The art and culture of the Arab world has filled local theaters with the start of the thirteenth annual Arabian Sights Film Festival, which began Friday and will run until Nov. 2. The festival features 13 films from eight different Arab countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Syria. All of the films are premiering for the first time in the District, and are being shown in Arabic with English subtitles.

One of the festival’s sponsors is Georgetown’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. CCAS has been a sponsor of the film festival since 1999, said Rania Kiblawi, associate director of the center.

“We support the festival with a very small offset to expenses, as well as, and probably more importantly, promote the festival on campus to Georgetown University students and to our e-mail list-serve, which is composed of members of the Washington, D.C. community and beyond who are interested in learning more about the Arab world,” Kiblawi said.

The festival is just one way that CCAS fulfills its mission of educating people about the Arab world and bridges the gap of understanding between cultures, Kiblawi said.

“It reaches to the Georgetown University and wider American audience to explain what Arab cinema and culture are,” Kiblawi said. “To the Arab-American community, it shows cinema as an art form, and importantly, how it is similar and different from several countries within the region. It also serves to bring the community together.”

Several of the featured directors discussed their films this past weekend, including Palestinian filmmaker Mai Masri, director of “33 Days,” a film chronicling the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon.

Unique to this year’s festival, the Palestinian hip-hop group DAM, featured in Jackie Salloum’s film “Slingshot Hip Hop,” performed at the Hard Rock Café this past Sunday, following a screening of the film.

The films are shown at the Landmark’s E Street Cinema and the Goethe Institute.

Arabian Sights is administered by Filmfest D.C., the Washington, D.C. International Film Festival, in partnership with the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

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