In 1980 Muhammad Malas began research for a documentary about Palestinians in the refugee camps of Lebanon. Malas, who had received training in filmmaking at the All Soviet Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow, had already worked for a decade directing documentaries for Syrian television. He researched and filmed in Lebanon during long visits in 1980 and 1981, but his work was interrupted by the Israeli attacks on Lebanon in 1981 and 1982 and the Camps War that raged in the refugee camps of the southern suburbs of Beirut in the mid-1980s. Al-Manam (The Dream) was finally completed in 1987. It was highly acclaimed in a few venues in Europe and the Arab world, but was not widely released. Over the years the film has screened at festivals here and there, but otherwise has been difficult to see and impossible to purchase. Now, The Dream has finally been released on DVD by mec film, and an English language translation of the diary Malas kept while filming in 1980–81 and which appeared in Arabic in 1991 has been published by the American University in Cairo Press. The near simultaneous release of these two works, a formally important work of Arab cinema and a detailed accounting of the thoughts of the filmmaker as he conceptualized that work, is an exciting development for Arab film studies—a boon to both scholarship and classroom teaching.
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