October is a month of film festivals in the Middle East from Beirut to Tehran. Ranging from indie films to large productions supported by the country’s ministries of culture, the festivals provide a platform for cultural exchange, discovering new talents and showing that there is more to the film industry than international blockbusters. Most countries in the region have already picked their nominations for the 2018 90th Academy Awards for best foreign language film: Egypt with “Sheikh Jackson”; Iran with “Breath”; Iraq with “The Dark Wind”; Israel with “Foxtrot”; Lebanon with “The Insult”; and Turkey with “Ayla: The Daughter of War.”
Beirut International Film Festival: This festival, Oct. 4-12, starts off the festival season. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the festival will include a Middle East competition in short films, where a number of young directors showcase their short films on issues that range from immigration, employment, the generation gap and woes over the education system.
33rd Haifa International Film Festival: Also starting Oct. 4, this festival has a mix of international blockbusters and local productions. Lesser known than the film festivals in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Haifa’s festival has a special place with its Israel documentaries category. The festival will also screen Chinese artist Ai WeiWei’s “Human Flow” — a documentary on refugees.
Tehran International Short Film Festival: Taking place Oct. 17-22, this festival will select winners in four categories: fiction, documentary, animation and experimental. Around 6,000 short films have been submitted to the jury for the fest; only about 60 are shortlisted and will be screened to the public.
Filmekimi: This autumn festival in Turkey, which is organized by the Istanbul Foundation of Culture and Arts, the group that also organizes the Istanbul Biennial, a major art event, started on Sept. 29 and will tour seven cities, including Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Diyarbakir, throughout October. The films shown in the festival include “Foxtrot” and “The Insult,” both nominees for foreign language film Oscars.
Art in the region has not taken a backseat to cinema: The Jerusalem Bienniale for Contemporary Jewish Art’s third edition, with its theme “Watershed,” just started Oct. 1. The theme is a wink to the 2015 Istanbul Biennial theme “Salt Water.”
“It was truly beautiful to see and experience how the [theme of the Istanbul] Biennial was so tightly connected to the city. So we started thinking what would be the equivalent in Jerusalem and got to ‘Watershed,’” Ram Ozeri, the founder of Jerusalem Biennial, told Time Out Israel.
In Cairo, Gypsum Gallery opens on Oct. 28 a solo exhibition of Ahmed Morsi, one of Egypt’s most internationally known artists. Morsi, 87, is one of the pioneers of contemporary art in Egypt and has worked with paint, prints and, since he settled in New York four decades ago, in photography.
In Istanbul, the Biennial goes on, along with its parallel activities, such as Arter Gallery’s exhibition “Behind Mount Qaf” that will run until Dec. 24. Named after the legendary Mount Qaf of Arabic and Persian cosmology, it includes works of Turkish artist Canan with the themes of heaven, purgatory and hell; light/shadow; good/bad; and reality/imaginary.
In Tehran, a new exhibition at the Golestan Palace Museum provides a rare collection of carpets from the palace’s own collection. The carpets all have floral patterns, but come from different cities such as Arak, Mashhad and Esfahan. It will continue until Oct. 22.