North American Premiere
Waleed (Amer Hlehel), a cynical 40-year-old Palestinian Arab living in Haifa, struggles with chronic depression and writer’s block. Two years in therapy have felt like a waste of his wife’s money, and tensions in his marriage are on the rise. His half-hearted attempts at finding a quiet reprieve in novel writing are frustrated by the arrival of his cocky new neighbour Jalal (Ashraf Farah), a handyman and low-level criminal who likes blasting pop music at top volume.
Waleed’s initial annoyance with him soon morphs into fascination when he learns that Jalal is deeply indebted to some dangerous men. He starts tagging along for Jalal’s shake-downs, ostensibly as research for his crime novel. Their complicated new friendship takes a darker and more dangerous turn when Waleed’s ulterior motives come to light. Compelling and psychologically nuanced, Maha Haj’s dramatic black comedy casts a wry and affecting look at class struggle, masculine pride, and mental illness.
Best Screenplay, Cannes (Un Certain Regard) 2022
Amer Hlehel, Ashraf Farah, Anat Hadid, Samir Elias, Cynthia Saleem, Shaden Kanboura
In Arabic with English subtitles
Missing VIFF? Check out what’s playing at the VIFF Centre
Palawan appears to be an idyllic tropical island. Its powder-white beaches and lush forests have made it one of Asia’s hottest new tourist destinations. But for a tiny network of environmental crusaders and vigilantes trying to protect its spectacular natural resources, it is more akin to a battlefield.
Black History Month: Short Film Showcase
The four short films in this program range from humorous dark comedy to sombre drama. These films explore existential crises, beauty standards and daring ambitions in the lives of the protagonists.
The Klabona Keepers + ReWilding the Classroom
The Klabona Keepers is fierce account of the Tahltan Nation’s struggle to protect the Klabona Sacred Headwaters, an important natural habitat in northwest British Columbia, from commercial mining. ReWilding the Classroom educates viewers about the Youth Leadership in Sustainability initiative (YLS), a one-semester program that integrates curricular activities with the environment.
Baher Aghbariya, Thanassis Karathanos, Martin Hampel, Juliette Lepoutre, Pierre Menahem, Marios Piperides, Janine Teerling
Maha Haj graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in English and Arabic literature. She wrote and directed the short film Oranges (2009) and the documentary Behind These Walls (2010). In 2015, she shot her first feature film Personal Affairs, which was selected for the 2016 Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard category. The film also won the Haifa Film Festival’s Best Feature Award in 2016 and the International Mediterranean Film Festival Montpellier of Mediterranean Cinema (Cinémed) Critics’ Award, among others.
Filmography: Behind These Walls (2010); Personal Affairs (2016)