The Arab World Sees Strong Representation at Cannes

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From "Room For a Man" by Lebanese director Anthony Chidiac | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

The world’s most high-profile and widely publicized film festival is underway in Cannes, France, where Hollywood’s A-listers have gathered to premiere forthcoming blockbusters by top directors like Jodie Foster (Money Monster), Steven Spielberg (The BFG), and Woody Allen (Cafe Society). The 69th annual Cannes Film Festival is not only a red carpet extravaganza of glitz and glamour, but it’s also the launch point for under-the-radar directors to be discovered and distributed to a broader audience.

Cannes’ Le Marché du Film is a film market event that takes place alongside the screening portion of the festival, and this year it is the location of two showcases that are shining a spotlight on the Arab world: “Dubai Goes to Cannes” presented by the Dubai Film Festival, and “Lebanon Goes to Cannes” presented by Fondation Liban Cinema. The Middle East’s film market is the fastest growing in the world – a reality which is underscored by the fact that Le Marché du Film is showcasing more Arab films than it ever has before.

From the “Dubai Goes to Cannes” selection come four “work-in-progress” films ranging from politically charged thrillers like Fish Killed Twice by Fawzi Saleh, about two young men on death row in post-Mubarak Egypt, and the much-anticipated work of Yousry Nasrallah entitled Brooks, Meadows, and Lovely Faces, which revolves around a family of cooks in Egypt who struggle to overcome social constraints. Munich: A Palestinian Story by Nasri Hajjaj and 4 Seasons, 2 Brothers, and a Border by Maisa Safadi are also part of the special Dubai Film Market showcase premiering on Monday.

The “Lebanon Goes to Cannes” selection includes Fallen From the Sky, which is the film debut of Beirut-based documentary filmmaker, Wissam Charaf, who happens to be an alumni of the Sundance Institute’s Rawi Screenwriters Lab in Jordan. His hotly anticipated film tells the story of two brothers, one of whom was presumed dead, and resurfaces to the shock of his sibling. Another film that is generating interest is Elele by the independent documentary film maker from Beirut, Soula Saad. In her words, the film represents “The Unheard Feminine voice of the Middle East. 28 inspiring women who dare to speak up. Often hidden, silenced, and unexposed, Middle Eastern women are here speaking up to the interpellation.” Room for a Man by Anthony Chidiac, One of these Days by Nadim Tabet, and Beirut Terminus by Elie Kamal are also part of the Lebanese film showcase presented by Fondation Liban Cinema.

Additionally, the festival’s “Un Certain Section” opened with an Arabic film for the first time in 15 years. Clash, by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab, is generating a lot of buzz around the festival. Diab describes his controversial film, saying, “[It] unfolds inside a prisoner transport vehicle, carrying detainees from all walks of life — activists, Islamists, and military supporters. In the course of a hellish day, they are forced to see one another beyond the stereotypes and discover each other’s humanity.”

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