaping reality and pushing towards freedom.

Emerging contemporary culinary chef, Saghar Setareh, will attend the festival as a special guest. Setareh recently authored the book, Pomegranates and Artichokes. Recipes and Memories of a Trip from Iran to Italy, a book detailing her personal journey and over 80 recipes from Iran (her country of origin), Middle East in general, and Italy. A presentation on the book will take place on Saturday, October 14, at 7:30 pm at Cinema La Compagnia. A cooking demonstration will take place on Sunday, October 15, from 10 to 1 pm. The admission fee is €35.

More information may be found at middleastnow.it. Ticket prices are available under the “info” tab. (Daniel J. Capobianco)