I watched Araq el-Balah ("Date Wine") at the Bahrain Cinema Club last night, and it was easily the finest Arabic movie I've seen. Earlier this year I watched Al-Saher ("The Magician"), also by Redwan el-Kashef, and I was not very impressed so I was not expecting much from Arak el-Balah. I came away very surprised. The synopsis from IMDb says:
This film is an exploration of what happens to places in general, and people in particular, once the menfolk abandon an Egyptian village to investigate the greener-grass on the proverbial 'other side'. The womenfolk, those too old and those too young are left behind... and as the years pass, only letters return, telling tales of loneliness and hard-times. A young man, Ahmed, grows-up under these surroundings and has to deal with being the de-facto man-in-charge; when several of the migrant workers return one day, everyone has to come to terms with things being forever changed.
Central to the plot is Ahmed's desire to climb "Al-Alia", the tallest palm tree in the village, so as to make wine from its dates which have magical properties. The length of the film is filled with this type of sharp and playful mythical symbolism. The characters are also developed with great sensitivity, each of them playing their seterotypical village role (or not). I even enjoyed the soundtrack of this movie, which is rare for me. So do watch this if you can get your hands on a copy of this fine piece of Arab cinema.