This is the second of a three-part series of posts on how to watch Arab films streaming now while practicing social distancing.
Since most of us are stuck at home isolating, we at AFMI have chosen 5 Arab films that bring us joy during these difficult times. Comedy, romance, friendship, family and adventure are the main themes present in this movies.
Each film is available to stream online, either for free or with a subscription.
Yomeddine (2018) dir. A.B. Shawky • AFF 2018 Selection
Egypt / Adventure, Drama, Comedy / 97 min
Yomeddine is the story of a widowed, Coptic leper named Beshay and his orphaned apprentice, Obama. They leave the confines of the leper colony for the first time and embark on a journey across Egypt to search for what is left of their families. While the characters see hardships throughout their journey due to bigotry, they also find friendship and kindness and a better understanding of themselves and their own strength. This film was one of my favorites from AFF 2018 and it makes top of my list of narrative Arab films streaming now. It will absolutely warm your heart. Available on Netflix.
Caramel (2007) dir. Nadine Labaki
Lebanon / Comedy, Romance, Drama / 95 min
If you’ve followed this blog or a while, you know that we adore the work of Nadine Labaki and this recommendation probably does not come as much of a surprise. Caramel is the story of five friends whose lives cross at a beauty salon in Beirut. Each woman is struggling with a relationship of some sort but always find comfort, love, strength and support in their friendships with each other. I’ve seen it described as “a sweet love letter to Beirut, its women and their idiosyncrasies” which I think is absolutely spot on. The film is warm and colorful and features an incredible soundtrack by Khaled Mouzanar. Available on Tubi TV.
Wadjda (2012) dir. Haifaa Al-Mansour
Saudi Arabia / Comedy, Drama / 98 min
Wadjda is about an enterprising Saudi girl who is determined to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest, despite being told that she cannot have one because she’s a girl. To raise the funds she needs, she joins a Koran competition and showcases her hard work and determination, even when doubted by the adults around her. This film can be horribly frustrating to watch as we see Wadjda and other girls and women in her life limited by a rigid code of conduct but it also showcases women’s strength and their ability to take charge of their own lives. By the end of the movie, you will have smile on your face. The film is also one of historical significance as it is the first Saudi film directed by a woman. Available on The Criterion Channel.
Mascarades (2008) dir. Lyès Salem
Algeria / Comedy / 94 min
Mounir Mekbek lives with his family in a small village in the heart of the Algerian countryside. Very proud and sure of himself, he has only one dream- to finally be appreciated by his fellow villagers. Screwing up his carefully maintained image is his headstrong, narcoleptic sister Rym who falls asleep anywhere and whom the village is convinced will end up a spinster. One evening, Mounir returns from town drunk and announces that he’s found a suitor for his sister. The fake story snowballs and snowballs until the suitor morphs into a rich, blonde Australian. The village begins preparing for the wedding in earnest – but without a bridegroom in sight. Mascarades is a humorous and charming comedy-of-errors as Mounir digs himself and his family deeper and deeper into his fake story and his desire for attention and appreciation. Available on Tubi TV.
Bab’Aziz: The Prince That Contemplated His Soul (2005) dir. Nacer Khemir
Tunisia / Drama, Adventure / 96 min
As a bonus, we also gathered a few short films, which you may recognize from past Arab Film Festivals, which are also streaming online:
Transit Game (2014) dir. Anna Fahr • AFF 2014
In the northern mountains of Lebanon, a Syrian man hoping to reunite with family torn apart by war encounters two Palestinian children whose own stories of exile provide a glimpse into the uncertainties he must face as a refugee. Available on Vimeo.
The President’s Visit (2017) dir. Cyril Aris • AFF 2018
When a small coastal town of fishermen learns about the secret visit of the President of the Republic to its local soap shop, they embark in an everlasting struggle at cleaning up and maintaining the perfect image of their town. Available on Amazon Prime.
Ave Maria (2015) dir. Basil Khalil • AFF 2015
The silent routine of 5 Nuns living in the West Bank wilderness is disturbed when an Israeli settler family breaks down right outside the convent just as the Sabbath comes into effect. Oscars Best Live Action Short nominee, 2016. Available on Amazon Prime, Kanopy, Fandor and Vimeo.
Brotherhood (2019) dir. Meryan Joobeur • AFF 2019
Mohamed is deeply shaken and suspicious when his estranged eldest son Malek returns home from Syria to rural Tunisia with a mysterious young wife in tow. The emotional complexities of a family reunion and past wounds lead to tragic consequences. Oscars Best Live Action Short nominee, 2019. Available on YouTube and Vimeo.
Marco (2019) dir. Saleem Haddad • AFF 2019
When a banker invites a sex worker to his London apartment, he finds himself coming face to face with both his own past, and one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises. Available on YouTube.
Catch even more Arab short films on Saturday May 2nd and Sunday May 10th during the next two installments of the Arab Films Series Online.
Looking for even more Arab narrative films available to stream online? Check out this list of all the Arab movies we found in our research. We also encourage you to explore beyond this and see what is available to rent or buy (rather than stream) online as well!
Share your favorites in the comments and please stay home and wash your hands. Together we can #flattenthecurve.