An homage to a legendary figure of Arab cinema, Youssef Chahine, will be the centerpiece of a tribute to the cinema of Middle East organised by the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in November.

The festival will screen the Egyptian master's classic film Alexandria Why' (Iskanderija ... lih') along with other recent films from directors from Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Yemen and Cyprus.

Chahine, who passed away last July, was born in Alexandria to an Egyptian father and a mother of Greek descent. Among the 28 films that he directed, those that constitute his Alexandria tetralogy stand as the most prominent of his oeuvre.

Alexandria Why', the first of the tetralogy, shot in 1978, was innovative for Arab cinema for its first-person narrative and for its examination of cultural identity via the main character, a young student who wants to study film in the United States, much like the director himself did.

The tribute to Middle East cinema the reflects the political, religious and social struggles in a region which lies close to Greece and possesses vital contemporary political significance. The tribute exhibits a cinematic diversity that creates portraits of many distinct histories, identities and conflicts, and it reveals the region's issues and sentiments through the cinemas of its different nations.

The tribute will be accompanied by a publication in which the filmmakers share their experiences making their films, as well as a roundtable focusing on the present and future of Middle Eastern cinema.

The films in the tribute will screen in Greece for the first time ever. In addition to Alexandria Why', the tribute includes 11 films produced between 2005 and 2008:

Aquarium (Genenet Al-Asmak), dir. Yousry Nasrallah, 2008 (Egypt-France-Germany)
The second Egyptian entry of the tribute recounts the story and disengaged lives of a man and woman living in modern-day Cairo, through the camera of Chahine's assistant director and veteran filmmaker Yousry Nasrallah (The Gate Of The Sun, El Medina).

Salt Of This Sea (Milh Hadha Al-Bahr), dir. Annemarie Jacir, 2008 (Palestine-France-Switzerland-Belgium-US-UK-Netherlands-Spain)
This feature debut, which premiered in this year's Cannes Un Certain Regard section, narrates the story of a young woman who, raised in America, decides to return to her native Palestine.

Waltz With Bashir, dir. Ari Folman, 2008 (Israel-France-Germany)
The film, which caused a stir and gathered glowing reviews at Cannes, employs striking, hand-drawn animation to document the directors' real-life struggle to come to terms with the events of the first Lebanese War.

Dreams (Ahlaam), dir. Mohamed Al-Daradji, 2005 (Iraq-UK)
War, Love, God And Madness (doc.), dir. Mohamed Al-Daradji, 2008 (Iraq- Netherlands-Palestine-Sweden-UK).
Al-Daradji shot Dreams in Baghdad in the midst of the bombings by the US, thus accomplishing an extraordinary feat. Its making-of documentary, War, Love, God And Madness, records the process and the dangers the cast and film crew went through during the shoot.

American East, dir. Hisham Issawi, 2007 (US)
A geographical exception in the tribute, as it was shot in Los Angeles, the film provides a unique view of the lives and status of Arab-Americans in today's United States. The director, Hisham Issawi, grew up in Egypt and moved to the States to study film-making; this is his debut feature.

Captain Abu Raed, dir. Amin Matalqa, 2007 (Jordan)
The film, winner of the 2008 Sundance World Cinema Audience Award, is a moving story of imagination and unlikely friendship and the first independent film to come out of Jordan.

Out Of Coverage, dir. Abdullatif Abdulhamid, 2007 (Syria)
This is an account of life in contemporary Damascus through the complicated relationship of a man and the wife of his best friend, incarcerated as a political prisoner.

Under The Bombs (Sous les Bombes), dir. Philippe Aractingi, 2007 (Lebanon)
Winner of the EIUC Human Rights Film Award in the 2007 Venice Film Festival, Under The Bombs tells the story of a woman looking for her son during the 33 days of the Israeli bombings - the film was shot in the middle of the actual conflict.

Akamas, dir. Panicos Chrysanthou, 2006 (Cyprus)
A Turkish Cypriot boy who grew up with Greek Cypriots falls in love with a Greek Cypriot girl and realizes how the rules of the world around him are much more complicated than he thought. Akamas, a peninsula of exceptional natural beauty, is for Cypriots a symbol both of home and of exile.

A New Day In Old Sana'a, dir. Bader Ben Hirsi, 2005 (Yemen-UK)
This modern fairytale is Yemen's first feature film ever, shot in an ancient, extraordinary location and under intense pressures from government censors.