Aflamuna '21 in Retrospect
by Renée Awit, Project Manager of Aflamuna
Honoring Arab cinema, increasing access to the best productions of independent Arab cinema to a broad and diverse audience around the world, promoting and supporting regional filmmakers, harnessing the power of cinema to tackle urgent issues, providing web users with essential entertainment while creating a space for socio-political and critical reflection around independent Arab cinema; All this has been Aflamuna’s mission since its creation in 2020.
Since its return in a new format in March 2021, Aflamuna has offered a new monthly program with cult, classic, contemporary, and sometimes unreleased films, available free of charge every week. It is a platform for Arab voices and an opportunity to broadcast thought-provoking distinctive essays online.
Away from the hyperchoice context, the platform relies on a small regularly-renewing selection, similar to the programming of a movie theater but which is nonetheless rich and versatile. We find it essential to adopt a selective approach and a stringent editorial line built around different themes. That encourages reflection and interaction to discover or rediscover memorable feature films, documentaries, and short films by established directors, highlighting the outcomes of a new generation of Arab filmmakers.
The year 2021 was rich in various programming on Aflamuna, often accompanied by numerous bonuses (panels, round tables, interviews with the filmmakers, etc.). The films have focused on different themes. They have tackled political, social, environmental, and other subjects chronicled by Arab and international programmers. Those have revealed, through unique essays, the context, the power, and the impact of each program, exploring its rapport with today’s world.
Lebanese filmmaker and film historian Hady Zaccak highlights the Palestinian cause through the program “Are We all Fedayeen?”. Zaccak notes that “Cinema may be a fedayee operation in light of all the challenges we live in, but it is a necessary act of resistance.”
“Spotlight on Beirut DC” holds genre films carrying a social perspective, war films, historical studies, refugee stories, and shameless portraits of marginalized people from Lebanon, Tunisia, Sudan, Palestine, and Syria. The program reflects the aesthetic diversity of contemporary Arab cinema and the political changes of the past twenty years.
Presented by Cinematheque Beirut, the “RE / BELLES” program gives prominence to rebel women. Through this selection, the Metropolis Cinema association pays tribute to the rebellious role women played in shaping the histories of cinema in Lebanon.
Following the “Female Gaze” path, or the gaze as a pattern of resistance against heteropatriarchy in queer and feminist cinema, we have sought to take a different look at “telling your story” through female experience. In that light, Louise Malherbe presents the program “Where would my body go, if not above?” as part of the Cinema Al Fouad Festival programming.
Through the program “Hot Summer”, filmmaker Eliane Raheb presents a diverse summer film selection showing stories of friendship, family, love, sex, and quest, with politics and war in the background.
On the occasion of the third edition of Reef, Rural Encounters on Environment & Film, the festival offers a list of films that question the roles of myths and beliefs in our present time and visualize the theme through different angles.
The “Filming Catastrophe” programming presented by Beirut DC reflects on how Arab creativity handles disaster and how we understand and deal with it, and its effects on our souls.
The Culture Resource Association presents its “What We (Dis)Like to See Lies Within Us” programming, which brings together a selection of films that the association has supported over the past ten years. The program has sought to present a variety of films that attempt to escape the dominant images of the subjects they cover and question the images one usually does not want to see.
The “Rise of The Arab Genre” programming presented by Antoine Waked, the artistic director of the Maskoon Fantastic Film Festival, brings to light a new wave of Arab filmmakers who dare to break the mold by opening up to the limitless narrative opportunities that genre cinema can offer.
Finally, more intimate and personal stories making private and family life a cinematic theme were featured in the “Home Movie” program, presented by filmmaker Zeina Sfeir.
Before inaugurating the year 2022 with a new programming cycle, honoring our subscribers’ demand, we would like to dedicate January 2022 to highlight the year 2021 on Aflamuna. To celebrate your requests, we would like to offer you the opportunity to watch a selection of must-see films that have marked our programming in 2021 and that you have expressed the desire to watch again. And as for February 2022, mark your calendars for new themes to come. We hope that many of you will enjoy watching these films.