14 Arab films that made it to the Venice International Film Festival this year

From August 31 to September 10, the Venice International Film Festival hosted everything from celebrity dramas (Is Chris Pines okay? Everyone asked about him) to in-depth workshops and discussions and involved in the film industry. We’ve compiled a list of Arab films that have walked the glamorous red carpet in Venice…

MY GIRLFRIEND Kawthar Younis, Egypt

‘My Girlfriend’ – directed by Egyptian filmmaker Kawthar Younis and starring Marc Haggar, Elham Safieddine, Fadel El Garhy and Sonia Farid – is the first Egyptian film to compete in the ‘Orizzonti Cortometraggi Concorso’ (Italian for ‘Horizons Short Film Competition‘ ), an international competition that highlights films representative of the latest aesthetic trends. The plot revolves around a romantic relationship exploring the complexity and effect of gender roles in intimate dynamics.

NEZOUHSoudade Kaadan, Syria

Winner of the audience award at the extra Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival, the Syrian film “Nezouh” stars Kinda Alloush and Samer Al Masri, and is directed by Syrian filmmaker Soudade Kaadan. The film tackles the family dynamics within the Syrian war city, where the choice between fleeing or clinging to the remains of a house becomes inevitable.

LAND OF WOMEN Nada Riad, Egypt

Set in a village on the Nile coast of Egypt, “Land of Women” is a hybrid documentary directed by Nada Riad that follows seven rebellious teenage girls as they form a street theater troupe. Still under construction, the film has been selected for the festival’s Final Cut workshop, dedicated to financing films in Africa and the Arab world.

A FIDAI FILMKamal Al-Jaafari, Palestine

Directed by Palestinian filmmaker Kamal Al-Jaafari, “A Fidai Film” was selected in the Final Cut workshop. The film revolves around the historical looting of a Palestinian research center in Beirut in 1982, which resulted in the loss of archives, images, films and documents. The film revolves around the notion of memory loss in the occupation.

SUSPENDED Myriam Al-Hajj, Lebanon

Directed by Lebanese filmmaker Myriam Al-Hajj, this Lebanese documentary won two prizes at the Final Cut workshop. The film – which is still in production – follows the journeys of Lebanese activists Joumana Haddad and Perla-Joe Maalouli in 2018 to the explosion in Beirut in 2022.

BEHIND THE SCENES Afef Ben Mahmoud & Khalil Benkirane, Morocco

After members of a contemporary dance troupe, ‘Backstage’ – co-directed by Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane – was selected in the festival’s Final Cut workshop.

BLACK LIGHT Karim Ben Salah, Algeria

‘Black Light’ – directed by Algerian filmmaker Karim Ben Salah – won a €15,000 prize in the Final Cut workshop. The film’s plot follows an Algerian student living in France as he faces deportation.

INSHALLAH A BOY Amjad Al-Rasheed, Jordan

Directed by Jordanian filmmaker Amjad Al-Rasheed, “Inshallah A Boy” entered and won a €5,000 prize at the Final Cut workshop. The work in progress tells the story of Nawal, a woman mourning the death of her husband, who discovers that she may lose her home due to inheritance law complications.

HANGING GARDENS Ahmed Yassin Al Daradjii, Iraq

Set in post-war Baghdad, “Hanging Gardens” follows two brothers orphaned by conflict, who find themselves surviving poverty by picking up trash. The film is directed by Iraqi filmmaker Ahmed Yassin Al Daradjii and co-produced by Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy among others, and was part of the Orizzonti Extra competition.

FOR MY COUNTRYRachid Hami, Algeria, Morocco

‘For My Country’ by Algerian filmmaker Rachid Hami has been selected in the festival’s Orizzonti competition. The film revolves around a young policeman of Algerian origin murdered during an initiation ritual at the French military school of Saint-Cyr.

QUEENS Yasmine Benkiran, Morocco

‘Queens’ was the closing film of the festival’s Critics’ Week. Directed by Moroccan filmmaker Yasmine Benkiran, the film tells the story of a trio of women fleeing police forces and embarking on a journey where they explore freedom and encounter patriarchy in Morocco.

FIVE SEASONS OF THE REVOLUTION Lina, Syria

“Five Seasons of Revolution” – a work in progress – follows Lina, a woman passionate about documenting her personal life, until conflict in Syria erupts, leading her to document her upheaval instead. Directed by a Syrian filmmaker known only as Lina, the film was selected for the Venice Gap-Financing Market, a fund for promising projects in development around the world.

THE 67TH SUMMER Abu Bakr Shawky, Egypt

Directed by Egyptian-Austrian filmmaker Abu Bakr Shawky – known for the award-winning film “Yomeddine” – “The 67th Summer” was among the shortlisted films at the Venice Gap-Financing Market.

FATNA, A WOMAN CALLED RACHIDHélène Harder, Morocco

“Fatna, a Woman Called Rachid” by Moroccan filmmaker Hélène Harder is a documentary about a former Moroccan political prisoner in the 1970s as she is released from incarceration and explores the changes in Moroccan society.

Darcy J. Skinner