THE first feature film to come out of conflict-ridden Gaza in 15 years will make its Australian premiere at Riverside Theatres Parramatta as part of the 11th Arab Film Festival.
The curtain-raiser Habibi retells a seventh century Arabian love poem, said festival co-director Fadia Abboud, a Lebanese-Australian filmmaker for whom the Palestinian film is especially dear because it is directed by a woman, Susan Youssef.
Watch the Sun's video about the film festival, shot by Carlos Furtado, below:
"It does, of course, have all the heavy issues of what's going on, but mainly it's a love story," Ms Abboud said of the film, which will screen on Thursday, June 28 at 8pm.
"It's a classic Romeo and Juliet about two star-crossed lovers who can't be together because of class really and they try their best to stay together against all the odds.
"That one is really, really close to my heart and a lot of people are really excited that we are opening with a Palestinian film."
Another of the festival co-directors, Mouna Zaylah, said it was always the intention of the festival to take the audience into the hearts and minds of Arab people, as well as to fill a gap in the market.
Arabic, she said, is the most commonly spoken language after English in the home, yet Arabic stories continue to remain absent from our big screens, in particular Arabic films made by Arabic people.
"The most exciting thing is it's an annual gathering of Arabic communities, as well as the broad Australian community, that comes together and connects with Arab culture," said Ms Zaylah, the cultural program manager of the Parramatta-based Information and Cultural Exchange, which is organising the festival.
The festival will include a free forum highlighting Arab women in film throughout history. It will be held at Riverside Theatres on Sunday, July 1 at 2pm.