Amid all the striking drama in Hollywood this year, the stage was set for other countries to shine on the red carpet of the various international film festivals this year.
The Toronto International Film Festival saw 10 Arab entries this year, here’s a walkthrough of the films with no major spoilers:
‘After the Fire’ – France
Second-generation immigrants in France have been rioting for months now in response to alienation and racism perpetrated by the French government. Directed by France’s Mehdi Fikri, the movie follows one Arab family who lost a son in these protests as they try to get justice amidst some of the worst unrest seen in France in decades.
‘Bye Bye Tiberias’ – Palestine
Renowned actress, Hiam Abbass and her daughter return to the holy land after years of traveling away to pursue her acting career. You may remember Hiam in Succession along with a slew of roles in Hollywood. In the film, you learn more about her personal story and that of her mother and grandmother, and how each generation is tied together through identity struggles and the Palestinian diaspora. The film is directed by Palestinian-Algerian filmmaker, Lina Soualem.
‘Four Daughters’ – Tunis
Based on a real-life story of sisters who become swayed by extremism and leave their working-class mother (played by Hend Sabry) to join The Islamic State Militants. Directed by Tunisia’s Kaouther Ben Hania this movie explores themes of conflict, transition, and hope in the face of difficult odds.
‘Hajjan’ – Egypt
Hajjan is the name used for racing camels and as this sport is well engrained in our Arab culture, annual races in different regions or tribal confederations can be a source of great pride and bragging rights. This Egyptian rite of passage story of a young man seeking to get even brought to you by the acclaimed Egyptian writer/director Abu Bakr Shawky who created the touching “Yomeddine” movie in 2018.
‘Inshallah A Boy’ – Jordan
As the sole breadwinner passes away, a widow and her daughter struggle to make ends meet as the in-laws use the inheritance laws to take everything for themselves. Directed by Jordan’s Amjad Al Rasheed, the story is sadly echoed across much of the Arab world where according to Islamic inheritance law, male sons get to inherit their fathers. If there is no male offspring, uncles supersede daughters and other female relatives to safeguard their interests but in practice, some maliciously take advantage this law. Palestinian actress, Mouna Hawa tells this story highlighting the difficulties widows face in various Arab nations.
‘Mandoob’ – KSA
There’s no business like the fast-food business, and working as a delivery employee in never-ending shifts to make some cash to help out the family is the Saudi story of Mandoob. Saudi director, Ali Kalthami, presents a new point of view of Saudi Arabia after hours, while the protagonist engages in side hustles to earn more money against the Kingdom’s changing nightlife scene.
‘NAGA’ – KSA
Who hasn’t discreetly left home behind their parents’ back for a date that turns sour? Stranding you in the middle desert with an angry camel in a race against time to be home before curfew, we’ve all been there, right? Naga is another entry from Saudi Arabia telling the story of a girl in Riyadh (played by
Adwa Bader) who goes through this ordeal, written and directed by Saudi’s Meshal Al Jaser.
‘Sisterhood’ – France/Morrocco
The ‘Me Too Movement’ ought to have made things easier for women to report their abusers. But that’s not the case with this story about three friends who banded together to expose someone who targeted them, where social pressure, class struggle, and inequality put pressure on their actions and friendship too. This Moroccan and French production by Morrocoo’s Nora El Hourch highlights how victims who speak out are not all equal with social standing playing a part in how the story progresses.
‘The Mother of All Lies’ – Morrocco
If there are no videos or pictures of an event, can we trust our memories to recall the way things went down? Part film, part documentary, this movie delves into a family’s story against the backdrop of the 1981 Bread Riots in Casablanca and how these events resonate with present times by Moroccan filmmaker Asmae ElMoudir.
‘The Teacher’ UK/Palestine
Teachers have an unwritten obligation to their students both inside and outside the classroom at times, but what happens when this obligation gets entangled with politics and national causes? Egyptian writer and director Farah Nabulsi tells the story of a teacher trying to rescue a kidnapped student of his in this gripping drama set against the backdrop of Palestine.
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