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Winners of the 2017 Twin Cities Arab Film Fest Awards
The 12th Twin Cities Arab Film Festival was a weekend of beautiful, challenging, and powerful film. Thank you to our audiences, filmmakers, volunteers, sponsors, and partners.

Mizna's Arab Film Festival festival celebrates films and filmmakers whose work sets them apart. For the third year, in 2017, we convened a brilliant jury of filmmakers, film scholars, and community members working in cultural fields to select the top films in the following three categories: Best Narrative Feature Film, Best Documentary Feature, and Best Short Film. We also present Audience Awards based on the votes from our audiences. These prizes are accompanied by a cash award, made possible by our generous film festival sponsors.

Thank you to our esteemed jurors.

  • NARRATIVE FEATURE: Mohannad Ghawanmeh (UCLA); Donia Jarrar, D.M.A; Sonali Pahwa (University of Minnesota); Mejdulene Shomali (University of Maryland)
  • DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Zeynep Gursel (Macalester College) ; Andrea Shaker (St. Benedict | St. John's University); Nadia Shihab (Amal's Garden)
  • SHORT FILM: Koel Banerjee (University of Minnesota); Jes Reyes (Altered Aesthetics); Brad Stiffler (University of Minnesota)
Please find the juror bios below.

Much Loved. Director, Nabil Ayouch

Those Who Remain. Director, Eliane Raheb

The Parrot. Directors, Amjad Al-Rasheed and Darin Sallam

"The Preacher (Mawlana)." Director, Magdy Ahmed Ali

Nowhere to Hide. Director: Zaradasht Ahmed

Ayny. Director: Ahmed Saleh


Narrative Feature

Mohannad Ghawanmeh is a film scholar and cineaste. He has produced, acted in, curated for, written about, and lectured on film. His expertise is centered on Arab cinema, but thoroughly extends into silent cinema, non-fiction cinema, transnational cinema, religious cinema, and more. Mohannad is a PhD candidate in Cinema and Media Studies in the University of California, Los Angeles. He is also a 2017/18 fellow in the American Research Center in Egypt. His dissertation investigates the political economy of silent cinema in Egypt, 1896–1932.

Donia Jarrar is an award-winning Palestinian-American composer, pianist and multimedia artist. Born to a Palestinian father and an Egyptian-Greek mother, who grew up between Kuwait, Egypt, the West Bank, and the United States, her personal experiences have strongly shaped her compositional voice, leading her to explore the universal themes of memory, identity politics, exile, displacement, and cultural narrative. Jarrar received her Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Musical Arts degrees from the University of Michigan. She was recently commissioned by Michigan Opera Theater to compose the first Arab-American children's opera.

Sonali Pahwa is Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts & Dance at the University of Minnesota. An anthropologist of performance in the Arab world, she is completing a book on Egyptian youth protest and street performance in the late Mubarak era. Her research on women's digital lives in Egypt and Saudi Arabia investigates blogs, vlogs, and video games as performance genres.

Mejdulene B. Shomali is an Assistant Professor in Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland by way of Flint, Michigan and Beit Sahour, Palestine. Her work, both academic and creative, centers on queerness, femininity, Palestine, and transnational Arab culture.

Documentary Features

Zeynep Devrim Gursel is a cultural anthropologist and Associate Professor in the department of International Studies at Macalester College. Her scholarship involves both the analysis and production of images. She has written an ethnography of the international photojournalism industry during its digitalization at the beginning of the 21st century. Image Brokers: Visualizing World News in the Age of Digital Circulation (University of California Press, 2016) She is also the director of Coffee Futures, the first in a series of short ethnographic films that explore contemporary Turkish politics through the prism of the everyday life of women. (www.coffeefuturesfilm.com) She teaches on global media, ethnographic film, photography and globalization. She teaches on global media, ethnographic film, photography and globalization.

Andrea Shaker is a professor of art at the College of St. Benedict | St. John's University. She earned her BA in government and international relations from Georgetown University and her Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana -- Champaign. As an Arab American, her films, photographic artwork and writings draw from an exploration of the tension between a lived understanding of home and an imagined ancestral homeland.

Nadia Shihab is a film director and artist working primarily in nonfiction film and music. Nadia's music compositions have been commissioned for films aired on US public television and her recent film AMAL'S GARDEN was shown in festivals and galleries internationally, including at Cinema du Reel at the Centre Pompidou, the Walker Art Center, and the Arab American National Museum, among others. She has been an artist-in-residency with the MacDowell Colony, the Djerassi Residency, and the San Francisco Film Society’s FilmHouse, and is currently a Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellow. Nadia lives and works in Oakland.


Koel Banerjee is a PhD scholar at the University of Minnesota. Her doctoral research is on Indian cinema and the neoliberal turn. Her other research interests include Third Cinema, star studies, literary and screen melodrama, critical theory, and film philosophy. She has also worked on the Indian New Wave, and on the cinemas of Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen. She is particularly interested in the politics of the film form.

Jes Reyes is a filmmaker living and working in the Twin Cities. Diarist, lyrical, and somatic in form, her films primarily explore the fragmentation of the past and how memories and experiences take shape within our present realities. Jes is the founder of Altered Esthetics’ moving image festival. She is currently working on her first longer format film called Moonland. You can learn more about her at www.jesreyes.com.

Brad Stiffler is an adjunct lecturer in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. He teaches courses on the history and theory of film and television, amongst other topics.

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Experimental Arab Film Featured in CAVE 2 FILM FEST Mizna: Prose, Poetry & Art Exploring Arab America Winter & Spring 2018 Arabic Language Classes

2017 Arab Film Fest Awards

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Mizna is a Twin Cities non-profit arts organization that promotes contemporary expressions of Arab American culture. We publish the literary journal Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America, produce the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, and offer varied other readings, performances, art projects, and community events involving an exceptionally talented and diverse range of local, national, and international Arab American artists.

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