Today marks the opening of the 71st Cannes Film Festival! As in past years, we have dug into every recess of the Cannes lineups, from the Official Selection to the Marche du Cannes, to bring you the most in-depth look at all the Arab films, filmmakers and experiences available at this year’s festival. Arab films and filmmakers are having a particularly strong year with four feature films in the official selection and many Arab shorts featured in the Festival Corner. Check out all of the selections below and let us know which ones you’re excited to see!
In Competition for Feature Films there are two Arab films. The one everyone is talking about is director Nadine Labaki’s newest work from Lebanon: Capharnaum. The film is a drama about a rebellious young boy from a poor neighborhood who files a lawsuit against his parents.
Also in competition as a First Film is Yomeddine an Egyptian film directed by A.B. Shawky. The film is about a man named Beshay who, despite having been cured of leprosy, continues to live in the leper colony in the desert where he’s lived all his life. Once his wife passes away, though, he decides to finally search out his roots. He sets out across Egypt with his meagre possessions piled on a donkey cart and a young Nubian orphan named Obama as his only companion.
This year’s Un Certain Regard section features two First Films by Arab directors. Sofia, a Moroccan film directed by Meryem Benm’Barek, tells the story of a young woman named Sofia who lives with her parents in Casablanca. Sofia is pregnant but in denial until she finds herself suddenly giving birth to a baby out of wedlock, which is illegal. Due to her situation, she is given 24 hours by the hospital to provide the father’s papers before they will inform the authorities of her crime.
Mon Tissu Préféré (My Favorite Fabric) is a Syrian film by Gaya Jiji, also featured in Un Certain Regard. It takes place in Damascus in the spring of 2011, just as the revolution is beginning. The protagonist, Nahla, is a 25 year-old woman who is stuck in a situation where she must either chose her freedom or the opportunity to leave the country by way of an arranged married with a man named Samir in the USA. But Samir makes the decision for her and choses her younger sister Myriam instead and Nahla gets closer to her new neighbor, Mrs. Jiji, who has just moved in and is opening a brothel.
In the Director’s Fortnight, you’ll find one Arab film from Tunsia: Dear Son directed by Mohamed Ben Attia. The film is about a Tunisian father named Riadh who is about to retire from his position as a forklift operator. His world revolves around his family, especially his only son, Sami. As Sami is coming up on his high school exams his health and behavior begin to change until one day, he disappears. This will be the film’s world premiere.
In the Cinema de la Plage , a selection of screenings that takes place outdoors and is open to the public, there will be one Arab film featured. El Massir (Destiny), an Egyptian film from 1997 directed by Youssef Chahine, will be shown on Sunday, May 13th at 9:30pm.
Alarmed by the rise of religious fundamentalism in Egypt in the 1990’s Chahine created this historic epic centered on the philosopher Ibn Rushd, (known in the west as Averroes,) and set in medieval Córdoba, Spain where – under Arab rule – a secular and multicultural society flourished. Chahine concocts the story of a young Arab man lured away from his decadent life style and indoctrinated into a fundamentalist sect. Though the film operates as a sincere and moving plea for tolerance and a timely warning against violent religious extremism, Chahine also provides plenty of spectacles including a steamy romance and lots of song and dance.
In the Court Métrage, there is a varied selection of films featured in the the Short Films Corner by Arab filmmakers and telling Arab stories.
The Ensave – University Toulouse Jean Jaures section includes one Arab short produced in France:
En Orbite – In hopes of landing a role of a female astronaut in a French movie, one Lebanese woman arrives at a film set. However, the director does not see an Arab woman as a good fit. Nevertheless, she somehow manages to stay. Directed by Rony Khoubieh.
The London Film Academy Showcase features one film from an Arab director, produced in the UK:
Save the Samurai – A samurai travels through time to hand the sword of legendary warrior, William Adams, to its rightful owner. Directed by Karim Naguib.
The Manifest section has one Arab short, also produced in France:
Chahine – Chahine is going to be a father for the first time. He then realizes that his history and that of his parents escape him. He becomes determined to get some answers. Directed by Youcef Khemane.
From the Films of Campus Movie Fest selection there is one film telling an Arab story:
The Woman Under the Veil – The social and religious freedoms of American Muslim women and defining the headscarf in modern day America. Directed by Morgan Sanguedolce.
The Made in Algeria section will feature five shorts from Algeria:
Salmeen – Yslem is a refugee from western Sahara, adopted by a Spanish family at the age of thirteen. When he gets thirty years old, he returns for the first time to refugees camps and to the land of his ancestors. Directed by Rabah Slimani.
Dhihniz – When trapped between reality and dream Miloud’s life turns up down when he realises that everything around is just a memory, a memory of a sad event, will he find peace? Directed by Mohamed Benabdallah.
La Plage Blanche – Hakim is a young writer, he lacks inspiration and is stuck under social and professional pressure. He finds himself alone in his room facing his memories and fighting personal conflicts.
Nice Very Nice – Didou is 88 and has spent his life maintaining the memory of his late wife. His house is decorated with shells and the walls covered with photos of her. He has become a guide in the Casbah and passionately tells the tourists about his wife. Directed by El Kheyer Zidani.
Ma Ahla An Naaich – In an unspecified future, a North African family ( Mehdi, 27 yo, Nabil 55 yo and Fadela 52 yo ) lives in a permanent curfew. Like all other citizens, they have to stay and work at home until their government gets rid of ” The Foreign Hand”. Directed by Aloui Rami.
The Shortcuts to Qatar selection will feature seven shorts from Qatar:
Voices from the Urbanscape – A sort of travelogue around Qatar’s capital in development. An apt reflection of a burgeoning 21st-century city with a mission and a tribute to its multicultural success. Directed by Shaima Al-Tamimi and Mariam Salim.
Treasures of the Past – Three grandmothers from Qatar are willing to give it all that it takes to break gender stereotypes in their societies by providing for their family through their successful businesses. Directed by Rawan Al-Nassiri and Nada Bedair.
Tajseed – A poetic reflection of Qatar’s becoming a sophisticated nation of wealth and influence while retaining its centuries-old traditions, Embodiment is an inspiring journey from ancient wilderness to contemporary metropolis. Directed by Khalifa Al-Marri.
Waq’tna Yamdi – In a blissful alternate universe, a society of children lives according to strict rules, and deviation from the norm means eternal banishment. Directed by Meriem Mesraoua.
Alef Yom Wa Yom – The life of Sheherezade, the creative and heroic storyteller. Night after night, Sheherezade fought for her life by crafting stories for the King. The film imagines a story behind the famous fable, and a strong woman who fights for her independence and freedom. Directed by Aisha Al-Jaidah
Walls – In a decaying world that has become nothing more than a trash heap, a race of skeleton-like, robotic creatures are engaged in a pointless, seemingly endless war. But who is the enemy? Directed by Vasudevan Nibu.
I Have Been Watching You All Along – A young woman wanders about an abandoned cinema in a trancelike journey through its lingering past. Directed by Rawda Al-Thani.
The Saudi Film Collection will feature nine shorts from Saudi Arabia:
Alqat – There are few things that do not get lost, no matter how old we are. In the memory of adults there is a childhood and in the beginning of the forest there is a tree and in the history of the walls an old inscription. The women of Asir region, southern Saudi Arabia, created the art of Qatt through abstract engraving and drawing on walls and different objects with bright colors. Directed by Faisal Alotaibi.
Coexistence – Nasser, an undergraduate student who experienced living with another Saudi roommate of a different Islamic sect. Directed by Musab Alamri.
Alkaif – Whether it’s a stranger or friend. Whether it is a graduation or a funeral; In Saudi Arabia, it is rare to enter a house and notfind Arabian coffee. This documentary will take you yo a short visual journey to capture the culture and the importance of this coffee in an original way, it is Alkaif. Directed by Seba Alluqmani.
Don’t Go Too Far – A mentally challenged young Arab man gets separated from his sister on the Subway in New York and must now find his way back home alone in an apathetic city. Directed by Maram Taibah (and starring Hakeem Jomah, an AFF alumni!)
Wasati – Based on true events that happened during a play in Riyadh 10 years ago, where a group of extremists attacked the theater and the play was shut down. That story shook the society and it was all over the news. The film addresses that event and retells the story from a different point of view. Directed by Ali Kalthami and Ahmad Alerwi.
Darkness is a Color – A hunter who is trying to fight his aging but looses control about his own nature and his world, the forest. Two days after the disappearing of the hunters gundog birko, the Hunter is going back into the forest to bring back order and normality into his life. Directed by Mujtaba Saeed.
Is Sumiyati Going to Hell – As told through the perspective of Layan, the youngest child of a family, the story centers on a maid named Sumyati. She has to navigate and survive a horrible job due to her racist employers. Directed by Meshal Aljaser.
The Scapegoat – A once successful novelist grapples with his inner subconscious demons in an effort to reclaim the creativity that he seems to have lost. Directed by Talha B.
Film School Musical – Directing his own film is a dream come true for the soon to be film school graduate Tommy, until equipment failure, difficult actors and set drama threaten to make it a nightmare. Directed by Maan B.
If you’re attending Cannes as a member of the film industry, here’s everything Arab-film we could find happening at this year’s Marché du Film!
In this year’s Doc Corner there will be a number Arab films that are currently works-in-progress featured.
There will be an Algerian Showcase on Saturday May 12th presented by The Algerian Center for Cinema Development and featuring the following films:
Janitou – Algeria in the late 1980s, during a period of intense political and social unrest. A Bollywood movie has become an unexpected sensation all over the country. Following the nostalgia of this love story coming from far away,“Janitou” explores what love means in today’s Algerian society and detangles with tenderness and seriousness the emotional identity of a traumatized generation. Directed by Amine Hattou. (To be completed in November 2018.)
The Village (El Qarya) – The “Quarya” is a slum on the outskirts of the city Chalghoum laid, in the east of Algeria. In this open air yet enlosed space, where adults carry the burden of time which seems motionless, children, on the other hand, don’t see any desolation. Despite the garbage and the obvious misery, they keep on playing and looking at the world through their innocent eyes. Directed by Abdelmadjid Kallou. (To be completed in February 2019.)
Algeria, Out of Place (L’Arrachement) – I set out with my father, an Algerian filmmaker exiled in France, on a journey to the village where he grew up as a child. There, we gather the silent memory of those who bore witness to France’s colonial policy of forcibly resettling Algeria’s rural population. Directed by Dorothée-Myriam Kellou. (To be completed June/July 2018).
That’s All… (Hada Makan…) – This is the story of a cycle: from stone to stone becoming. A cycle in which young Algerian stonecutters only have one ambition: to breathe. Breath the right to become, the right to dream, the right to work and the right to oxygen. Directed by Sabrina Draoui. (To be completed April 2019.)
There will also be an Palestinian Showcase on Saturday May 14th presented by The Palestinian Film Institute and featuring the following films:
As I Want – After the brutal gang rape of Samaher’s best friend, and waves of attacks against women, a rebellion of women ignites on the streets of Cairo and the Woman’s Rights Movement of Egypt is born anew. Samaher enters the fray, her camera her weapon, but her journey is not only a view to the outside, it is an intimate documentation of her own inner awakening that confronts the painful childhood traumas that shaped her. Directed by Samaher Al Qadi. (To be completed September 2018.)
The Devil’s Drivers – Chased by the army, two Beduin smuggle Palestinian workers through the Negev desert. A portrait filmed over five years about men living on the edge in one the most fragile regions of the world. Directed by Mohammed Abugeth and Daniel Carsenty. (To be completed November 2018.)
Displaced in Heaven – By following a family through the Balkan route, a Palestinian director plunges into the horror of exile in a desperate need to recover his lost memories. A journey between two times and two displacements. Directed by Khaled Jarrar. (To be completed February 2019.)
Lyd in Exile – A vivid portrait of a city splintered by war, weaving together multiple voices from the past, present and future. Palestinian elders remember their expulsion, Zionist soldiers return to the scene of the massacre they committed, Jewish settlers re-shape the city in their own image and a young educator fights to preserve Palestinian cultural identity. Directed by Sarah Friedland and Rami Younis. (To be completed September 2019.)
There will also be a number of countries and exhibitors involved in Arab film and media at the Village International pavilions this year. The national pavilions dedicated to specific Arab countries include Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. Other exhibitors are predominately at stand 25.02 and include the Arab Cinema Center, Arab Cinema in Sweden (ACID), Arab Radio and Television Network (ART), Festival Ciné-Palestine Paris, FilmLab: Palestine and Pan East Media. Make sure to stop by to get more information about the countries, companies and organizations. There will also be presentations, workshops, screenings and other events hosted by the exhibitors. You can download list of all exhibitors and map of the pavilions here. The calendar of all global events can be found here.
Last but not least, we have the second annual Arab Critics Awards presented by the Arab Cinema Center! Awards will be presented during the Cannes Film Festival. The full press release with further details about the award and jury can be found here. This year’s nominees are:
Best Actor – Adel Karam (The Insult), Amr Saad (Mawlana), and Mohammad Bakri (Wajib)
Best Actress – Zahraa Ghandour (The Journey), Sondos Belhassen (Benzine), and Mariam Al Ferjani (Beauty and the Dogs)
Best Screenplay – Ali, the Goat and Ibrahim, The Insult, and Wajib
Best Director – Ziad Doueiri (The Insult), Sofia Djama (The Blessed), and Hicham Lasri (Headbang Lullaby)
Best Documentary Film – Last Man in Aleppo, Ghost Hunting and Taste of Cement
Best Feature Film – The Insult, Wajib and Volubilis