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Ambassadors cheer Arab cinema focus in fest

by Hindol Sengupta, IANS

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Shaking hands, grinning widely and often giving friendly hugs to guests, Arab ambassadors in Delhi cheered their region's cinema being showcased at the Asian film festival.

This year, at the sixth Osian Cinefan Film Festival, the world's only Asian film festival, has a special section dedicated to Arab cinema. And on Sunday, diplomats from Delhi's Arab embassies joined hands to celebrate the 13 films beings showcased as part of the 10-day festival that began July 16.

"The cinema of the Arab world is a means of celebrating life," said Dr. Kheir El Din Abdel Latif, the ambassador of Egypt.

"The Girl's Secret" and "Staying Awake At Night" from Egypt, which dominates Arab cinema, is being screened at the festival.

As the gala dinner at which at least four kinds of meat, elaborate vegetable dishes, bread, rice, and three types of sweets were served to celebrity guests, the diplomats revelled in what they called "a new era" of celebrating the region's cinema.

"Cinema is a very powerful instrument," said Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem, the ambassador of Sudan. "Cinema is powerful enough to change the lives and histories of nations."

Added Moroccan envoy Mohamed Louafa: "We are delighted that finally the cinema of the Arab people is getting due recognition. It is a very touching moment."

Representing Morocco in the festival are the films "In Casablanca Angels Don't Fly" and "Beyond Gibraltar".

Apart from pride, the dominant theme was the popularity of Indian cinema across the Arab world. "It's number one," said Louafa. "Everyone in my country watches Indian cinema. The Bollywood stars are worshipped there. Ask anyone in Morocco and they'll tell you the names of top Hindi film actors and actresses."

That's why Louafa said his country is trying to build greater contacts with Bollywood. "Already lots of Hindi film directors shoot in Morocco. You want desert? We have it. You want sea? We have it. We want to tell the directors we have every facility."

The story is similar in other parts of the Arab world. "Indian cinema? Very popular in Egypt," said Abdel Latif. "All the stars have fans and music from the films is constantly hummed."

Added Abdalhaleem: "In Sudan, people watch a lot of Hindi cinema. So I want to bring Sudanese films to India too. It'll be a nice reciprocation.

"This time, it wasn't possible due to time constraints. But next time, definitely."


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