Karama focuses on issues of the Arab and Islamic world with a particular focus on Palestine. In 2012 she launched a film festival.
“The film festival has always had two purposes,” said Larry Christian, President of Karama. “One should be a celebration of Arabic culture by the local community, which has not been recognized for a long time. The other part of this was to present an honest and genuine representation of Arab culture to the community in general; their fundamental humanity, their creativity, and recognizing that Arab culture has made a dynamic, important contribution to world culture as we know it, and that in doing so we are providing a basis for overcoming the very negative stereotypes that permeate public discourse dominating over Arabs and the terms applicable in the film since Rudolph Valentino and ‘The Sheik’ but especially since 9/11. Film is a really good medium to show humanity.”
And that’s why film is an excellent medium for questioning stereotypes. It can also offer different perspectives on stories that people think they know. Stories taught to many from a white western perspective.
‘Heliopolis’, shown on March 26, looks at the Algerian resistance to French colonialism in 1945, while ‘Trapped’, shown on March 19, focuses on women from different social backgrounds who are in rediscovering the turmoil of the early days of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Both films show a side of the story that people don’t often see.
The well-crafted “Heliopolis” reveals the horrors of the French massacre of tens of thousands of Muslims just after the end of World War II. And to delve deeper into this colonial history, Karama combines this film with Their Algeria, a documentary about a couple who came to France from Algeria 60 years ago and reflect on what prompted them to leave their homeland.
The festival features films that not only deal with global issues, but also explore smaller, more personal stories. Women play a central role in many of this year’s film selections. A flagship film, The Daughters of Abdulrahman, explores the various struggles of four sisters in modern-day Jordan. The film leans toward melodrama but is anchored by four outstanding female performances and a genuine compassion for the challenges they face.
The festival will open on Friday night with the Palestinian film The Stranger, set in the occupied Golan Heights.
“We didn’t plan it that way, but our opening film comes at the right time,” said Christian. “How is it that in Europe there are occupations and annexations that are universally condemned, [but] those happening in the Arab world are accepted and recognized even by the US.
Christian, who is not Arab, became involved in the Arab community in San Diego decades ago. His interest in social activism began when he was studying history at UC Berkeley in the 1960s.
“I was interested in how the colonized world was responding to the growing national liberation movement and the independence of so many countries during this period,” he recalled. “I concluded that the story of my life would really revolve around how this happened and the goals and success of the colonized people in realizing their aspirations.”
In the 1980s, his wife, a lawyer, became involved in a case in Los Angeles – referred to as The LA Eight – where a group of Palestinians were ambushed and arrested by the FBI and the government wanted to deport them for being radicals.
“So I started getting into it,” Christian said. “And then the first Palestinian intifada happened and a group of Arabs started holding vigils. One of them, who I met through this other LA Eight case, came up to me and said they really needed some literature to be able to give out to the people… so they really wanted someone who spoke English as a first language to develop this and I would be that person.
Christian added that being retired means he has more time than many other board members to dedicate to running a film festival.
Karama’s Arab Film Festival will be running in-person for the next three weekends Museum of Photographic Art with a short program running online from March 11th to April 4th.
Arabic dinners are available for purchase on each night of the festival. A special North African menu is offered on the final evening. Presale price is $12. The purchase price on site is 14 USD. The price includes dinner, water and VAT. Baklava, coffee and tea are available for an additional $2.00.
Film Festival Lineup:
Friday, March 11, 7:30 p.m
“The Stranger” (2021, Palestine)
Directed by Ameer Fahker Eldin
Saturday, March 12, 6:00 p.m
“Eleven Reflections on September” (2021, USA)
Directed by Andrea Assaf
“Selahy (My Gun)” (Short Film)
Directed by Alaa Zabara
“Casablanca Beats” (2021, Morocco)
Directed by Nabil Ayouch
Friday, March 18, 7:30 p.m
“Farah” (2021, Lebanon)
Directed by Kenton Oxley and Hassiba Freiha
Saturday, March 19, Europe 6:15 p.m
“Trapped” (2021, Egypt)
Directed by Manal Khaled
“The Daughters of Abdulrahman” (2021, Jordan)
Directed by Zaid Abu Hamdan
Friday, March 25, 7:30 p.m
“The Anger” (2021, Lebanon, Germany)
Directed by Maria Ivanova
Saturday, March 26 at 6:15 p.m
“Your Algeria” (2020, Algeria, Qatar, Switzerland, France)
Directed by Lina Soulem
“Heliopolis” (2021, Algeria)
Directed by Djafar Gacem