Arabic Films You Must Watch on the International Women’s Day
The 8th of March marks a very significant day for all of humanity. It’s the International Women’s Day, so roll your sleeves up, ladies, and show them who you are. It’s no competition, but let’s face it, the universe just won’t work without women. We’re an essential half of the population, we bring up generations of both strong men and women, we make history, and we change the world.
Media plays an important role in shaping our thoughts and perceptions of life, and the film industry, in particular, is held accountable. Most movies grant women secondary roles; they’re either the princesses waiting to be saved, the victim, or the lover waiting for Prince Charming to complete her. But what about our side of the story? Why don’t get to be given a voice? We are the heroines of our own stories and our voices deserve to be heard.
Here are Arabic films that did us, women, some justice. The following films tell the stories of everyday women like you and me that are striving, struggling, and most importantly, surviving.
This 2011 production directed by Amr Salama and starring Hend Sabry tackles one of the major taboos in our society. Asmaa, a woman diagnosed with AIDS, fights not just the deadly disease, but also the society’s perceptions. Not wanting to help her out because of her condition, Asmaa’s gall bladder becomes a ticking bomb that’s expected to kill her before AIDS does.
Watch the award-winning film’s trailer here.
Saudia Arabia’s very first feature film is the work of art of Director Haifaa Al-Mansour. The 2013 production tells the story of Wadjda, a young rebellious Saudi school girl doing everything she can to buy her dream bicycle. The film was nominated for multiple prestigious awards and proudly won The Audience Award at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Watch the trailer here.
Fatat El Masnaa’
As it may at first seem like a film about a 21-year-old girl’s infatuation with a handsome hunk, the plot takes a different turn when factory girl, Hiyam, played by Yasmin Raeis, has to take control of her own fate. The Mohamed Khan 2013 film premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival. It was also selected as the Egyptian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, however, it was not nominated.
Watch the trailer here.
The Lebanese rom-com is directed by none other than Nadine Labaki who also happens to be the main character, Layale. The story takes place at a beauty salon in Beirut that Layale owns where each of the women’s stories is exposed and together they search for answers. Caramel got nominated for several international awards; for the trailer, click here.
Kaff El Amar
Even though you might think the five sons are the heroes of the story, Gamar, played by Wafaa Amer, is the real heroine here. The loving mother is the core of her torn down house that brings her sons back together. Watch Khaled Youssef’s film’s trailer here.
Tackling another taboo, 678 sheds light on sexual harassment in Egypt and how women from different classes find their way out and get their voices heard. The Mohamed Diab 2010 film stars Bushra, Nelly Karim, Nahed El Sebaei, and many more of the country’s most prominent actors. The film, internationally known as Cairo 678, earned the Top Prize in the Dubai International Film Festival in the Muhr Arab category. Take a glimpse of the dramatic feature here.
The film, directed by Mai Masri, tells the story of Layal, a Palestinian forced by the unfortunate circumstances to give birth to her son at an Israeli prison. The strong mother fights for her baby’s life and stands up for herself against all odds. The dramatic film was screened at TIFF’s Contemporary World Cinema section back in 2015. It was also selected as the Jordanian entry for the Best Foreign Language film at the 89th Academy Awards but wasn’t nominated. Don’t miss the gripping film’s trailer.
Yom Lel Setat
Director Kamlah Abu Zekri’s Yom Lel Setat is quite obvious from its title. When a new swimming pool in a Cairene neighborhood dedicates Sundays for women only, bringing together all the ladies of the area focuses on three of their stories. Click here to watch the award-winning film’s trailer.
The Guest: Aleppo – Istanbul
The film that both stars and is produced by Jordanian Actress Saba Mubarak sheds light on the refugee crisis. The heartwrenching storyline is about Lena, a Syrian child who lost her family in the war, who seeks refuge in Turkey accompanied by her toddler sister and their neighbor, Mariam, starring Mubarak. What’s quite impressive is that apart from Mubarak, the cast is entirely made up of real Syrian refugees who acted for the first time in their lives. Check out the award-winning film’s trailer here.