FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – You could call this year’s 36th Annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival the United Nations of Film Festivals. It has a roster of approximately 200 films from 40 countries.

Gregory von Hausch celebrates his 33rd year as the festival’s Director and is thrilled to have it back in full swing this year.

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“Last year we were able to pull off the festival and we were excited about that, but this year will be more like a regular festival. We are taking precautions so people will know they can be safe,” said von Hausch.

The festival is showing films in five cinemas throughout Broward County, with Gateway Cinema as the main venue this year.

Iman Zawahry, a University of Florida alumni who earned a graduate degree in film at Florida State University’s film school directs the romantic comedy “American-Ish,” which has won many film awards and is making its Florida premiere at this year’s festival. For Zawahry, this film has many firsts.

“I’m personally one of the first Hijabi American female filmmakers in the nation, “said Zawahry. “The film “American-Ish” is the first American romantic comedy made by a diverse American Muslim woman about American Muslim women, which is kind of crazy because this is 2021.”

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She said this film is a lifelong goal.

“My entire life I’ve tried to tell really funny comedic stories about Muslim women. Particularly to show that we are not the typical, how the media portrays us as Muslim women.  We’re fun-loving, independent American Muslim women and that’s my goal,” she explained.

For von Haush, he says now more than ever it’s time to get film lovers back in the theaters.

“I think there’s nothing better than to have a group of people enjoy a film together and then articulate a question to the filmmakers,” von Hausch said. “To get that give-and-take, back and forth that will make a film festival, not just ours, but all of them so unique, so vital to the conversation.”

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The Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival runs November 4th through the 21st. Click Here for more information.

Lisa Petrillo