Rebellion, questions of identity and more heart-wrenching tales

The war epic Dunkirk, directed and written by Christopher Nolan (the genius behind The Dark Night trilogy, Inception and Interstellar) is probably on everyone’s agenda, seeing how it has already received raving reviews from critics, and a 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Be that as it may, it's always good to balance blockbusters with hard-hitting films that tackle difficult issues and tell heartfelt stories. Returning to The Projector in partnership with the Middle East Institute-NUS this month (Aug 4-20) is the second edition of the Middle East Film Festival.

The selection of films this year explores the themes of identity rife with complex social and political environments, ranging from the trials and tribulations endured by this troubled region, to social prejudices that stem from archaic traditions. One of the biggest highlights last year was The Paternal House, an Iranian film about “honor killing” that made its debut screening in Venice but was subsequently banned in their country. This year, all six films chosen for the festival, albeit well-received and critically acclaimed at international festivals, are not allowed to be shown in their own countries.

Take for example Tramontane; while it tells the story of a blind musician on a journey to find records of his own birth, the film also unveils something else about Lebanon. We’re also excited how four of the six films are centered on courageous women fighting back and banding together to stand strong against all odds.

In Beauty And The Dogs, a Tunisian young woman who was raped by men of the law has to do all she can to find justice in any means possible. And then there’s No Land’s Song, a film set in a country that forbids women to sing as soloists in front of men in public. A young composer, who seeks to organize an entire concert just for solo female singers, pulls together two Iranian singers and three Parisian singers to join her.

I Still Hide To Smoke is set in 1995 and takes place mostly in a women’s hammam where women from all walks of life gather not to just bathe, but to socialize without having to restrict themselves to societal expectations. Mostly a pleasant and relaxing place for all, things start to change when a 16-year-old pregnant girl seeks shelter at the hammam from her brother, who is after her to "cleanse his honor in blood".

Check out the trailers below, and make your bookings here.

Tramontane (Aug 4 &13)

Beauty & The Dogs (Aug 5 & 19)

Letters From Baghdad (Aug 6)

No Land's Song (Aug 11)

In The Last Days of the City (Aug 12 & 20)

I Still Hide To Smoke (TBA)