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Muslim Film Festival

Now that the main Republican talking point has been refined from “Osama is an elitist" to “Osama is a terrorist,” it’s only a matter of time before they bring up the old canard about him being a Muslim. Which begs the question -- so what if he is? Nobody running for President lately has been excoriated for being Catholic, or Jewish, or Mormon, or whatever religion  believes that man walked with dinosaurs and preachers should run witches out of town. Clearly, when some voters confuse the religion with a common textile, some attempt at education is in order.

Thus the relevance of a couple of film festivals taking place these days in the area. The Palestinian Film Festival, already underway at various venues including the Harvard Film Archive and the Museum of Fine Arts, features on Friday a lecture at Northeaster University on Palestinian Cinema by veteran auteur Michel Khlefli, whose visually striking and profoundly affecting Wedding in Galilee, in which Palestinians and Israeli soldiers achieve a reconciliation of sorts at the title nuptials,

also screens on Saturday at the MFA.

The second event is The Muslim Film Festival: Art Under Fire! which opens Monday with Nina Davenport’s mordant, sad and hilarious “Operation Filmmaker,” a microcosmic look at the Iraq debacle through the experience of a young Iraqi looking for a break in Hollywood. That’ll screen at the Brattle Theatre.

 Another high point is  Jocelyne Saab’s“Dunia” (2005) in which the young Egyptian woman of the title is torn between pursuing the dance career of her late mother, studying poetry with a charismatic professor who crusades for artistic freedom, and marrying an asshole. Though suffering from occasional kitsch, platitudes and tweeness, the film more than compensates for these weaknesses with some stunning images and a real feel for the ambience and atmosphere of Cairo. It even-handedly shows some of the less attractive aspects of Egyptian culture, such as female circumcision, sexual repression and violent intolerance. But it also touches on a side of Islam that doesn’t get much play in the West these days, most notably the Sufi tradition that emphasizes the power of love, self-fulfillment and ecstasy.

It screens at the Egan Center at Northeastern University and like all the films in the festival, it’s free.

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