Just by looking at this year’s lineup for the Cannes Film Festival, 2023 is proving to be a promising year for Arab cinema. Running from May 16 to the 27, the prestigious festival is just around the corner, and we’re here as always to report on all the features and shorts from the Arab world and its diaspora that will be premiering–let’s get right to it!
Arab Feature Films:
Two features from Arab directors are competing for the Palme D’or and Maryam Touzani, director of The Blue Caftan (which opened our very own Arab Film Festival last fall) is a jury member this year! A handful of films will be playing in the Un Certain Regard category as well as during Critic’s Week; Audrey Diwan, French director of Lebanese descent, is the Jury President for International Critic’s Week.
Four Daughters by Kaouther Ben Hania
Tunisia – Documentary Feature – The Official Selection – In Competition
Between light and darkness stands Olfa, a Tunisian woman and the mother of four daughters. One day, her two older daughters disappear. To fill in their absence, the filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania invites professional actresses and invents a unique cinema experience that will lift the veil on Olfa and her daughters’ life stories. An intimate journey of hope, rebellion, violence, transmission and sisterhood that will question the very foundations of our societies.
Firebrand by Karim Aïnouz
United Kingdom – Narrative Feature – The Official Selection – In Competition
Historical drama that centers around Katherine Parr, the sixth and final wife of Henry VIII, starring Alicia Vikander and Jude Law. Director Karim Aïnouz is of Brazilian-Algerian descent.
Goodbye Julia by Mohamed Kordofani
Sudan – Narrative Feature – The Official Selection – Un Certain Regard
Just before the secession of South Sudan, a married former singer from the north seeks redemption for causing the death of a southern man by hiring his oblivious wife as her maid.
The Mother of All Lies by Asmae El Moudir
Morocco – Documentary Feature – The Official Selection – Un Certain Regard
A family’s web of lies and one young girl’s search to find the truth. Through her own voice, Asmae, daughter and filmmaker, flits between national and personal history to tell the 1981 Bread Riots in Morocco and shows how this event connects with contemporary Moroccan society.
The Nature of Love by Monia Chokri
Canada – Narrative Feature – The Official Selection – Un Certain Regard
Romantic comedy from Canadian-Tunisian director Monia Chokri. Sophia’s life is turned upside down when she meets Sylvain. She comes from a wealthy family, while he comes from a family of manual workers. Sophia questions her own values after she gives in to her romantic impulses.
Les Meutes by Kamal Lazraq
Morocco – Narrative Feature – The Official Selection – Un Certain Regard
In the suburbs of Casablanca, Hassan and Issam, father and son, live from day to day by carrying out small trafficking jobs for the local mafia. One evening they are tasked with kidnapping a man. Trapped in a long night, they have no idea what awaits them…
Jeanne Du Barry by Maïwenn
France – Narrative Feature – The Official Selection – Out of Competition
Maïwenn, French director of Algerian descent, will be opening the festival with her historical drama, Jeanne Du Barry. Its plot centers on Madame du Barry, who uses her intelligence and allure to climb the social ladder.
Omar La Fraise by Elias Belkeddar
France – Narrative Feature – The Official Selection – Midnight Screenings
Omar, a gangster on the run tries to lay low for the rest of his life in Algiers to escape his sentence of 20 years in prison by the French authorities.
Little Girl Blue by Mona Achache
France – Narrative Feature – The Official Selection – Special Screenings
A docudrama telling the story of French-Moroccan director Mona Achache’s mother, starring Marion Cotillard.
Jordan – Narrative Feature – Parallel Selections – International Critic’s Week
Déserts by Faouzi Bensaïdi
Morocco – Narrative Feature – Parallel Selections – Director’s Fortnight
Longtime friends Mehdi and Hamid work for a debt collection agency. To punish them for their poor performance, their management sends them into the suffocating Moroccan Sahara to track down some bad payers.
The Red Sea Makes Me Wanna Cry by Faris Alrjoob
Jordan – Narrative Feature – Parallel Selections – Director’s Fortnight
ACID Cannes is a film festival running adjacent to the main festival, with its focus on independent cinema. The selection of Arab films playing at L’ACID is as follows:
The Sea and Her Waves by Liana & Renaud
Lebanon – Narrative Feature – L’ACID Cannes
The film follows the story of Najwa and Mansour, who travel to Beirut to join a woman across the sea, and Selim, the keeper of the old lighthouse. During a full moon night, Najwa and Mansour, played by Mays Mustafa and Roger Assaf, follow the trail of smugglers to achieve their goal. At the same time, Mohammed Al Ammari plays Selim, who is trying to repair the electricity in his neighborhood a few streets away.
Machtat by Sonia Ben Slama
Tunisia – Documentary Feature – L’ACID Cannes
Mahdia, Tunisia. Fatma, and her daughters, Najeh and Waffeh, work as “machtat,” traditional musicians who perform at wedding ceremonies. Their music evokes love and its promises, but the reality is much more complex and painful. Between illusions and disillusionment, Machtat is a powerful emancipatory portrait of three women who assert their voices.
Arab Short Films:
This year, unfortunately, there are no short film selections from the Arab world in competition. However there are a few shorts playing in the La Cinef category; this is the first year a Moroccan short has been apart of the lineup.
Al Toraa’: The Call of the Brook by Jad Chahine
Egypt – Narrative Short – La Cinef
Follows a young boy who goes to a cursed brook and witnesses something that will seal his fate.
Moon (Ayyur) by Zineb Wakrim
Morocco – Narrative Short – La Cinef
Hasna and Samad, 14 years old. Art and painting help them to resist and catch the light in the middle of the darkness.
The Voice of Others (La Voix Des Autres) by Fatima Kaci
France – Narrative Short – La Cinef
Rim is a Tunisian interpreter working in France on asylum procedures. Every day, she translates the stories of exiled men and women, whose voices raise questions about her own history.
Which film are you most excited to see? If any of these films win major prizes we’ll be back with an update, so make sure to follow us on all our socials and stay tuned! And as always, make sure to take the chance and #SupportArabCinema.