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Spotlight on Arab Cinema: Third Annual Hollywood Arab Film Festival Kicks Off in Los Angeles

This week marked the beginning of the third annual Hollywood Arab Film Festival, which announced the arrival in Los Angeles of the best Arab films from 2024. The festival, which ran till April 21, drew a large crowd of notable people, including actor Dhaffer L'Abidine from Tunisia, producer Tarek El-Ganainy from Egypt, well-known Egyptian star Elham Shahin, and producer and screenwriter Mohamed Hefzy from Egypt. In addition to giving fans the chance to see these films in theatres, this event provides a venue for introducing new audiences to the talented actors of the Arab world.

During the festivities, Hefzy emphasized the significance of Arab cinema as a medium to express the multifaceted narratives and identities of the Arab world. He articulated, “Arab cinema really needs a platform to tell our stories and to show who we are, our identity, our hopes and dreams, our pains, and all the different social topics that are tackled in some of the films that are being presented are maybe more relevant today than ever. So I think it’s a great opportunity to have this dialogue.”

Among the showcased films was Hefzy’s own creation, "Hajjan," a Saudi Arabia-based production helmed by Egyptian filmmaker Abu Bakr Shawky. "Hajjan" tells the story of a young boy who forms a profound bond with his camel and is compelled to become a camel jockey after a tragic incident involving his brother.

Co-produced by Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) and Hefzy’s Film Clinic, "Hajjan" stands as a testament to the collaborative spirit between nations. Hefzy reflected on the experience, noting, “It was a film made in Saudi Arabia with Saudi talents and actors with an Egyptian director, but with the Saudi co-writer and Saudi actors and shot mostly in Saudi Arabia. So I think it’s, it was a great experience, and learned a lot about Saudi Arabia, learned a lot about the culture.”

Over the course of the festival's five days, attendees were treated to a dynamic itinerary that included red-carpet events, talks by experts about diversity and filmmaking in Hollywood, and screenings of acclaimed movies from 16 Arab countries.

Additionally, the festival offered filmmakers a forum to praise the growing film scene in Saudi Arabia. L’Abidine, behind "To My Son," eagerly endorsed the progress, expressing excitement for the evolution of Saudi cinema in recent years.

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