The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is about to begin its 43rd year on September 6th. Though a younger festival than some, TIFF has become one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world and boasts the largest public attendance. As we’ve done with a number of other well-known festivals in the past, we’ve collected a list of all of the Arab films programmed at this years festival. Check all of them out below and let us know which ones you plan to see!
Look at Me (Qatar, France, Tunisia) – Directed by Nejib Belkadhi
Narrative Feature – Contemporary World Cinema – 96 mins – World Premiere
Torn between the life he thought he could leave behind in Tunisia and the life he’s created for himself in Marseille, a Lotfi finds himself at a crucial crossroads. Look at Me is a touching portrait of a man struggling with the confines of masculinity, with what it means to be “a provider,” and, above all, with how to create a loving home.
EXT. Night (Egypt, United Arab Emirates) – Directed by Ahmad Abdalla
Narrative Feature – Contemporary World Cinema – 98 mins – World Premiere
When a day in the life of a beleaguered Egyptian filmmaker, Moe, goes sideways, he witnesses anew issues like class and gender relations, in this touching social satire. In trying to navigate chaotic Cairo traffic, Moe finds himself drawn away from the world — and social milieu — he knows along with his driver Mostafa, and Toutou, a firecracker of a character from the wrong part of town. Over the course of the night, Moe begins to see the deeper ramifications and the inequalities around issues like class and gender relations.
aKasha (Sudan, South Africa, Qatar, Germany) – Directed by hajooj kuka
Narrative Feature – Discovery – 78 mins – North American Premiere
No viable solution to the civil war in rebel-held areas of Sudan has been found since the outbreak of violence in 2011. But every year in the Nuba Mountains region, all sides are forced to put down their arms due to an unlikely power: mud. During the rainy season, rebels return home to their families and loved ones to take advantage of the pause in fighting. It’s right after this welcome lull that hajooj kuka begins his offbeat comedy about a love triangle between a boy, a girl, and an AK-47.
Screwdriver (Palestine, USA, Qatar) – Directed by Bassam Jarbawi
Narrative Feature – Discovery – 108 mins – North American Premiere
After more than a decade in an Israeli jail, newly released Ziad doesn’t recognize the world around him. He is a free man but his friends have moved on, technology has changed, and dating seems impossible. Though hailed as a hero for his involvement in a failed attack on a settler — the act that led to his imprisonment — the young Palestinian man has doubts about whether his actions had any real meaning.
The Day I Lost My Shadow (Syria, France, Qatar, Lebanon) – Directed by Soudade Kaadan
Narrative Feature – Discovery – 95 mins – North American Premiere
At the outset of the war in Syria, a young mother, Sana, is trying to maintain normalcy in her home for the sake of her son. But between power outages, the water being cut off, and gas shortages — to say nothing of the shelling taking place only blocks away — Sana’s daily duties are becoming increasingly Sisyphean. In order to cook for her son, Sana takes a risk: along with brother-and-sister duo Reem and Jalal, Sana hires a cab to reach a nearby town said to have propane. When this seemingly simple errand goes awry, Sana is dragged deeper into the conflict.
Freedom Fields (Libya, UK, Netherlands, USA, Qatar Lebanon, Canada) – Directed by Naziha Arebi
Documentary Feature – TIFF Docs – 99 mins – World Premiere
Freedom Fields offers an intimate look at post-revolution Libya through the eyes of an aspiring all-female soccer team, whose struggle to gain mainstream acceptance mirrors the broader challenges facing women in contemporary Libyan society.
Documentary Feature – TIFF Docs – 84 mins – North American Premiere
A bold corrective to narrow notions about what it means to be Muslim, director Jawad Rhalib’s When Arabs Danced is also a stirring testament to the power of art to reconfigure identity. Beginning with Rhalib’s memories of childhood shame regarding his mother’s belly dancing, the film quickly expands its purview from personal essay to cultural investigation. Rhalib visits several countries and documents diverse creative endeavors, each constrained by fundamentalist repression within the Muslim world and xenophobic stereotypes outside of it.
Capernaum (Lebanon) – Directed by Nadine Labaki
Narrative Feature – Special Presentations – 120 mins – North American Premiere
Zain is only 12, but he’s seen enough of this life to resent his very existence. With numerous children to care for, his parents resort to some inventive scams, such as saturating garments with tramadol, which they then pass along to Zain’s incarcerated brother who reconstitutes the drug and sells it to fellow prisoners. More alarmingly, Zain’s parents have sold his 11-year-old sister’s hand in marriage, which prompts Zain to run away. He befriends an Ethiopian cleaning woman, whose baby he eventually becomes guardian to. But life on the streets offers Zain fewer and fewer places to hide. Encouraged by a current affairs program seeking to draw attention to child poverty, Zain files a lawsuit against his parents for giving birth to him. The trial provides the frame through which Zain’s story unfolds.
Girls of the Sun (France) – Directed by Eva Husson
Narrative Feature – Special Presentations – 115 mins – International Premiere
Girls of the Sun follows an impassioned war correspondent, Mathilde, into the Daesh battleground of northwestern Iraqi Kurdistan, where she is embedded with a unit of female peshmerga fighters. Led by Bahar, the unit is made up of women formerly held captive, many as sex slaves, by Daesh following the massacre of their husbands and the kidnapping of their children. Seamlessly weaving between the harrowing pasts that brought them together and their perilous present, highlighting the shared suffering that strengthens their bond and their will to fight to get their village, and their families, back.
Divine Wind (Algeria, France, Qatar, Lebanon) – Directed by Merzak Allouche
Narrative Feature – Masters – 96 mins – World Premiere
The film follows a young man, Amine, and an enigmatic woman, Nour, who are called upon by extremists to perform an armed action in the Algerian Sahara. Although they have no prior connection, the duo become inexorably and intensely linked. As their bond deepens, their mission is put at risk.
Erased,____ Ascent of the Invisible (Lebanon) – Directed by Ghassan Halwani
Documentary Feature – Wavelengths – 76 mins – North American Premiere
Ghassan Halwani’s powerful debut feature is an evocative examination of the thousands of people who were disappeared during Lebanon’s 15-year conflict. Diving into this politically loaded and personally resonant topic, Halwani scrapes away — at times, quite literally — layers of Lebanese history and rethinks the topography of modern-day Beirut. Though the disappeared were erased — their bodies remaining unfound and unrecovered decades later — their presence lingers. As Halwani explores, the dead remain in the memory of loved ones, beneath the sidewalks of gentrified neighbourhoods, in the very fabric of society.
Walled Unwalled (Germany) – Directed by Lawrence Abu Hamdan
Documentary Short – Wavelengths – 20 mins – North American Premiere
In the haunting Walled Unwalled the artist and self-described “private ear” Lawrence Abu Hamdan recounts three different stories related to walls, alongside their concomitant social, legal, and psychological ramifications.
Sira (Canada) – Directed by Rolla Tahir
Documentary Short – Wavelengths – 6 mins – World Premiere
Responding to the travel documentaries of Jacques Madvo, Rolla Tahir’s Sira manipulates and adds to the filmmaker’s original footage to produce a personal reminiscence of her childhood migration from Kuwait to Canada, via Sudan.
A Wedding Day (Algeria, France) – Directed by Elias Belkeddar
Narrative Short – Short Cuts – 15 mins – North American Premiere
In this rich and assured portrait, a crime boss in exile in Algiers oscillates between his business, friends, and the boredom and melancholy of his daily routine.
Brotherhood (Tunisia, Canada, Qatar, Sweden) – Directed by Meryam Joobeur
Narrative Short – Short Cuts – 25 mins – World Premiere
Mohamed is deeply shaken and suspicious when his estranged eldest son returns home to rural Tunisia with a mysterious young wife in tow. Every moment in Meryam Joobeur’s wrenching drama is infused with the emotional complexities of a family reunion, and the consequences of past wounds and misunderstanding.