The 29th Annual Arabian Sights Film Festival
April 18–28, 2024

The Arabian Sights Film Festival will be presented in conjunction with the 38th annual Washington, DC International Film Festival, the umbrella organization of Arabian Sights.

Bye Bye Tiberias

LINA SOUALEM - France, Palestine, Belgium, Qatar - 2023 - 82 mins - View trailer

Years after leaving her Palestinian village to follow her dreams of acting in France, Emmy-nominated Hiam Abbass returns home in this intimate documentary about four generations of women and their shared legacy of separation. At the age of 23, Abbass (known for her roles in Red Satin [FFDC 2003], Rock the Casbah [FFDC 2014], and Gaza Mon Amour [FFDC 2021] as well as the hit television series "Succession" and "Ramy") made the difficult decision to leave her grandmother, mother, and seven sisters in the Palestinian village of Deir Hanna, Galilee. Years later, in collaboration with her daughter, the film's director Lina Soualem, Abbass returned to her rapidly changing childhood home. Bye Bye Tiberias, Palestine's Academy Awards® entry, is an important film that beautifully portrays the complexity of Arab women's lives.—Various sources

In French with English subtitles

Chanting of the Dunes

MOKHLESS AL-HARIRI - USA - 2024 - 80 mins

In Person: Director Mokhless Al-Hariri and Producer Maria Midani

Chanting of the Dunes is a narrative film about Wahbi al-Hariri-Rifai, who was an accomplished international artist, architect, archeologist, and author. Beautifully illustrated with meticulously restored archival photographs and original footage, the storyline takes viewers on a journey through multiple countries and momentous world changes that extend from the Levant in the 1920s to the United States and China in the 1990s. The film recounts al-Hariri's life through the intimate and lyrical perspective of his wife, Widad Marachi. The narrative is accompanied by a superb soundtrack. Chanting of the Dunes showcases al-Hariri's extensive work, including portraits, still lifes, and masterful on-site renderings of architectural monuments, from the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem to significant sites in China, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Washington, D.C. In 1984, al-Hariri became the first living artist to be honored with a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution.—Various sources

Goodbye Julia

MOHAMED KORDOFANI - Sudan, Egypt, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, Sweden - 2023 - 121 mins - View trailer

Set against the backdrop of Sudan's tumultuous final days as a unified country, Goodbye Julia follows the journey of a former singer haunted by guilt who seeks redemption by hiring the widow of a southern man as her maid while concealing her true identity. Directed by Mohamed Kordofani in his award-winning directorial debut, this poignant and intimate drama delves into themes of loss and forgiveness, subtly exploring the divisions between the people of North and South Sudan that led to the country's division in 2011. Premiering at the 2023 Cannes International Film Festival, Goodbye Julia made history as Sudan's first film to be selected, earning the Freedom Prize and a thunderous 10-minute standing ovation, cementing Kordofani's status as a compelling voice in African cinema.—Various sources

In Arabic with English subtitles


ABU BAKR SHAWKY - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan - 2023 - 117 mins - View trailer

In the high-energy world of small-circuit camel racing, Ghanim is preparing for the Great Safwa Race—where heroes are made. Younger brother and Bedouin tailor Matar grew up hearing Ghanim recite poetry about their legendary grandfather known as "Hajjan," the Arabic word for jockey. While following in his grandfather's footsteps and building a name for himself in a regional qualifying race, foul play cuts Ghanim's dreams short. Although Matar doesn't share Ghanim's passion for the track, he does share a rider's love for his camel, Hofira. The devoted pair, unaware of the sprawling battle ahead of them, set out together to avenge Ghanim's fate and instead commit to an outsized fight against a regional champion. An epic journey in proportion and scope, Abu Bakr Shawky's rousing feature boasts a fabled sense of urgency backed by an evocative score and the awe-inspiring atmosphere of the Arabian desert.—Toronto International Film Festival

In Arabic with English subtitles

Inshallah a Boy

AMJAD AL RASHEED - Jordan, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar - 2023 - 113 mins - View trailer

Inshallah a Boy is the first Jordanian film to compete at the Cannes Film Festival and is Jordan's submission to the Academy Awards®. This story of a widow who pretends she is pregnant with a boy to keep a roof over her head is a suspenseful and engrossing portrait of resistance and strength. The film follows Nawal, a mother and housewife whose husband suddenly dies unexpectedly. In the absence of legal documents, her brother-in-law swoops in under the auspices of inheritance laws to exercise his claim on not just the couple's apartment but also on guardianship of Nawal's young daughter, Nora. Nawal is forced into a series of rash situations to hold onto her family and claim what should rightfully be hers.—Various sources

In Arabic with English subtitles

The Teacher

FARAH NABULSI - UK, Palestine, Qatar - 2023 - 115 mins

In Person: Director Farah Nabulsi

The Teacher is set and was evocatively filmed in the Occupied West Bank. High school English teacher (and clandestine resistance activist) Basem (Saleh Bakri) is still wounded from a past family tragedy brought on by the occupation. He mentors one of his students, Adam, who endured his own loss due to settler violence, counseling him in order to avoid prison or death by the Israelis. Scenes of the characters experiencing their homes being raided and demolished, in courtrooms or at the checkpoints, are dramatically effective. A concurrent story follows an American couple's quest for the release of their Israeli soldier son, who is being held by the resistance in exchange for the freeing of imprisoned Palestinians. Although this superbly acted and well-written mixture of compassionate personal drama and gripping political thriller is set in 2014, the stark similarities make it impossible to not draw parallels to the current situation.—Cornelius Moore

In Arabic with English subtitles

Of Related Interest


JAWAD RHALIB - Belgium - 2023 - 111 mins - View trailer

The corner of Brussels where Amal (Lubna Azabal) teaches high school might as well be a small village—everyone is in everyone's business. Are you a secular or Muslim Belgian? Are you Muslim enough? In the classroom, the natural teenage pursuits of gossip and bullying can take on a dangerous quality as the youths expel the pressures of home life. After learning that one of her students, Monia, is being tormented by her peers for being a lesbian, Amal introduces the class to the eighth-century poet Abū Nuwās, who lived and wrote as a bisexual. Threats ensue, and parents, students, and teachers take sides. The young actors seem riveted around an impassioned performance by Azabal as they confront extremism's malign effects on their generation.—Judy Bloch

In French with English subtitles

Les Indésirables

LADJ LY - France - 2023 - 105 mins - View trailer

The follow-up to his previous Oscar®-nominated film, Les Misérables, finds director Ladj Ly returning to similar themes from a fresh angle. Set in a deteriorating immigrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris, Les Indésirables pits naive yet reactionary young mayor Pierre (Alexis Manenti) against the earnest but frustrated activist Haby (Anta Diaw) in a battle for both the lives of the town's inhabitants and its future. The mayor was put in place by the political machine with the instruction "Don't make waves." But as conditions for the residents of a rapidly deteriorating apartment building worsen and Haby begins petitioning for help and understanding, the storm of problems escalates. The ultimate confrontation is both shocking and relevant for policymakers and citizens everywhere.—Dave Nuttycombe

In French with English subtitles

The Old Oak

KEN LOACH - UK - 2023 - 113 mins - View trailer

The great humanist Ken Loach, in his last film (so he says), is going out on a strong note. In a former mining town in northeast England, the first generation to come of age since the pits closed can barely support their own kids. When a busload of Syrian refugees arrives, the generous among them welcome a new cause while the miserable find a new scapegoat for the town's ills. T.J. Ballantyne's rundown Old Oak Pub holds memories of long-lost solidarity and communality that the newcomers unlock. The director's trademark nonprofessional actors give the characters a knowing dignity, while Loach regular Dave Turner wears the role of T.J. like an old sweater; he's that comfortable in it and in Loach's worldview. Strong newcomer Ebla Mari co-stars as the young Syrian photographer Yara, tasked with translating not only a language but the experience of exile.—Judy Bloch


Crescent Enterprises
University of the District of Columbia
The Jerusalem Fund
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington
Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University

Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University with the support of the US Department of Education's Title VI Program


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