It’s time for the Cannes Film Festival again, running from the 14th to the 25th this month! And we’re BACK bringing you the annual round-up of Arab films at Cannes 2024. Keep an eye out for this cinema from the Arab world premiering at the festival.

Several creatives from the Arab world have also been appointed as jury members for several categories. The jury president for Cinéfondation and the Short Films Competition is Moroccan actress Lubna Azabal, star of the acclaimed The Blue Caftan (which opened the Arab Film Festitval in 2022), and British-Palestinian journalist Jad Salfiti will help decide the winner of the Queer Palm.

So what’s playing at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival? Without further ado, let’s dive into the Arab films at Cannes 2024.
All film descriptions and stills are from the Festival de Cannes official website.

Official Selection: In Competition

Films in the main competition compete for the festival’s top prize, the prestigious Palme d’Or. Only one filmmaker of Arab descent has a film in the lineup.
Lebanese director and actor Nadine Labaki is on the jury, under Jury President Greta Gerwig.

Arab films at Cannes 2024
Motel Destino
by Karim Aïnouz
Brazil, France, Germany – Narrative Feature

The neon-hued Motel Destino, a roadside sex hotel shimmering (or a similar word) under the burning blue skies of the northeastern coast of Brazil, is run by hot-headed Elias and his restless younger wife Dayana. The unexpected arrival of 21-year-old Heraldo, on the run after a botched hit, disrupts the established order. As the tropical noir plays out, loyalties and desires intertwine to reveal that destiny has its own enigmatic design.

A frequent Cannes alum, Aïnouz is of Brazilian and Algerian Kabyle descent. Motel Destino is also in competition for the Queer Palm. 

Official Selection: Un Certain Regard

For the Un Certain Regard category, which rewards young talent and encourages innovative and daring works, director Xavier Dolan resides as Jury President. He is of Egyptian, Lebanese and Québécois descent. Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir (The Mother of All Lies) is also a jury member.

Here are the Arab films at Cannes 2024 – in the Un Certain Regard category.

by Tawfik Alzaidi
Saudi Arabia – Narrative Feature 

Set in a small remote Saudi Arabian village, in the 90s when artistic expression was banned, NORAH is a story about the basic human need to communicate through art, in all its forms. Nader, a new schoolteacher and an artist in secret, arrives at the village and meets Norah, a young woman who ignites the creativity inside him and inspires him to paint again. At great risk, they develop a delicate connection and a quiet bond. Nader enlightens Norah on the wider world outside of her tiny community and she realises she must leave, to find a place where she can be free to express her artistic self.

Norah is Tawfik Alzaidi’s directorial debut, making it eligible for the Caméra d’Or Award.

The Village Next to Paradise by Mo Harawe
Austria, France, Somalia – Narrative Feature

In a windy Somali village, a newly assembled family must navigate between their different aspirations and the complex world surrounding them. Love, trust and resilience will power them through their life paths.

The Village Next to Paradise is Mo Harawe’s directorial debut, making it eligible for the Caméra d’Or Award.

Official Selection: Cannes Premiere

Arab Films at Cannes 2024 in this category are not competing for any major awards, but are given the privilege of debuting at Cannes. 

Everybody Loves Touda by Nabil Ayouch
Belgium, Denmark, France, Morocco, Norway, Sweden – Narrative Feature

Touda only dreams of one thing: being a Sheikha, a traditional Moroccan performer. She belts out songs about resistance, love and emancipation, passed down from generation to generation. Every evening, she performs in bars under the gaze of men in her tiny village while hoping for a better future for her and her son. Disrespected and shamed, she sets her sights on leaving for the bright lights of Casablanca…

Independent Sections: Director’s Fortnight

Director’s Fortnight is an independent section playing parallel to the Official Selection at Cannes.
All film descriptions and stills are taken from the Quinzaine Cineastes official website.

Arab films at Cannes 2024
East of Noon
by Hala Elkoussy
Egypt – Narrative Feature 

Set in an industrial wasteland in the middle of nowhere, East of Noon is a folktale somewhere between The Arabian Nights and Ubu roi, in which a bunch of brilliant youngsters find ways to survive the autocracy of a childish tyrant whose currency is lottery tickets and sugar cubes. The second feature film by an Egyptian artist, this baroque and excessive film stands out within African and Arab cinemas, invoking the spirits of the “new cinemas” of the sixties and seventies.

To A Land Unknown
by Mahdi Fleifel
Palestine, Denmark – Narrative Feature 

After fleeing a camp in Lebanon, two Palestinian cousins, are stranded in Athens, living in an underground limbo. Desperately seeking a way to reach Germany, they find themselves caught in an uncontrollable spiral. Nourished by New York cinema (notably Midnight Cowboy), To a Land Unknown races along like an edgy thriller, tragic but stripped back. A compelling, uncompromising and nuanced look at the living conditions of migrants.

by Kim Lêa Sakkal
Germany, Lebanon – Narrative Short

The assistant of a creepy power couple inexplicably finds herself pregnant. Immaculata feels like an unexpected offshoot of Rosemary’s Baby, between its half-open doors and a phobia of fluids. It is eligible for the Queer Palm.

Après le soleil
by Rayane Mcirdi
France, Algeria – Narrative Short

A summer at the end of the 1980s. An Algerian family takes to the road from the Paris suburbs, where they live, to reach Marseille. On the horizon, a mythical ferry, the port of Algiers, a holiday “back home” to a place the children have never experienced. In the overloaded van, a mixture of joy and excitement, freedom and nostalgia.

Independent Sections: Critics’ Week (Semaine de la critique)

Critic’s Week is a parallel section to Cannes that aims to discover new talents, primarily showcasing first and second feature films. Films in competition may win the Grand Prix.
All film descriptions and stills are taken from the Semaine de la critique official website.

Arab films at Cannes 2024

The Brink of Dreams by Nada Riyadh, Ayman El Amir
Competition – Egypt, France, Denmark, Qatar, Saudi Arabia – Documentary Feature

In a remote village in southern Egypt, a group of girls rebel by forming an all-female street theater troupe. They dream of becoming actresses, dancers and singers, challenging their families and villagers with their unexpected performances. Shot over four years, The Brink of Dreams follows them from childhood to womanhood, facing the most crucial choices of their lives.

As a documentary, The Brink of Dreams is eligible for the L’Œil d’or, which awards the best documentary that premieres at each Cannes festival.

Across the Sea by Saïd Hamich Benlarbi
Special Screening France, Algeria – Narrative Feature

Nour, 27, immigrated illegally to Marseille. With his friends, he makes a living as a small-time dealer, leading an unconventional, festive life… Meeting Serge – an unpredictable, charismatic cop – and his wife Noémie, turns his life upside down. From 1990 to 2000, Nour loves, matures, and clings to his dreams. It is eligible for the Queer Palm.

Arab films at Cannes 2024

Ghost Trail by Jonathan Millet
Special Screening – France, Germany, Belgium – Narrative Feature

Hamid, is part of a secret group pursuing the Syrian regime’s fugitive leaders. His mission takes him to France, on the trail of his former torturer whom he must confront. Based on true events.

Ghost Trail is Jonathan Millet’s directorial debut, making it eligible for the Caméra d’Or Award.

Animale by Emma Benestan
Special Screening – France,  Belgium, Saudi Arabia – Narrative Feature

Camargue, France – Infamous for its traditional bull race, an exhilarating and graceful challenge of agility and respect between man and beast. Surrounded by men, 22-year-old Nejma trains hard to fulfill her dream of winning the upcoming annual competition, but news of a rogue and violent bull on the loose terrifies the community. Young men are being murdered everywhere, and the beast is nowhere to be seen.

And that’s the lineup of Arab films at Cannes 2024. Show your support to these filmmakers and buy your tickets to see these new movies when you can. We’ll be updating our social medias if any of them win major awards, so keep an eye out, and wait to see if any of them end up at the Arab Film Festival this fall.