Maha Haj worked as a set designer for renowned Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman, whose “The Time That Remains” opened the fifth annual Boston Palestine Film Festival (BPFF) in 2011. One can see Suleiman’s influence in Haj’s directing debut, “Personal Affairs,” which screens Oct. 26 at the Museum of Fine Arts as part of the 11th annual BPFF, running Oct. 20-29 at the MFA.
With gentle absurdity, “Personal Affairs” chronicles a Palestinian family separated by borders. A squabbling elderly couple, Nabeela and Saleh (non-professionals Sanaa and Mahmoud Shawahdeh) live in Nazareth while one son, Hisham (Ziad Bakri) has relocated to Sweden and another, Tarek (Doraid Liddawi), to Ramallah. Tarek’s on-again, off-again relationship with Maysa (Maisa Abd Elhadi) reaches a tipping point when, at an Israeli checkpoint, Tarek refuses to refer to Maysa as his girlfriend. When the couple is taken in for interrogation, Tarek and Maysa turn their endless wait into an opportunity to tango.
“Personal Affairs” screens with director Ismahane Lahmar’s four-minute “Breaking News,” one of many scripted short films in the festival. Director Nasser Samara will be in attendance with “Temporary” (Oct. 28), a 31-minute comic drama about a struggling Palestinian-Mexican-American actor who is forced to deal with his insecurities when his roommate asks him to leave their apartment. Ahmad Saleh’s award-winning “Ayny – My Second Eye” (Oct. 21 and 22) is a stop-motion animated 10-minute short about two brothers whose love of music keeps them alive as they face the horrors of war. Popular actor Ali Suliman stars as a young father who has to help his son out of a petty conflict with neighbors in Said Zagha’s “Five Boys and a Wheel” (Oct. 22). Set in Jordan, the 19-minute film is an Arabic-language adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story ”Bicycles, Muscles, Cigarettes.”
For more information go to www.bostonpalestinefilmfest.org.
Back and forth
Two notable films based on historical events are among the scripted features, documentaries, and shorts in the ninth annual Boston Asian American Film Festival, running Oct. 19-22 at ArtsEmerson’s Bright Family Screening Room in the Paramount Center and at the Brattle Theatre.
The festival opens with the New England premiere of Hong Kong veteran director Leong Po-Chih’s “The Jade Pendant” (Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m., Brattle Theatre). Shot in Utah, the film follows a young girl, Peony (Clara Lee), who flees an arranged marriage in China and ends up in America. Her story is set against the 1871 burning of Chinatown in Los Angeles and the lynching of 18 Chinese immigrants. (The film is scheduled for theatrical release on Oct. 24, the anniversary of the Chinese Massacre of 1871.) Godfrey Gao, Russell Wong, and screen veterans Tsai Chin and Tzi Ma also star.
Producer James Yi will attend the closing-night film “Gook” (Oct. 22, 5:30 p.m., Paramount Center) and participate in a post-screening discussion. In writer-director Justin Chon’s autobiographical film, Chon plays Eli, a Korean-American who, with his brother (David So), runs a shoe store on a blighted block in Los Angeles. Set on April 29, 1992 — the first night of the LA riots — the film follows the brothers’ unlikely friendship with a young 11-year-old African-American girl. “Gook” won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival and screened at this year’s Independent Film Festival Boston.
Local filmmaker Albert M. Chan will present his short “Welcome to the World” (Oct. 21, 3:15 p.m., Paramount Center), about a troubled man (Chan) who records a video message for his pregnant sister. Chan will be in attendance with fellow actor Mary Niederkorn.
For more information go to www.baaff.org.Loren King can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.