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Lake Shore Arabic and Farsi Film Festival 

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The Lake Shore Arabic and Farsi Film Festival runs Friday through Sunday, April 2 through 4, at Loyola Univ. Sullivan Center, 6339 N. Sheridan. All films will be shown by video projection, and admission is free; for more information call 773-508-3727. Films marked with an * are highly recommended.

FRIDAY, APRIL 2

Blackboards

This second feature by Samira Makhmalbaf (2000, 85 min.), made before she turned 20, shares many of the qualities found in other productions by Makhmalbaf Film House (The Day I Became a Woman, Kandahar), boldly mixing documentary elements with allegory and fantasy in a way that's both fascinating and disconcerting. Set in the rocky wilds of Kurdistan in northern Iran near the Iraqi border, the plot shuttles between a group of teachers who look for pupils while carrying blackboards on their backs, boy smugglers, and a group of old men searching for their homes. The scenery is beautiful, and the feeling of community recalls not only Makhmalbaf's debut feature, The Apple, but also, oddly enough, John Ford's Wagon Master. In Kurdish with subtitles. (JR) (7:30)

SATURDAY, APRIL 3

* The Day I Became a Woman

Ranking with The Apple, this three-part feature from Iran is one of the most impressive films to have emerged so far from the Makhmalbaf Film House--a utopian school run by Mohsen Makhmalbaf whose students are mainly family members. A first feature directed by his wife, Marziyeh Meshkini (and, like The Apple, which was directed by his daughter Samira, scripted by Makhmalbaf), it offers us three imaginative and poetic allegorical sketches--all filmed on southern Iran's gorgeous Kish Island--about what it means to be a woman: in childhood (a girl turns nine, which means forsaking her friendship with a boy), in young motherhood (a woman in a chador pedals down the coast chased by men on horses who insist she return to her household duties), and in old age (a dotty old lady on an extravagant and surrealist shopping spree). Lovely to watch and entrancing to think about, this is one of the most purely entertaining recent films in the Iranian new wave. In Farsi with subtitles. 80 min. (JR) Also on the program: Nikki Byrd and Jennifer Jajeh's In My Own Skin: The Complexity of Living as an Arab in America (2001, 16 min.). (1:00)

* Ali Zaoua: Prince of the Streets

This 2000 Moroccan feature by Nabil Ayouch spins an engrossing tale about a quartet of filthy, glue-addicted boys who fend for themselves on the waterfront of Casablanca. The title character, who fantasizes about sailing to a mythical island, is killed by their former gang, and though his three sidekicks vow to give him a decent burial, their resolve is tested by squabbles, mixed signals from adults, and threats from the gang. Ayouch sharply delineates the characters (most of the kids were recruited right off the streets), and the film's tone modulates between sobriety and whimsy. His carefully composed shots avoid cliches of cinema verite but are intimate enough to show how poverty chips away at the children's innocence. In Arabic with subtitles. 90 min. (TS) (3:00)

* Rana's Wedding

A soulful Palestinian beauty (Clara Khoury) in occupied East Jerusalem receives an ultimatum from her father: if she hasn't married by the following afternoon, she'll have to accompany him to Egypt. This lively 2002 feature by Hany Abu-Assad follows the determined young woman as she races around the city trying to locate her lover and a registrar so they can tie the knot, a project endlessly complicated by the rioting, roadblocks, and heavy security that are part of everyday life in the occupied territories. At one point the heroine, frustrated by a dying cell phone, makes a motion to dash it to the ground and finds herself staring down the rifle barrels of a half-dozen frightened Israeli soldiers. Given the tension dogging her every step, I wondered if this would end in bloodshed, but Abu-Assad opts for a more hopeful conclusion, making his film--strange as it may seem--a comedy. 90 min. (JJ) (7:30)

SUNDAY, APRIL 4

Living in Paradise

During the French-Algerian war, an Algerian immigrant working a construction job tries to bring his family to Paris. Bourlem Guerdjoe directed this 1998 feature, in French with subtitles. 105 min. Also on the program: Arthur Hurley's Driving the Arab Street (2002, 39 min.). (1:00)

Abouna

Two young boys in Chad search for their missing father in this 2002 feature by Mahamet-Saleh Haroun (Bye Bye, Africa). In French and Arabic with subtitles. 84 min. (4:00)

* 10

The minimalism of this Abbas Kiarostami film makes it one of the boldest experiments yet by the masterful Iranian filmmaker: its ten sequences transpire in a car driving through Tehran, with a stylish young divorcee at the wheel and a series of six characters in the passenger seat. Shot with two digital video cameras mounted on the dashboard, it's neither scripted nor directed in any ordinary sense, but Kiarostami spent a long time preparing the nonprofessional actors (all strong performers). The best scenes involve the driver's spiky ten-year-old son (the only male in the cast, but a fitting stand-in for Iranian patriarchy), a young woman she picks up twice near a shrine, and a prostitute. The film offers a fascinating glimpse of the Iranian urban middle class, and though it eschews most of the pleasures of composition and landscape found in other Kiarostami films, it's never less than riveting. In Farsi with subtitles. 94 min. (JR) (7:30)

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