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Lindsay R. Bellinger


Lindsay is a film journalist and an aspiring playwright currently based in Berlin.

Attending film festivals, reviewing films and collecting vinyl keeps her busy. Let her know what you think of her reviews.^^


Berlin celebrated the 10th Arab Film Festival with many guests in attendance

(© Lindsay Bellinger 2019)


This year's Arabisches Filmfestival Berlin (Arab Film Festival Berlin) was an outstanding success, if you measure success by the number of sold out movie screenings and audience participation during the post-screening Q&As. I attended the opening screening of Egyptian film Yomeddine on Wednesday, April 3rd and it was a packed and excited audience. 

(ALFILM moderator and A.B. Shawky post-screening, © Lindsay Bellinger 2019)

This Egyptian feature length debut from A.B. Shawky premiered in competition at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival where it received a warm reception. Shawky wrote, directed, produced and conducted lots of research and interviews to authentically represent those who live in leper colonies in Egypt. It's a very touching and human film that really makes me wonder why more films like these aren't shown in mainstream cinemas around the world. Do we really need another superhero or gangster shoot 'em up bang, bang film? No, no we don't. Also, please stop making remakes, especially of foreign films that are near-perfect and don't need to be belittled with a half-assed English-language remake.  


(Rana Eid during the Q&A, © Lindsay Bellinger 2019)

The Lebanese documentary film Panoptic, is a special and unusual cinematic experience. The sound design and original score meld together and compliment one another in a very unique way, which makes sense since the writer/director Rana Eid's career includes work on many films as a sound designer. Her first feature film Panoptic is a very personal and revealing look into the schizophrenia that is and was present in Lebanon throughout its not-so-far-off past. The voiceover and incorporation of letters is utilized quite effectively. Eid's film premiered at that 2017 Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, and I'm so pleased that I took a chance on this film because I actually went in just wanting to see the second film that was screening after Panoptic, the film Sofia, another film that premiered at 2018 Cannes Film Festival. 
Sofia, the feature debut film from Moroccan filmmaker Meryem Benm'Barek-Aloïsi, has been having such a great run on the international film festival circuit since it's world premiere in May of 2018. Benm'Barek-Aloïsi and her film has also won many awards, the most prestigious of which is the Un Certain Regard - Screenplay Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The countries that co-produced this exceptional and surprising film are France, Qatar, Belgium and Morocco, which perhaps could be why the film feels so universal, having so many international parties being involved. At least to me, it feels universal, although it still feels very Moroccan and gives lots of insight into the current harsh societal and legal restrictions imposed on women and men, especially the younger generation. The rest of the audience was clearly as shocked as I was when some of the secrets were revealed. This is one of those films that makes me wonder why some people, often male film critics with whom I've talked, don't like a film just because the (female) protagonist is unlikable or unattractive. I didn't have this discussion about Meryem Benm'Barek-Aloïsi's film Sofia but I did have it about Swedish filmmaker Isabella Eklöf's 2018 film Holiday, whose female protagonist is not necessarily likable. I also had a similar discussion with an 85 year old male film critic who complained to me that he didn't enjoy the film Can You Ever Forgive Me? for the same reason. Sadly, that seems to be a trend with many critics, why they can't get behind some female-driven stories. 
The 10. ALFILM Shorts program was also quite impressive, including Algerian director Elias Belkeddar's A Wedding Day, the Lebanese short Son of a Dancer from Georges Hazim, the comical and light-hearted treat Sheikh's Watermelons (Tunisia/France) from Kaouther Ben Hania, the British/German/Swiss co-production I Signed the Petition from Mahdi Fleifel, and the Morroccan/French film Yasmina from filmmakers Ali Esmili and Claire Cahen.

(Lindsay R. Bellinger and Ameen Nayfeh post-screening, © Lindsay Bellinger 2019)

Palestinian writer/director/editor Ameen Nayfeh was also in attendance to present and discuss his short film The Crossing, which actually mixed comic and sad elements quite effortlessly. His short is about three siblings who are waiting for a travel permit to visit their sick grandfather on the other side of the Israeli West Bank barrier and what enfolds before, during and after. It was fascinating to hear that this short was actually inspired from Nayfeh and his two siblings' experience when trying to visit their ailing grandfather. He said that screening The Crossing back home was not that tragic or emotional as when it was screened outside of Palestine. Sadly, this story is all too familiar for those living on the less advantaged side of the wall.  
All-in-all my experience at the 10th edition of the Arab Film Festival Berlin was very positive and I even ran into a Polish friend who I met during a film workshop here in Berlin. The screenings and discussions afterwards were quite enjoyable, a mixed bag of heavy topics and also some lighter fare mixed in with heavy themes. Most films screened twice during the festival and many evenings the screenings were sold out and there was even a waiting list. It would be interesting to see how big the turn-out was during the 1st edition of the festival some ten years ago. This year's festival was popular and brought out all different age groups and people from different backgrounds. I'm looking forward to attending next year's edition and hope to fit even more into my schedule.
Enjoy watching the trailer for this year's festival! 




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About Lindsay R. Bellinger

With Dieter Kosslick during his last Berlinale.

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