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Arab Cinema

Titles Available as of July 2022

This is a selective list of streaming video holdings in the American University Library. Streaming guides are created by doing multiple keyword searches in the library catalog to capture as many titles on a topic as possible. For complete up-to-date streaming holdings, please refer to our streaming catalog.

Battle of Potiers: 773

Mohammed was born around 570 in Mecca and died not far from there in 632. The faith he preached exploded out of Arabia, north into the Byzantine world and southwest across northern Africa; in 711, Berbers and Moors invaded Spain, while a two-pronged attack was undertaken against Europe east of the Pyrenees. The stand-off would take place at Poitiers. This program describes Gaul at this time, its Frankish and Gallo-Roman inhabitants far less civilized than the Arabic invaders; the warriors on both sides and the battle itself, with its strange ending; and the retreat of the Saracens. Islam was pushed behind the Pyrenees, where it would remain until 1492. 

Border Cafe

Directed by Kambozia Partovi. In a village near Iran's border with Turkey, Reyhan, a young woman with two children, faces a difficult choice when her husband dies. Instead of agreeing to marry her brother-in-law, as required by traditional law, she chooses to support her family by re-opening her late husband's restaurant. Kambozia Partovia represents Reyhan's struggle for self-sufficiency in a rigidly traditional environment as all too real, and is continuously pressured to move into her brother-in-law's home and become his second wife. 


They not only save the village, but the Barrier is pushed back behind the Green Line into No Man's Land. In the process, Ayed and Iltezam unleash an inspiring, yet little-known, movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that is still gaining ground today. In an action-filled documentary featuring archival footage of this movement from its infancy, Budrus will inspire and challenge audiences worldwide. 

Cairo: Central Station

Kinawi, a physically challenged peddler who makes his living selling newspapers in the central Cairo train station, is obsessed by Hannouma, an attractive young woman who sells drinks. While she treats Kinawi in a sympathetic way and jokes with him about a possible relationship, she is actually in love with Abu Sri', a strong and respected porter at the station who is struggling to unionize his fellow workers to combat their boss' exploitative and abusive treatment.

Cairo 678

Directed by Mohamed Diab. Three Cairene women from different backgrounds join together in uneasy solidarity to combat the sexual harassment that has impacted each of their lives. We begin on an overcrowded bus line, dreaded by Fayza as a daily site of humiliation and anguish. Responding to a self-defense talk by Seba, whose own assault has driven her marriage apart, Fayza fights back-and soon has a police detective searching for her amid public panic. Meanwhile, Nelly, an aspiring comic, faces pressure from family to drop a lawsuit against her attacker. Mohamed Diab's deftly braided narrative tells a gripping, timely social tale through its patchwork of interconnected lives and deeds.

Dancing in Jaffa

In the city of Jaffa, strife between Jewish and Palestinian Israelis has become commonplace. The children especially are affected, segregated along religious lines that only throw fuel on the fires of animosity. But one man thinks there is a solution in an unlikely place: dance. Dancing in Jaffa follows internationally renowned ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine as he leads an educational program to bring Jewish and Palestinian children together through the power of dance. 

The Fish Fall in Love

Directed by Ali Raffi. Atieh's singular passion is food, and her small but popular restaurant on the sleepy Caspian coast is her pride and joy. But when Aziz, her former fiancé, appears after a twenty-year absence, the women believe he has intentions of closing the restaurant, so Atieh prepares his favorite dishes, one after the other, in a desperate effort to convince him otherwise. Loosely based on the Persian fable of Shahrazad and the Thousand Myths (A Thousand and One Nights), director Ali Raffi uses the language of food to paint a richly textured portrait of life and love on the northern coast of Iran.

Four Women of Egypt

Four Egyptian women have the same goals--human diginity and social justice--but each adopts an approach radically different from the others. Muslim, Christian, Jewish or non-religious, their visions of society range from wanting a secular or socialist state to an Islamic one. These friends, deeply committed, argue openly, without ever breaking the bond that unites them. 

The Furious Force of Rhymes

"Traveling through four continents and six countries, The Furious force of rhymes is a fascinating look at Hip-Hop as trans-national protest music. Over the course of the eighty-four-minute voyage, the viewer encounters characters as diverse as Israeli Jews, marginalized French Arabs, East German skinhead punks and West African feminists, all of whom share a common musical language. Originating from the ghettos of New York, Rap has found adherents in every country in the world. Recognizing themselves in the oppression of U.S. Blacks, people everywhere have adapted the American street music to their own causes"

I Am the Revolution

Three determined women in the Middle East lead the fight for gender equality and freedom in this empowering portrait of three agents of change. Politician Selay Ghaffar is one of the most wanted people in the world by the Taliban and yet she still travels through Afghanistan to educate other women about their rights. Rojda Felat is a commander of the Syrian Democratic Army, leading 60,000 troops to defeat ISIS, including freeing their hold on Raqqa and rescuing its people. And Yanar Mohammed, named by the BBC as one of 100 most influential women in the world in 2018, pushes for parliamentary reform in Iraq while running shelters for abused women. 

In the Battlefields

Directed by Danielle Arbid. Daughter of self-destructive parents, Lina, 12, doesn't show much interest in the war taking place around her in 1980's Beirut. Instead, Siham, her aunt's beautiful adolescent maid, is the focal point of her rebellious and neglected childhood. As the basis for the girls' relationship shifts, issues of loyalty and power set off a series of events, which isolate Lina even more. Unlike films in which the violence of an urban war zone motivate a family to strengthen their ties, in this film, director Danielle Arbid depicts, instead, relationships that are shattered by passion, reprisal and guilt. 


With a raw, observational style, this film follows successive attempts by Palestinians to cross the 20 foot high wall that separates the Occupied Territories from Israel. 


In the heart of the Israeli city of Jaffa, Reuven's garage is a family-run business. The garage workers consist of Reuven's beautiful daughter Mali, his aggressive and distant son Meir, as well as the young Palestinian man, Toufik. No one suspects that Mali and Toufik have been in love for years, and that Mali is pregnant with Toufik's child. As the two lovers secretly make their wedding arrangements, tension steadily builds between Toufik and Meir, who openly voices his disdain and prejudices about Arabs. As these relationships continue to intensify, emotions begin to boil, resulting in an astonishing conclusion.


Directed by Jilani Saadi. Jilani Saadi's debut film is set in the arid Tunisian village of Bizerte. With his red-blond hair, green jacket and quirky personal habits, Khorma is the town's kindly joke - a big, well-meaning lug. His guardian is a crafty old Bou Khaleb, the official announcer of births, deaths, and marriages. When the old man mistakenly announces the death of a woman rather than her daughter's marriage, the film immerses us in the often-hilarious power struggles amongst the clerics of the "religion business"

Kilometre Zero

Directed by Hiner Saleem. A story of ethnic conflict between Kurds and Iraqis in the context of the war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s. The central story of the film is set at a time when Kurds were conscripted to serve in the Iraqi army, where they were brutally abused, as a despised minority in Saddam Hussein's military. Kilometre Zero pairs a Kurdish soldier, under orders to return the body of a dead soldier to his family, with an Iraqi taxi driver who will drive them cross-country to the dead soldier's home. Scenes between the men, in the close quarters of their truck, are interwoven with scenes of often comic incompetence of Iraqi soldiers and officers. 

The Kite

Directed by Randa Chahal Sabbag. In director Randa Chahal Sabbag's fairytale for troubled times, sixteen-year old Lamia must cross a border checkpoint between Lebanon and Israel to marry a man she has never met. Neither she nor her betrothed are eager to consummate a marriage to a stranger matter further complicated by Lamia's surprising admission that she is in love with the Israeli soldier guarding the border. Sabbag's enchanting drama about marriage and tradition is underscored by delicate symbolism and artful references to politics of Lebanon's territories that have been annexed.

La Vierge, Les Coptes, et Moi

A filmmaker's revealing, sometimes comedic personal exploration of Egypt's Copt community.

Laïcité, inch'Allah!

This film is a cinematic exploration of secularism in the Muslim country of Tunisia before and after the deposition of dictator Ben Ali. Made at the height of the 2010-2011 revolutions in North Africa, the film has proven so controversial that it has made the director a target of extremist death threats. Officially, Tunisia is not an Islamic nation. But over and over, [director] El Fani meets Tunisians who mistakenly believe that it is illegal to serve alcohol to Arabs, break the fast during Ramadan, or practice a religion other than Islam. In these encounters, she sees troubling signs that Tunisia may be becoming less tolerant of non-Islamic beliefs. This film documents Tunisians resisting religious ideology and fighting for a secular state in their everyday lives. 

Leila Khaled, Hijacker

In 1969 Palestinian Leila Khaled made history by becoming the first woman to hijack an airplane. As a Palestinian child growing up in Sweden, filmmaker Lina Makboul admired Khaled for her bold actions; as an adult, she began asking complex questions about the legacy created by her childhood hero. This fascinating documentary is at once a portrait of Khaled, an exploration of the filmmaker's own understanding of her Palestinian identity, and complex examination of the nebulous dichotomy between "terrorist" and "freedom fighter". 

A Letter to a Friend in Gaza

In his latest film, A Letter to a Friend in Gaza, Gitai pays homage to Albert Camus and explores the return to Palestinian villages while interjecting texts by Izhar Smilansky, Emile Habibi Mahmoud Darwish, and Amira Hass. 


Directed by Lyes Salem. After working for much of his life as a gardener in his dusty Algerian village, Mounir dreams of improving his family's fortune and gaining a measure of respect by marrying off his narcoleptic sister, Rym, to a "real gentleman." However, Rym has other plans-she dreams of marrying Mounir's best friend, Khliffa, who has secretly courted her for years. When Mounir lashes out at village gossip with a fib that he has promised Rym to a wealthy outsider, she comes out of her sleepy stupor to embrace the rumor and press her real betrothed into action. Beautifully brought to life by a memorable cast-including director Lyes Salem as the cocky but compassionate bumbler Mounir-this heartfelt comedy suggests that when dreams become reality, it's time to wake up. 

Open Bethlehem 

Documentary on the town of Bethlehem, focusing on the organization Open Bethlehem, a Middle Eastern peace organization designed to open up the town to commerce and ecumenical tourism, and launched by filmmaker Leila Sansour and her husband Nicholas Blincoe. Covers recent history of the town, including issues surrounding political and religious conflict/stability; and, the wall built by the Israeli government as an anti-terrorist barrier.

Out of Status

In post 9/11 America, civil liberties have been curtailed in the name of national security, and immigrants were separated from their families when laws changed quickly, and were enforced selectively. Before, there was an implicit understanding between the INS and immigrant communities that people who had applications pending to legalize their status could reside in the country until an application was approved. After 9/11, and for South Asians and Arabs, the rule changed. The Muslim community, today, is alone among the vast immigrant population to face such targeted enforcement. Out of Status follows four families whose lives were permanently altered.

A People Without a Land

Settlement expansion across Palestine is out of control-now we need to speak about the One State Solution! Is the patchwork of remaining Palestinian land now so fragmented it could never form a viable future state? This incisive film explores the question of whether Israeli settlers have destroyed all hope of return for the original occupants and asks if the One State Solution is doomed beyond hope of being salvaged.

The Perfumed Garden

Through interviews with men and women of all ages and classes this film explores the myths and realities of sensuality and sexuality in Arab society, a world of taboos, of erotic literature and films. It begins looking at a more permissive history, and ends with the experiences of contemporary lovers from mixed backgrounds. The film discusses pre-marital sex, courtship and marriage, familial pressures, social taboos and issues of language. It also demonstrates how the rich legacy of fantasy in the A Thousand and One Arabian Nights still permeates contemporary Arab culture. 


Follows the journey of a filmmaker who travels in and around Jerusalem, from a Palestinian refugee camp to an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, where he meets seven Palestinian and Israeli children who exist in completely separate worlds, divided by physical, historical and emotional boundaries. Explores the natural boundaries and tells the story of a few children who dared to cross the lines to meet their neighbors. Seen through the eyes of the children - who although only living 20-minutes apart - live day-to-day obstacles differently that separate them deeply. 

Promises and Betrayals

This lucid film recounts the complicated history that led to the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. In the words of the former British Ambassador to Egypt, it is a story of intrigue among rival empires and of misguided strategies. 


A broken family under an incestuous patriarch lives uneasily within the gated courtyard of a dilapidated Baghdad house. The pregnant daughter has fallen silent, finding some protection from the patriarch's young second wife and his preteen son. Meanwhile, hard up for money, the household must live with a sullen and imperious boarder, a contract killer. In such a house, though, it may be that freedom and safety actually lie beyond the gates. Iraqi filmmaker Oday Rasheed's second feature gorgeously captures contemporary Baghdad's moody interior and stunned atmosphere, echoed in performances by a formidable cast who suggest unexpected resilience in the wake of catastrophe.

Rock the Casbah

Summer in Tangiers. A family comes together for three days following the death of their father to share memories and grieve his loss, as Muslim tradition dictates. They have left the beach behind and swapped swimsuits for djellabas as everyone gathers in a show of mourning. Sparks start to fly when Sofia jets in from New York after several years away. The youngest daughter, she made a new life for herself as an actress in America. Her return provides the opportunity to settle some scores with her sisters, as the order once maintained by the patriarch breaks down. Between laughter and tears, a collective hysteria leads each of the women to face painful truths.

The Ruins of Lifta

Lifta is the only Arab village abandoned in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that has not been completely destroyed or repopulated by Jews. Its ruins are now threatened by an Israeli development plan that would convert it into an upscale Jewish neighborhood. Discovering that his parents' Holocaust experiences may have distorted his views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Menachem--the filmmaker and an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn--sets out to establish a personal relationship with a Palestinian.

Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story

Hebba, a television show host in contemporary Cairo, presents a successful political talk show on a privately owned network. Karim, her husband, is deputy editor in chief of a government-owned newspaper. His ambition is to become editor in chief. He is led to believe by the party leaders, that his wife's constant meddling with opposition politics could put his promotion in danger. Using his boyish charm and sexual prowess, he convinces Hebba to stay away from politics, and devote her program to social issues for which the government cannot be held responsible. She starts a series of talk shows around issues involving women. She listens to the stories of resilient, strong women, who, like Scheherazade in A Thousand and One Nights, tell their stories to stay alive. 

Schiism: Awaiting the Hidden Imam 

Discusses Shi'ism, its origins, mythology of martyrdom, the centuries of persecution and discrimination of Shi'ism as a minority faith, and its basic tenets including the belief in the twelfth, or 'hidden' Imam, who will appear on the Last Day as the Mahdi. Interweaves contemporary and historical footage, and introduces Muslim scholars, philosophers, writers, politicians and religious leaders discussing a wide range of issues. 

Six Days in June

The shooting lasted only six tense days in June 1967, but the Six Day War has never really ended. Every crisis that has ripped through this region in the ensuing decades had its roots in these fateful days. On the 40th anniversary of the war, the region remains trapped in conflict. This war has long been seen by Israel as the miraculous victory of their "little state". . . this enclave surrounded by an "ocean" of tens of millions of Arabs from all over the Middle East. For the Arab states, this was a humiliating defeat suffered at the hand of imperialistic plotters. Our two-part film tells the true story of the Six Day War - beyond the images and propaganda clichés. 

Tahrir: Liberation Square

Soon after the first reports came about the occupation of Tahrir Square, filmmaker Stefano Savona headed for Cairo, where he stayed, amidst the ever-growing masses in the Square, for weeks. His film introduces us to young Egyptians such as Elsayed, Noha and Ahmed, spending all day and night talking, shouting, singing, finally expressing everything they were forbidden to say out loud until now. As the protests grow in intensity, the regime's repression becomes more violent, with the terrifying potential for massacre never far away. 'Tahrir' is a film written in the faces, hands, and voices of those who experienced this period in the Square. It is a day-to-day account of the Egyptian revolution, capturing the anger, fear, resolve and finally elation of those who made it happen. 

The Tenth Planet

A sparkling young Baghdadi woman, Kawkab, leads us around her city with a mischievous glint. Defying the stereotype of the Muslim woman, she is not afraid to speak her mind about anything, from sex, love and virginity to her pro-Saddam patriotism. The film paints an unique picture of the current situation in Iraq from her perspective -- totally different from the U.S. media s coverage as it measures the cost of war by body-counts and dollars spent. Kawkab reveals an intimate and human side of Baghdad, speaking with compelling optimism of her hopes and joys. She visits a neighborhood beauty parlor where many brides come to have their make- up and hair done. The women, remembering Saddam s era as "the good old days," express their feelings about the U.S. occupation with great candor. Whatever goodwill they felt towards the U.S. has evaporated due to the extreme insecurity, lack of jobs and public services and the rising cost of living they are experiencing. Tired of these gloomy discussions, Kawkab is more curious about how the brides feel about losing their virginity after their weddings. Her overt curiosity turns even a shopping trip into an insightful look into a complex society in massive upheaval. She voices issues faced by women in Iraq and in the Arab world at large. 


Directed by Tawfik Abu Wael. After one of his daughters "shamed" him, Abu Shukri brought his family to the edge of nowhere, to scratch out a living by burning wood to make charcoal. When he decided that the family would build a pipeline to bring in running water, he set off a chain of events that alters life irrevocably. A masterfully shot tale of repression and control in a harsh landscape that examines the dynamic of power within a family stretched to the breaking point. Working with a cast of first-time actors, director Tawfik Abu Wael crafts a story that is both archetypal and yet deeply rooted in the social conflicts of the Middle East. 

Ticket to Jerusalem

Directed by Rashid Masharawi. Writer/director Rashid Masharawi's inspired hybrid of documentary and fiction begins in a refugee camp near Ramallah. Jabir runs a mobile cinema from his old truck throughout the West Bank while his wife works to bring emergency medical care to Palestinians. Both navigate endless checkpoints and other obstacles by looking for creative solutions. When Jabir is invited by a spirited schoolteacher to make an open-air screening in the old city of Jerusalem, he becomes obsessed with the idea of this pilgrimage and begins to investigate the possibilities. Country of production: Palestine. 

Tinghir Jerusalem : Echos From the Mellah 

Tinghir, Morocco, used to have a thriving Jewish community. By the mid-1960s though, they, along with the other 250,000 Jews of Morocco, had left for Israel. They were the targets of a successful Zionist campaign that extolled the virtues of life in Israel and encouraged emigration. Fifty years later, filmmaker Kamal Hachkar sets out to learn the history of these people that has been largely forgotten in their homeland. 

The Trials of Spring

The trials of spring (feature): When 24-year-old Hend Nafea is arrested and tortured for demonstrating peacefully in Cairo's Tahrir Square, her pursuit of justice reflects post-revolution Egypt at an uncertain crossroads. Shorts tell the stories of nine women who played central roles in the Arab Spring uprisings and their aftermaths in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen.


A broken family under an incestuous patriarch lives uneasily within the gated courtyard of a dilapidated Baghdad house. The pregnant daughter has fallen silent, finding some protection from the patriarch's young second wife and his preteen son. Meanwhile, hard up for money, the household must live with a sullen and imperious boarder, a contract killer. In such a house, though, it may be that freedom and safety actually lie beyond the gates. Iraqi filmmaker Oday Rasheed's second feature gorgeously captures contemporary Baghdad's moody interior and stunned atmosphere, echoed in performances by a formidable cast who suggest unexpected resilience in the wake of catastrophe.

Wadi Grand Canyon

Twenty years after his first Wadi, Amos Gitai returns for the third time to Wadi Rushmia. The site has been almost entirely destroyed by real-estate developers. Yussef and his wife, guardians of the place and of its history, still live there. Wadi Grand Canyon is composed of three films shot in 1981, 1991 and 2001 on the Wadi Rushmia site. 

Wadi, Ten Years Later

Ten years after his first Wadi, Amos Gitai takes up again the tale of the inhabitants of Wadi Rushmia. The former protagonists are still there. Their living conditions have deteriorated and new Russian immigrants have arrived and settled. The circumstances and individual stories reflect the political and social situation of the region, which has deteriorated. 

Women of Hamas

While the most prominent members of the controversial organisation Hamas are men, most of its field work is carried out by cadres of women supporters. These women of Hamas are the most powerful women in the Palestinian territories. Focusing on three such women, this film probes at their ideological commitment to the movement and gives us an insight into the work of those who remain in the shadows.