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Arab Film Festival: Private Sun sheds light on being a Palestinian woman

This weekend marks the Arab Film Festival in the San Francisco Bay Area, with 40 films showing this year from all over the Arab world.

The Palestinian short film Private Sun deals with the ironic reality of being Vitamin D deficient in a sun-drenched country like Palestine. It’s increasingly a problem among the country’s women, many of whom cover their bodies in public.

The film follows the story of the quiet Mariam, who lives in a poor Bethlehem neighborhood with her husband, their son, and her sister in law. When she’s diagnosed with a bone disease, her doctor prescribes sunbathing – not the easiest thing to do in a conservative society like hers. She sneaks out to the balcony or the roof, surreptitiously raising her dress sleeves and her skirt. But she’s frequently interrupted by a nosy neighbor, her mean sister in law, or Israeli warplanes. San Francisco-based filmmaker Rami Alayan directed the film, and joined KALW’s Hana Baba in the studio.

ALAYAN: The issue of vitamin D and sunbathing I really wanted to be a women's issue. I didn't want it to be about what men say is okay or not okay – that's not the point. There's some sensitivity about it that comes from tradition, but ultimately it's a woman's choice of what they want to do about it. And they need to be practical about it. And that's why the character who needs to sunbathe and the character who is opposing sunbathing are both women. So I wanted to present it as a women's issue. And men's opinions, with all due respect, are secondary.

Private Sun is showing as part of the Arab Film Festival on October 13 at the Embarcadero Theatre in San Francisco, and on October 19th at Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley.

Click the player above to hear the complete interview.

Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.