As summer comes to a close, we rounded up some of the best Arab films to watch out for in Fall 2022! September is the time for some of the world’s biggest film festivals–the Toronto International Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival, the New York Film Festival–and there are plenty of exciting and groundbreaking new Arab films in each festival lineup this year. Take a look at what’s headed to the major festivals, what’s coming soon to theaters and when, all ahead of our very own Arab Film Festival opening on November 11th.
Arab Films at TIFF
TIFF will be taking place from September 7-18th. In exciting news, the world’s largest film festival has chosen an Arab film for their opening night! And as always, Toronto has a decent handful of ambitious Arab films premiering.
The Swimmers by Sally El Hosaini
United Kingdom – Narrative Feature – Gala Presentations Opening Ceremony
The opening film at TIFF! This soaring epic dramatizes the true story of two sisters who left their home in war-torn Syria for a new life in Europe — and the chance to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The Blue Caftan by Maryam Touzani
Morocco – Narrative Feature – Gala Presentations
It features Halim and Mina, a couple who run a Caftan shop in the medina of Salé, joined by Youssef, a young apprentice who shares with his Maalem, Halim, the same sincere passion for sewing. This film is about transmission, tradition and love, in the broadest sense of the term.
A Gaza Weekend by Basil Khalil
Palestine – Narrative Feature – Discovery
A bumbling Englishman and an uptight Israeli are desperate to get into the Gaza strip — “the safest place in the world” — when a virus breaks out, in this hilariously irreverent satire from British-Palestinian writer-director Basil Khalil.
The Taste of Apples is Red by Ehab Tarabieh
Syria – Narrative Feature – Discovery
In this gripping debut from Syrian filmmaker Ehab Tarabieh, a respected sheik must make an impossible decision between family and duty when his estranged brother returns to the Golan Heights after living 47 years in exile.
Alam by Firas Khoury
Palestine – Narrative Feature – Contemporary World Cinema
In this immersive debut from Firas Khoury, five Israeli-Palestinian high-school classmates — struggling under the burden of forced forgetting — weigh the risks involved in remembering a different history.
Shadow of the Butterflies by Sofia El Khyari
Morocco – Animated Short – Short Cuts Programme 02
This exquisite animation by Morocco’s Sofia El Khyari draws viewers into a mysterious forest where a young woman’s emotions, memories, and desires intermingle with the delicate movements of the butterflies that surround her.
Simo by Aziz Zoromba
Canada – Narrative Short – Short Cuts Programme 06
For the two teenage brothers in Aziz Zoromba’s compelling and nuanced drama, the usual rivalries and jealousies that exist between siblings take a dangerous turn that may seriously impact the future of their family.
And if you remember our Arab Films at Cannes 2022 post, two films that premiered in France this June are also coming to TIFF: Tunisian features Ashkal (dir. Youssef Chebbi) and Under the Fig Trees (dir. Erige Sehiri) will be playing in the Contemporary World Cinema presentations. Don’t miss out on them!
Arab Films at Venice
The Venice Film Festival will be held from August 31 to September 10. We’re excited to report that among all the Arab films to watch out for in Fall 2022, there’s one Arab film in competition in Venice, and a good amount in the Horizons categories. Playing in association with the Venice Film Festival is the independent festival Le Giornate degli Autori, or Venice Days. Similar to the Director’s Fortnight selection at Cannes, it’s intention is to balance the star-studded main event with smaller but still inventive and original moviemaking. Three Arab films are included in that lineup. Let’s check them all out.
Our Ties by Roschdy Zem
France – Narrative Feature – In Competition
Moussa has always been kind, selfless and there for his family — unlike his brother Ryad, a TV presenter widely criticized for his egocentricity by those around him. His only defender is Moussa, who feels a great admiration for his brother. One day, an accidental fall leaves Moussa with severe brain trauma. Now unrecognizable, he talks without any filter and ends up falling out with everyone – except Ryad.
For My Country by Rachid Hami
France, Taipei – Narrative Feature – Horizons
Aissa, a young officer of Algerian origin, tragically loses his life during a fresher initiation ritual at the prestigious French military academy of Saint-Cyr. As the death tears through his family, controversy arises over Aissa’s funeral plans when the Army refuses to take responsibility. Ismael, his older, rebellious brother, tries to keep the family united as they fight to win justice for Aissa.
My Girlfriend by Kawthar Younis
Egypt – Narrative Short – Horizons Short Films
Desperate for intimacy, Ali follows his girlfriend’s suggestion that puts their relationship to the test. The plan unfolds unexpectedly when gender roles become blurred.
Hanging Gardens by Ahmed Yassin Al Daradji
Iraq, Palestine – Narrative Feature – Horizons Extra
When As’ad, a 12-year-old rubbish picker, adopts an American sex doll from the Baghdad dumps, he crosses into a perilous red zone, finding himself caught in the crossfire between abusive forces of commercialism and fundamentalism in a world where defenders of humanism have lost their power. He embraces the courage it takes to not just survive, but live.
Nezouh by Soudade Kaadan
UK, Syria, France – Narrative Feature – Horizons Extra
Even as bombs fall on Damascus, Mutaz refuses to flee to the uncertain life of a refugee. His wife, Hala, and daughter, Zeina, must make the choice whether to stay or leave.
Dirty Difficult Dangerous by Wissam Charaf
France/Lebanon – Narrative Feature – Venice Days
Beirut, Lebanon, the present. Ahmed, a Syrian refugee, and Mehdia, an Ethiopian migrant domestic worker, are living an impossible love of stolen kisses on street corners. While Mehdia tries to free herself from her employers, Ahmed struggles to survive by selling scrap metal, while affected by a mysterious disease. The two lovers may have no future, but they also have nothing to lose. One day, they seize their chance and flee Beirut, in a desperate attempt to start over elsewhere, as Ahmed’s physical condition starts to gets worse.
The Last Queen by Adila Bendimerad & Damien Ounouri
Algeria – Narrative Feature – Venice Days
Inspired by the legendary Princess Zaphira, wife of the last King of Algiers Salim Toumi, and his fight to defend her community from pirate Barbarossa.
The Damned Don’t Cry by Fyzal Boulifa
France/Morocco – Narrative Feature – Venice Days
Fatima-Zahra and her adolescent son Selim move from place to place, forever trying to outrun the latest scandal she’s caught up in. When Selim discovers the truth about his past, Fatima-Zahra vows to make a fresh start. Arriving in Tangier, they each find new opportunities that promise the legitimacy they crave – but not without threatening their fragile love for one another.
Arab Films at NYFF
The 60th New York Film Festival – September 30 to October 16 – has more Arab films to watch out for in Fall 2022. For many of our readers, this may be the most accessible major festival location wise, so we’re happy to report there’s four Arab films playing this year at Lincoln Center! If you remember the Sudanese film The Dam, which premiered at this year’s Cannes, that film will also be playing at New York in the Currents category.
Tales of the Purple House by Abbas Fahdel
Lebanon – Narrative Feature – Currents
Filmed over more than two years, Tales of the Purple House centers on the experiences of Nour Balllouk, a Lebanese artist living in the house she shares with Fahdel (her husband, who stays off-screen) in the dramatic mountainous countryside outside of Beirut.
Life on the CAPS by Meriem Bennani
Morocco – Experimental Short – Currents Program 5: After Utopia
Interweaving live action and computer graphics, and blending the aesthetics of documentary, music video, surveillance, and viral videos, Meriem Bennani constructs a rich, disorienting vision of a dystopian future on CAPS, a fictional migrant enclave located somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Beirut the Encounter by Borhane Alaouié
Lebanon – Narrative Feature – Revivals
Set in 1977 during the Lebanese Civil War, Borhane Alaouié’s melancholic, meditative docu-fiction study of longing and life amid conflict begins as the lines of communication between East and West Beirut have been reestablished and two former university friends, a Christian woman and a Shiite man, reconnect. They make a pact to record their thoughts and feelings to share with each other before the woman departs the next day for the United States, and we follow the two through the everyday system of checkpoints, traffic jams, and moments of tension that define their experience of Beirut. An entrancingly personal and atmospheric film poem about human connection in troubled times, Beirut the Encounter is a too-little-seen masterwork of Lebanese cinema.
Arab Films Playing in a Theater Near You
This year has also brought us the blessing of more and more Arab films hitting cinemas around the country. If you follow AFMI on our socials, you would have seen promotions for films like Huda’s Salon and 1982 as we supported their release into theaters in the past couple months. And the most exciting part is that it’s not over!
Casablanca Beats by Nabil Ayouch
Morocco – Narrative Feature – Opening September 16 in New York City
Playing on September 16 at the IFC Center in NYC, we’re excited to support the released of the Cannes-premiering film Casablanca Beats. A realistic drama set in the cultural center in Casablanca’s Sidi Moumen neighborhood, a poor suburb that became infamous in 2003 due to a terrorist attack perpetrated by locals. Get your tickets to the acclaimed film here!
Sirens by Rita Baghdadi
Lebanon – Documentary Feature – Opening September 30 in New York City
Sirens intimately chronicles the lives and music of Slave to Sirens, a band made up of five young metalheads whose burgeoning fame is set against the backdrop of the Lebanese revolution. Its members wrestle with friendship, sexuality, and destruction as their music serves as a refuge to Beirut’s youth culture. The film will play in NYC on September 30 and head to LA on October 7. Get your tickets here!
Even more Arab films to watch out for in Fall 2022 are coming to theaters throughout the country. Oualid Mouaness’s film 1982 continues to branch out to Florida and several states in the Midwest–check out their frequently updated Instagram account for showtimes and tickets. Costa Brava, Lebanon and Skies Of Lebanon also continue to expand, and Costa Brava will be available on digital platforms this September. If you end up seeing one of the films on our list, make sure to let us know, and stay with us for more updates on our upcoming festival this November. Don’t miss out on a great fall season and as always, make sure to #SupportArabCinema!