Arab cinema is truly reaching new heights.
The Cannes Film Festival, known for being the pinnacle of global cinema awards, is set to showcase an exceptional selection of Arab films this year. From gripping dramas to captivating documentaries, Arab filmmakers are ready to make their mark on the international stage, representing the region’s thriving creativity.
Firebrand by Karim Aïnouz
Firebrand by the Algerian-born Brazilian director Karim Aïnouz is a historical drama that focuses on Catherine Parr, the last wife of King Henry VIII. The plot centres around a famous case that led to the execution of two of the monarch’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Karim, known for his remarkable storytelling, brings a fresh perspective to this historical event, unravelling the intrigue, intelligence and allure of Madame du Barry as she uses her wit and charm to climb the social ladder.
Goodbye Julia by Mohamed Kordofani
Sudanese cinema is experiencing a resurgence with compelling narratives and powerful voices. Goodbye Julia tells the story of Mona, a retired singer burdened with guilt after concealing the murder of a family patriarch. Struggling to atone for her sins, Mona takes in the devastated family but finds herself unable to confess the truth. As she tries to move forward, her peace is shattered, forcing her to confront the consequences of her actions.
In Déserts by Faouzi Bensaïdi
The film follows the journey of Mehdi and Hamid, longtime friends who work for a debt collection agency. Their poor performance leads to an unexpected punishment and they are sent into the suffocating Moroccan Sahara to track down some bad payers. This thrilling and atmospheric film takes us into the harsh desert landscape, where the boundaries between the personal and the professional blur, and unexpected discoveries await.
Inshallah A Boy by Amjad Al Rasheed
The film presents a deeply human and poignant tale. After the sudden death of her husband, Nawal finds herself facing not only emotional upheaval but also the possibility of losing her home to her brother-in-law. Desperate to provide a stable life for her daughter, Nawal resorts to deception by faking a pregnancy. As time passes, the lie becomes increasingly difficult to sustain, forcing Nawal to confront a difficult choice that challenges her sense of morality and resilience.
Jeanne Du Barry by Maïwenn
Maïwenn, a French director of Algerian descent, takes the spotlight with the festival’s opening film. This historical drama delves into the life of Madame du Barry, a woman who defied social expectations and used her intelligence and allure to rise in society. The movie stars Johnny Depp and received a seven-minute standing ovation when it premiered earlier this week.
Les Filles D’Oifa by Kaouther Ben Hania
This female-led drama, featuring Egyptian-Tunisian actress Hend Sabry, explores radicalisation among the younger generation, focusing on a mother’s battle to protect her children from extreme ideologies. The film takes us on an intimate journey of hope, rebellion, violence, transmission and sisterhood – challenging the very foundations of our societies.
Les Meutes by Kamal Lazraq
This Moroccan director’s debut feature film, Les Meutes, thrusts viewers into the lives of a father-son duo who rely on petty crime to get by in Casablanca. However, their night of escapades takes a dark turn when they find themselves involved in a kidnapping. With his established reputation in short films, Lazraq’s latest endeavour promises to captivate audiences and shine a spotlight on his talent on the international cinematic stage.
Little Girl Blue by Mona Achache
Little Girl Blue is a docudrama that delves into the personal story of the French-Moroccan director’s mother. Starring the brilliant Marion Cotillard, this film offers a heartfelt exploration of identity, family, and the complexities of personal history.
Omar La Fraise by Elias Belkeddar
Omar La Fraise takes us into the world of old-school gangster Omar, who survives on small-scale scams. However, his actions catch up to him, resulting in a 20-year prison sentence. To avoid this fate, Omar must clean up his act and choose between an honest living or continuing a life of illegal and adrenaline-filled activities. Franco-Algerian filmmaker Elias Belkeddar delicately explores the struggle faced by those born into a life of crime.
Simple Comme Sylvain by Monia Chokri
Simple Comme Sylvain is a delightful romantic comedy that portrays the clash between two different worlds. Tunisian actress-turned-director Monia Chokri crafts a heartwarming tale of Sophia, the daughter of a wealthy clan, and Sylvain, the son of factory workers. Their lives are turned upside down by love, and they face familial pressure from all sides. Sophia begins to question her values, ultimately choosing to follow her heart and abandon her upbringing.
The Mother of All Lies by Asmae El Moudir
Asmae El Moudir, a talented young Moroccan filmmaker, delves into her own past and family history in The Mother of All Lies. With only one childhood photograph and doubts about her true identity, she embarks on creating a handmade replica of her Casablanca neighbourhood, unravelling the layers of deception and intentional forgetting that have shaped her life. This surreal nonfiction film confronts the difficult truth and brings it to the surface.
The Red Sea Makes Me Wanna Cry by Faris Alrjoob
This haunting film by the Jordanian director takes us on a journey with Ida, who travels to the liminal site of her partner’s disappearance. In her quest to feel his presence one last time and bid him farewell, Ida explores the depths of grief, love, and the thin veil between the physical and spiritual realms. Prepare to be moved by this introspective and emotionally resonant exploration of loss and longing.
The Arab films and filmmakers’ presence at Cannes 2023 is a moment of immense pride, symbolising the triumph of a flourishing cinematic legacy rooted in the region. These extraordinary Arab films not only entertain and enlighten but also serve as a profound reminder of the indomitable spirit and creative brilliance that continue to shape Arab storytelling.
GO: Visit www.festival-cannes.com for more information.