Majdi El-Omari’s MAR MAMA and Ward Kayyal’s HAMZA: CHASING THE GHOST CHASING ME take a spin across the US

24 April 2024
MAD Solutions — the MENA region’s leading film distribution agent — is sending two Palestinian films from its impressive short film slate to tour the US with a myriad of screenings at both the Chicago Palestine Film Festival — held between April 20th and May 4th — and the Houston Palestine Film Festival set to take place from May 17th to May 19th.
When it comes to the Chicago Palestine Film Festival, MAR MAMA is set to screen on Wednesday, April 24th, at 6 pm at the Gene Siskel Film Center, while HAMZA: CHASING THE GHOST CHASING ME will screen on Sunday, April 28th, at 1 pm at the same venue.
As for the Houston Palestine Film Festival, MAR MAMA will screen on Sunday, May 19th, at 3 pm, while HAMZA: CHASING THE GHOST CHASING ME will screen on Saturday, May 18th, at 3 pm.
To start off, Majdi El-Omari’s short drama MAR MAMA recently took home the Best Fiction Short Award of the Ismailia International Film Festival for Documentaries and Shorts, where it held its MENA premiere as part of the festival’s Short Film Competition.
The film, which world-premiered at Ireland’s Indie Cork Festival and screened at Italy’s Al Ard Film Festival, delves into the story of a young girl haunted by her mother's death and the recurring attacks on her city. Faced with these traumas, she becomes obsessed with death. 
As her father attempts to distract her by creating a stop-motion film, reality intrudes; she finds solace in her imagination and fantasies.
The film's production is a collaboration between Marsam 301 and Phoenix Films, with support from the Palestinian Ministry of Culture through the Palestinian Cultural Fund and the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture. 
Written, directed, edited, and produced by El-Omari and lensed by Ashraf Dowani, MAR MAMA features a talented cast, including the award-winning Palestinian actor Ziad Bakri — who is known for SCREWDRIVER and Netflix’s THE WEEKEND AWAY — and Lana Abu Srour.
As for Ward Kayyal’s debut Palestinian short HAMZA: CHASING THE GHOST CHASING ME, the film kicked off 2024 with a brilliant tour of the festival circuit, being selected to screen at three different festivals — the Baghdad Film Festival in Iraq, the First Independent Palestinian Film Festival in Limassol, Cyprus, and El Ard Film Festival in Cagliari on the Italian island of Sardinia.
The drama — which recently competed in the Sultanbeyli International Short Film Competition and featured at the Beirut Shorts International Film Festival — tells the story of Hamza, a middle-aged man who refuses to abandon a routine he has kept since his release from Israeli jail; every day, he goes into the woods to hunt a lion that the locals don't believe exists. 
The short film recently won the Best Director Award at the Notre Dame University-Louaize International Film Festival and the Jury Award for Best Short Film at the Amman International Film Festival.
Also, after its premiere at the Cairo International Film Festival, HAMZA: CHASING THE GHOST CHASING ME went on to screen and compete at the Cairo Shorts, Malmö, Casablanca, Amman, and Toronto Arab Film Festivals, and featured in the Clermont-Ferrand, Reel Palestine, San Diego Arab, Bahrain, Cine-Palestine, and Sharm El-Sheikh film festivals.
The short is headlined by award-winning actor Kamel El-Basha — one of the most prominent names in Arab cinema, known for THE INSULT, CURFEW, and ROOM 207 — alongside Ruba Blal, Motaz Malhes, and Khulood Basel.
The Palestinian drama was also produced by Hiba Salameh of Hiba Production, written by Majd Kayyal, lensed by Ashraf Dowani, and edited by Saed Andoni.