The Middle East Now Festival brings cinema, food, art and music from the Middle East and North Africa to Florence. The seventh annual festival will be held from April 5-10 at Cinema Odeon, Cinema Stensen and other places throughout the city. This year’s theme is “Live and Love Middle East,” and 44 films will be presented. The entire program can be downloaded here.
Highlights of this year’s festival include an Italian premiere of “Barakha Meets Barakha,” a love story between a municipal agent and an Instagram video blogger in Saudi Arabia, and the first romantic comedy ever shot there. Other Italian premieres include “Lantouri,” a film from Iran that tells the story of a gang, and “Speed Sisters,” a film from Palestine about a group of young women racecar drivers.
The festival also pays tribute to Yeşim Ustaoğlu, one of the only female directors in Turkey, by screening three of her films. “Journey to the Sun” (1999) was the first Turkish film to approach the subject of relationships between Kurds and Turks despite the Kurdish-Turkish conflict that began in 1978. “Pandora’s Box” (2008) explores the role of memory, and “Araf” (2012) examines the struggle that Turkish youths face when conflicted between tradition and change.
Through a partnership with Middle East Now, NYU Florence will host Nour Flayhan as an artist in residence at Villa La Pietra. Flayhan is a young illustrator currently based in London. She was born to Lebanese parents in Boston and raised in Kuwait City. Her art explores the intersections of different perspectives and cultures. Her project for the festival, “My Lebanon,” is devoted to Lebanon, her family and her cultural roots. Her work can be viewed on her Tumblr page. The collection is compiled of colorful portraits and often mixes English and Arabic.
Last year NYU Florence hosted artist Nasser Alzayani, who presented his exhibit “Finding the Middle East in Florence,” a project that depicted Middle Eastern influences he found in the city and collected in a sketchbook.
The partnership also presents an NYU Florence student jury with the opportunity to give an award for best short film.
Middle East Now works to challenge the stereotype that the Middle East and North Africa are only full of violence and war by providing a platform that presents members of the public with a more complex view of the region through the eyes of the people who live there, showing that the Middle East has many different faces.
Check out highlights from last year’s festival with this documentary film by NYU Florence student Melanie Cuccioli.