Arab Films Showcase Turbulent Year

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Regan Doherty

DFI-DTFF_englishDOHA (Reuters) – The Arab Spring of pro-democracy uprisings features prominently — both directly and more subtly — in the selections at the third annual Doha Tribeca Film Festival, kicking off in the Qatari capital this week.

The festival, launched in 2009 in the tiny Gulf Arab state, seeks to showcase the work of Arab filmmakers who this year were able to draw on the momentous political changes in their own countries for artistic inspiration.

Highlights include “Rouge Parole,” set in the tumult of revolutionary Tunisia, which charts the expulsion of its president and the country’s first steps toward democracy.

Sherif El Bendary’s “On the Road to Downtown,” set in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, follows the lives and hopes of six people connected in different ways to the city’s downtown core.

“Our selection of documentaries provides for reflection on political change. But we also offer a number of films that look into private worlds and subtler aspects of the Middle Eastern experience that are not always evident to political observers,” said the festival’s Chief Arab Programer, Hania Mroue.

“The Virgin, the Copts and Me” takes on an otherworldly subject in investigating the appearance of the Virgin Mary to millions of Egyptians via a videotape on which only true believers can see her image.

“This is a very important film for post-revolutionary Egypt, as it sheds light on the Coptic community, which was taboo to do a few years ago,” Mroue said.

The Algerian title “Normale” examines what happened in the Algerian street as neighboring countries’ dictators were being toppled.

“The youth in Algeria felt they could now express themselves more freely. The film addresses the revolution in a very subtle way,” she said.

Lina Alabed’s “Yearning” focuses on the lives of women in Damascus and their approach to personal freedom in a society dominated by men.

Women are also the focus in two sports documentaries that examine the taboos surrounding women and boxing in Tunisia (“Boxing with Her”), and the life-altering experience of a young women’s basketball team in northern Iraq (“Salaam Dunk”).

Other headliners include the world premiere of “Black Gold” with Antonio Banderas, set in the 1930s at the dawn of the oil boom and the first major motion picture shot in Qatar.

Laila Hotait Salas’ “Crayons of Askalan” recreates the powerful story of Palestinian artist Zuhdi al Adawi, imprisoned at the age of 15 in Israel’s notorious Askalan jail.

Qatar launched the film festival as a partnership between the Doha Film Institute and Tribeca Enterprises, which also operates New York’s Tribeca Film Festival.

Created as a way to rejuvenate lower Manhattan after the September 11, 2001 attacks which destroyed the World Trade Center, the Tribeca Film Festival in New York has become a showcase for international films with a political edge.

Organizers said the Doha event aims to do the same, using the festival to shine a spotlight on Arab cinema.

“We don’t want to focus only on the big names, we want to give a space also for new voices, especially from the region,” Mroue said.

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Jesus: The Perfect Sufi Master

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sadia Dhlvi

shahada Feb.15 : I grew up in an Irish convent boarding; regularly attending the school church and studying the Bible. Since then I have felt connected with Prophet Jesus and Virgin Mary. It is amazing how understanding another religion can bring one closer to one’s own faith, traditions. I love Jesus for He is Ruh Allah, the Spirit of God, and like Adam carries the Breath of Divinity.

I love Mary, the beloved friend of God who in Islam stands at the summit of the hierarchy of women.

Every faith depends upon the Divine word, which may manifest itself in a book or man. In Christianity the word is Christ, and the New Testament is an inspired history of the Word made Flesh, whereas Judaism and Islam are based on the word made Book.

Today, if the followers of Jesus, Moses and Mohammad are at odds, it is not because of the their teachings, but despite their unifying message of the Oneness of God. Islam, the last of the three Semitic monotheistic religions, incorporates all the prophets from the lineage of Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses) and Isa (Jesus). According to the Quran there has never been a time when God did not send messengers who did not speak the language of the people. “Nothing is said to thee that was not said to the apostles before thee”. (41:43) Interestingly, there exists more references to Mariam (Mary) in the Quran than in the New Testament.

Prophet Muhammad (s) said, “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The Prophets are brothers of the same father with different mothers, and their religion is one. I am the closest in relationship to Jesus, the son of Mary, because there was no prophet between him and me. Jesus will descend. If you see him, then know him. He is a man of a moderately ruddy complexion. He will be wearing two faintly yellow garments. His hair will seem to have drops of water upon it, even though it will not be wet”.

Sufis have forever expressed profound reverence for Jesus, regarding him a perfect Sufi Master and knower of Divine mysteries. Jesus said, “It is to those who are worthy of my mysteries that I tell my mysteries. I took my place in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in flesh. I found all of them intoxicated; I found none of them thirsty. And my soul became afflicted for the son of men, because they are blind in their hearts and do not have sight; for empty they came into the world, and empty too they seek to leave the world. Whoever has come to understand the world has found only a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior to the world. Whoever finds the world and becomes rich, let him renounce the world. Become passers-by.”

Jesus declared, “I am the Master, I am the way”. As the Spirit of God, Jesus is pure compassion, a Godly attribute that Sufis seek to manifest in their own spirits. Through the centuries, Jesus and Mary have played significant roles in Sufi thought and poetry.

Rumi writes:

The hermitage of Jesus
Is the Sufi’s table spread
Take heed, O sick one,
Never forsake this doorway.
Fariduddin Attar praises the Spirit of God:
When God shadowed grace on the breath of Jesus
The world was filled with passion.

Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of  Sufism: The Heart of Islam.

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