With the 70th Festival de Cannes just around the corner, we decided to take a look at what this year’s festival has to offer in terms of Arab films. Though there continues to be only a few Arab films in the official selection, Arab talent is abundant in other areas of the festival. We have put together a comprehensive list of all things Arab to look out for at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, enjoy!
Three Arab films have the honor of being part of the festival’s official selection. In the Un Certain Regard section, which features films that tell stories in non-traditional ways, there is Aala Kaf Ifrit (Beauty and the Dogs), a film by Kaouther Ben Hania which was produced in Lebanon, Tunisia, Sweden, Norway and Lebanon. The film tells the story of Myriam, a young Tunisian student who is abused by policemen at a night club and is determined to report the incident despite the physical, mental and social obstacles in her way.
In the Special Screening section there is the film They by Anahita Ghazvinizadeh which was filmed in Qatar, US and Denmark. They tells the story of J, a teenager who is diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder who uses the pronoun “they” and delays puberty with hormone blockers. The film explores J’s complex gender identity within their difficult and uncertain family dynamic.
And finally, there is the Cannes Classic section, which will showcase vintage films that are dedicated to the history of the festival. The 1957 Lebanese film Ila Ayn (Whither?) by Georges Nasser will be part of this lineup. Ila Ayn was the first film Lebanese film to represent Lebanon at Cannes back in 1958. It tells the story of a man that abandons his family and moves to Brazil. He returns 20 years later but he is no longer recognized in his home country.
As part of the Cannes Court Metragé, which features short form films, there will be three sections specifically featuring Arab films and filmmakers within the short film catalog.
The Lebanon Factory section will include four shorts all made in Lebanon:
White Noise – A comedy about Saïd, a security guard on his first shift under the bridge in the middle of Beirut, armed only with a flashlight and a walkie-talkie.
Hotel Al Naim – A social comedy from Lebanon and France. It’s synopsis reads “The octopus believes that the hand in front of it is a prey, but it does not know that behind each hand there is an arm.”
Salamat From Germany – A drama about those seeking asylum claiming to by Syrian because being a refugee at war offers more security than a person fleeing poverty.
El Gran Libano – A story of a man named Bassem who wakes up by a lake to see his sister Youmna, who he hasn’t seen in 12 years, standing over him with a shovel and a coffin.
The Made in Qatar section will feature ten shorts from Qatar:
Shishbarak – The spirit of Aya’s dead mother comes back to her when she opens the cookbook she left behind. Her mother comes to help her cook a traditional dish for Aya’s Western boyfriend, but with the return of her mother comes the return of their troubled relationship.
Makhb’z – A documentary following the process of making bread in the oldest bakery in Iran.
Kashta – A story of sibling rivalry turned horrifying. Two brothers join their father on a hunting trip in the desert. When one son becomes frustrated with his lack of success, he tries to kill his brother’s pet and is met with dire consequences.
Smicha – A little girl visits her grandfather every Friday but realizes that every day he makes a promise he forgets about it the next day. Together they experience the difficulty of watching a loved one lose their memory.
Hamar – A young boy’s boring routine is transformed by a pair of red shoes.
Amer: Estorat Al Khail Al-Arabia – A documentary about Amer the Arabian horse who changed the face of Arabian horse racing after his retirement from the racetrack.
Dunia – A women kills her abusive husband and tries to bury his body in the woods but all without being caught by her nine-year-old daughter who is waiting in the car.
Ben Al Alm w Al-Din – Based on a true story, this film is told through the eyes of Salman as he recounts the day he lost his father.
Tayaret Dana – The story of Dana her distracted brother Ahmed and their day at the beach.
Al-Johara – A take on the fairy tale Cinderella that accentuates Arabic traditions with a modern twist.
The Dubai International Film Festival section will feature six shorts made in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia:
Place in Your Shell (UAE) – An experimental film shot on a Samsung Galaxy 7S Edge. Winner of the Samsung SHRT film contest at DIFF 2016.
Laila Fe Taxi (UAE) – The story of a taxi driver who drives the night shift in Abu Dhabi always listens to the woes of his passengers, but when he needs to express his feelings, no one is ready to listen.
Mahal Bu Tair (UAE) – A fantasy film about an orphaned boy named Khalid who is raised by his aunt. When he finds a pearl, his life is changed and challenged by a mysterious pearl merchant at the market.
Fadhilat an Takona la Ahad (Saudi) – A young man, who has lost his entire family, unexpectedly encounters an aging man with an eye-patch.
Robain (UAE) – A group of people are brought together under absurd circumstances where they express their darkest and most twisted desires.
Mamsous (UAE/Saudi) – A filmmaker follows the stories of three people who are all struggling with clinical depression and panic attacks.
This year’s Marché du Cannes, the business counterpart of the festival, will feature a number of Arab films and filmmakers in the Dubai Goes to Cannes section as well as in the Doc Corner.
Dubai Goes to Cannes will present the following five works-in-progress:
Joint Possession (Indivision) by Leila Kilani (Morocco, France, UAE) – Tangier’s topography is in turmoil. Pharaonic real estate projects surround the Mansouria, a landlocked family estate up for sale and coveted by Amina and her heirs. Suddenly fires light up across the hills.
Marjoun and the Flying Headscarf by Susan Youssef (Lebanon, Netherlands, USA, UAE, Qatar) – A teenager in Arkansas searches for identity in the headscarf and a motorcycle in the aftermath of her father’s imprisonment on dubious terrorist-related charges.
Poisonous Rose (Ward Masmoum) by Ahmed Fawzi Saleh (Egypt, France) – The world has left nothing to Taheya except her brother Saqr. When he decides to leave her, she will do anything to keep him by her side.
Until the End of Time (Ila Akher Ezaman) by Yasmine Chouikh (Algeria, UAE) – On her journey towards death, Joher meets Ali, this encounter will be one of resurrection, love and life.
Wajib by Annemarie Jacir (Palestine, France, Norway, Colombia) – Shadi returns to Nazareth after years abroad to help his father hand-deliver his sister’s wedding invitations. As the estranged pair spend the day together, the tense details of their relationship come to a head.
Doc Day will take place on Tuesday May 23rd with the theme “Impact and solutions with documentary films” which focuses on how documentaries can bring awareness. Films by and about the Arab world will be present in a number of the conferences and discussions. The morning session will begin with a conversation between filmmaker Amos Gitai and film critic Jean-Michel Frodon about Gitai’s latest documentary West of the Jordan River (Field Diary Revisited) which is a follow up to his 1982 film Field Diary. In this film, Gitai revisits Occupied Palestinian Territories for the first time since 1982 and looks at the effects of the occupation on both Palestinian and Israeli people alike. During the afternoon session there will also be a discussion entitled “Women Voices from the Arab World” which will feature Kaouther Ben Hania, director of Beauty and the Dogs, as well as filmmakers Jihan El-Tahri and May Oden. Dox Box Director Dian El Jeiroudi will also be in attendance to speak about non-fiction filmmaking in the Arab world today.
As part of the Doc Corner at the Marché du Film, there will be two events featuring Arab voices in the Doc Room:
On May 20th there will be an event entitled Waynak (Where are You?): How to Disrupt the Media Narrative While Creating Social Impact. This event will feature Waynak, a 6 episode documentary series filmed by 7 young people from the Middle East, Europe and the US. The series looks at different aspects of the lives of those displaced by war. A discussion will take place afterwards with the project leaders and characters from the films.
On May 21st there will be an event entitled Refugee Voices in Film – UNHCR. This event will showcase a diverse use of film to address the current global refugee humanitarian crisis and provide insight into UNHCR’s important role in rebuilding the lives of those who have been displaced.
Finally, in big news for the Arab film world, this year’s Cannes Film Festival will mark the launch of the first Arab Critics Awards presented by the Arab Cinema Center! The award will honor films in the categories of Best Film, Best Director, Best Writer, Best Actress and Best Actor. The films nominated must have premiered at an international film festival outside of the Arab world in 2016, must be produced by at least one Arab production company and must be a feature film. A list of 26 critics from all over the world will be responsible for nominating and selecting the winner of the awards. For more information on the award, check out the full press release here. This year’s nominees are:
Best Actor – Ahmed Taher (Blessed Benefits) , Majd Mastoura (Hedi)and Hisham E. Fageeh (Barakah Meets Barakah)
Best Actress – Heba Ali (Withered Green), Sarah Hannachi (Foreign Body) and Julia Kassar (Tramontane)
Best Screenplay – Clash, Withered Green and The Last of Us
Best Film – Clash, Hedi, In the Last Days of the City
Best Director – Mohammed Hamad (Withered Green), Mohamed Diab (Clash) and Alaa Eldin Selim (The Last of Us)