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This weekend marks the opening of Filmfest DC’s “Arabian Sights” series, which features a raft of new films from the Middle East. The opening-night film, 33 Days, is a documentary about the violent flare-up of tensions between Israel and Lebanon in the summer of 2006, stoked by Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers. Director Mai Masri isn’t especially interested in detailing the nuts and bolts of the politics involved, deciding instead to tell a more ground-level story about life in Beirut during the 33-day war. Three locals get special attention: Sharif Abdunnur, a theater director who’s trying to corral and engage with the many kids who’ve wound up on his doorstep after escaping the bombing; Fadia Bazzi, a journalist; and Mariam Al-Bassam, a TV news director trying to keep the station running amid constant threats that it’s a target. Much of the bombing during the 33 days occurred in Beirut’s southern suburbs, and Masri includes plenty of footage of rubble, pancaked apartment buildings, and bloodied bodies hurriedly carried away on stretchers. The emphasis, though, is on the Beirut citizens living away from the bloodshed but still angry and frustrated at how it’s reshaped their lives. After listening to the sounds of distant bombing, a woman in a Beirut square looks in the camera and asks, “What’s more terrorist than this?” Masri doesn’t engage with anybody who might answer, “Hezbollah,” but her film is a valuable portrait of life during wartime. The film shows Friday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Goethe-Institut Washington, 812 7th St. NW. $10. (202) 724-5613. Masri will attend the screenings.
“Arabian Sights” runs through Nov. 2.