The 48th Chicago International Film Festival to Showcase One of the Most Diverse Filmmaking Regions of the World

New visions from the Middle East


CHICAGO, IL  – As part of a three-year grant from the Academy Foundation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the 48th Chicago International Film Festival announces its Spotlight Middle East Program, the second year of the World Cinema Spotlight Program. Spotlight Middle East features the innovative works and exciting new voices from this region including Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and United Arab Emirates.

“As we begin our second year of World Cinema Spotlight, we are honored and excited to be a part of the Academy Foundation’s dedication to providing greater access to outstanding international cinema,” says Mimi Plauché, Programming Director of the 48th Chicago International Film Festival. “Through this Program, audiences will be exposed to an exciting mix of genres and styles, of independent and mainstream productions and, most importantly, to stories that are both uniquely Middle Eastern and also universal.”

“The Academy is thrilled to once again be a part of the Chicago International Film Festival and its international Spotlight program. This year’s focus on Middle Eastern films is exemplary of the Academy’s desire to celebrate excellence in filmmaking from around the world,” said Shawn Guthrie, Grants Coordinator at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Spotlight Middle East highlights include various filmmaking debuts (The Last Friday-Jordan, Meeting Leila-Iran, Off White Lies-Israel, Out in the Dark-Israel/USA, Sharqiya-Israel and The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni-Lebanon) as well as a program of shorts from the region. Films will be shown at AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois St) and will also be presented at “community outreach screenings” at the Logan (2646 N. Milwaukee Ave.) and The New 400 Movie Theater (6746 N. Sheridan Rd.), and to Chicago Public High Schools through the Festival’s Education Outreach program. Parallel programs, including a series of conversations, discussions, panels, and master classes, will complement the films presented by illuminating the cultural contexts, filmmaking cultures, and artistic visions and experiences of the individual filmmakers. *Additional films TBA.

The World Cinema Spotlight program furthers the Chicago International Film Festival’s mission of exhibiting world-class international and independent film to Festival audiences by presenting films in contexts that foster discussion and understanding. Each region showcased by the program (South Asia, 2011; the Middle East, 2012; and Africa, 2013) produces a remarkable body of films that demonstrates both artistic excellence and a diversity of perspectives. The Chicago International Film Festival was one of the first non-profit cultural and educational film institutions to receive a major grant from the Academy Foundation in 1999, along with The New York and Telluride Film Festivals.

The 48th Chicago International Film Festival will take place October 11-25, 2012. The full schedule will be announced on September 20th.

Spotlight Middle East Films To Date

The Last Friday Jordan (Director: Yahya Al-Abdallah) — A slow-burning comedy filled with dark, absurdist humor, The Last Friday follows Youssef, a down-on-his-luck taxi driver whose lonely, isolated life changes suddenly when he learns that he must scrape together the money for an urgent testicular operation. Youssef finds himself reaching out to now-estranged friends and family, both for the money needed to save him and to salvage what’s left of his life.

Meeting Leila Iran (Director: Adel Yaraghi) — With another brilliant performance from A Separation star Leila Hatami and a script co-written by renowned filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, Meeting Leila follows a young woman who demands that her chain-smoking fiancé quits smoking before their marriage. This poses a problem for this advertising agency idea man for whom smoking is an integral part of his creative process in this gently comic, insightful look at the compromises and negotiations required in any relationship.

A Modest Reception Iran (Director: Mani Haghighi) — Tasked with giving away huge sums of money by whatever means possible, Kaveh and Layla drive through the remote, war-torn mountains of Iran with a trunkful of cash. What begins as a seemingly harmless game soon reveals itself to be a twisted bout of charity as the power, humiliation, and shame inherent in their act plays out between the privileged couple and the impoverished villagers.

Off White Lies Israel (Director: Maya Kenig) ¬— Shy teenager Libby and her infantile father Shaul find themselves without a home as political tensions between Israel and Lebanon erupt into war. Shaul comes up with a creative plan to put a roof over their heads: posing as refugees, they are taken in by a wealthy family in Jerusalem. Finally in a “normal” household, Shaul and Libby begin to build their father-daughter relationship, but their false identities can’t last forever.

Out in the Dark Israel/USA (Director: Michael Mayer) — Nimer, a Palestinian student, dreams of a better life abroad. One fateful night he meets Roy, an Israeli lawyer. As their relationship deepens, Nimer is confronted with the harsh realities of a Palestinian society that refuses to accept his sexual identity, and an Israeli society that rejects his nationality.

The Patience Stone Afghanistan/France (Director: Atiq Rahimi) — Adapted by Rahimi from his own best-selling, prize-winning novel, The Patience Stone tells the story of a beautiful young Afghani woman who watches over her husband as he lies in a hospital bed after being hit in the neck with a bullet. As he lies there, unconscious, she begins talk to him about her life and her aspirations in an open, honest way that she never could before.

Sea Shadow United Arab Emirates (Dir. Nawaf Al-Janahi) — Set in a small seaside neighborhood in the United Arab Emirates, Sea Shadow follows teenagers Mansoor and Kaltham as they struggle with tradition and convention in their journey towards adulthood. Bound by family and deeply-rooted values, the pair must find the courage to forge their own path.

Sharqiya Israel (Dir. Ami Livne) — Kamel, a, simple, shy, and good-natured security guard, is torn between two worlds: the Israeli society that treats him and his fellow Bedouins with suspicion, and his own family, who look down on him because he works for the Israelis. When the poor tin shacks where he lives with his family in the desert are threatened with demolition, the normally unassuming Kamel finds himself going to extreme lengths to save his village.

The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni Lebanon (Director: Rania Stephan) — One of the most revered actresses in Middle Eastern cinema, Soad Hosni was a staple of the Egyptian screen in the 1960s and 1970s. This lovingly crafted tribute to her life is the most unconventional of bio-pics, recreating Hosni’s life story exclusively through her fictional performances, mined from VHS tapes that preserve this rich period of Egyptian film history.

 Winter of Discontent Egypt (Director: Ibrahim El-Batout) — Set in the midst of the Tahrir Square demonstrations that, in early 2011, changed Egypt forever, Winter of Discontent explores the uncertainty, anxiety, and euphoria that filled the days and nights leading up to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. As seen through the eyes of activist Amr, journalist Farah, and State Security officer Adel, momentous, world-changing events unfold on the ground in urgent, intimate detail in this powerful drama.

 Short Films Program — The Spotlight Middle East program will also feature shorts from Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and U.A.E.

 Festival Passes and Theater Info
A variety of Festival Passes are on sale now. Pass options include:

Moviegoer (10 regular admissions): $95 for Cinema/Chicago members, $125 for non-members.

Passport (20 regular admissions): $180 for Cinema/Chicago members, $240 for non-members

Passes can be obtained by visiting or by calling 312.683.0121.

Festival screenings will be at the AMC River East 21 Theater (322 E. Illinois St.). 

Festival Sponsors

Led by Presenting Partner, Columbia College Chicago, the 48th Chicago International Film Festival’s sponsors include: Official Airline – American Airlines; Producing Partners – AMC Theaters, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Major Partner – Intersites; Supporting Partners – DePaul University School of Cinema and Interactive Media, Stella Artois, Chris Pagano – Realtor, WBBM, ShutterBox Photobooth; Participating Partners: iN Demand, Second City Computers, Optimus; and the Festival’s Headquarters Hotel, JW Marriott Chicago.

About Cinema/Chicago

Cinema/Chicago is a not-for-profit cultural and educational organization dedicated to encouraging better understanding between cultures and to making a positive contribution to the art form of the moving image. The Chicago International Film Festival is part of the year-round programs presented by Cinema/Chicago, which also include the International Screenings Program (May-September), the Chicago International Television Competition (April), CineYouth Festival (May), Intercom Competition (October) and year-round Education Outreach and Member Screenings Program.