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The Arab Film Festival is dedicated to engaging Australian audiences with Arab stories and perspectives. This year it’s screening some powerful stories with the Arab Spring as a prominent theme. There are also strong female voices in the films exploring the traditional roles assigned to women and how they survive or overcome them.

NO MORE FEAR is a raw and compelling documentary about the uprising in Tunisia in 2011, which ousted the country’s president and inspired the Arab Spring revolutions. The film blends amateur footage of street protests with interviews from those who lived through Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime and are unified in their desire to see a new political order.

A RIF LOVER tells the story of Aya, a naive and sensual girl growing up in the Rif mountains of northern Morocco, where most of the country’s cannabis supply is grown. When Aya’s brother sells her to the local kif (hashish) baron, he sets in motion a disastrous sequence of events. In a culture where purity equals honour, Aya’s uncompromising struggle for self-determination takes her on a hazardous ride toward self-discovery.

ASMAA is a 45 year old woman, living in Cairo with her father and daughter. She is also HIV-positive. Asmaa keeps her condition secret to avoid the stigma and shame it would bring on her family. But when she is refused urgent medical attention by doctors afraid of contracting the virus, she takes part in a TV talk show, determined to confront society’s prejudice.

TRAB LAUS is a beautifully assembled short animation produced by Tania Safi, which tells the story of her journey from Sydney’s inner west enclave to visit her grandmother in Tripoli (Trab Laus Arabic). Her expectations are fulfilled when she discovers the true meaning of home, until the sound of shelling and gunfire rupture the dream.

The festival opens with HABIBI, Susan Youssef’s eloquent and devastating love story set in Gaza, which is a modern take on a 12th-century Sufi parable.

The festival starts in Sydney on the 28th June. Visit the website for details: arabfilmfestival.com.au