Five films with roots in the MENA we hope to watch in Cannes

From Palestinian Oscar-nominated filmmaker Basil Khalil's much anticipated first feature, to 'Papicha' director Mounia Meddour's latest project, we are hoping these titles will be featured on the Croisette this year.
Five films with roots in the MENA we hope to watch in Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival is just around the corner, running from May 17-28, 2022. Their official selection will be unveiled on April 14th, but we thought we'd share a few of our favourites which we've been following since they've started production. Of course, ours is a woman-centric selection -- 60 percent women filmmakers out of the five titles. Not bad... if only festivals could achieve that!

DON JUAN by Serge Bozon

(France, 2022)

Stellar duo Virginie Efira and Tahar Rahim (pictured above) are featured in Serge Bozon's latest, which is almost a sure thing for this year's Directors' Fortnight. This is Bozon’s 4th feature film after France and Tip Top, both well-received at the Directors’ Fortnight in 2007 and 2013 respectively, and Mrs. Hyde which featured in competition in Locarno in 2017. Also featured in this musical are singer Alain Chamfort, Belgium’s Damien Chapelle and Jehnny Beth fresh from Paris, 13th District. The choreographies are by Christian Rizzo.

The story is co-written by Bozon with frequent collaborator Axelle Ropert, and revolves around Laurent who is jilted on his wedding day and then goes on a wild quest for pleasure, with an unusual seduction technique. But Laurent is an actor rehearsing for Don Juan… and soon duty calls.

A GAZA WEEKEND by Basil Khalil

(Palestine, UK, 2022)

Perhaps our most anticipated title on this list, if not for the very reason that it appears to be the most actual here. Even if the idea of this film came to the filmmaker more than ten years ago, and when no Covid pandemic was in sight it is perfect for right now, promises to be funny and we can't wait to watch it. The synopsis on the British Film Council site reads: "A new epidemic of a mutant virus breaks out in Israel, and the country is cut off from the rest of the world by land, air and sea. As a result Israel is in a state of chaos, and the people stranded there are willing to do anything in order to get out. The Gaza strip however, is the only uninfected place due to the separation wall..." The film stars British actor Stephen Mangan along with Mouna Hawa, Maria Zreik, Adam Bakri and Samer Bisharat. It could be good fit for Un Certain Regard, Inshallah.

'Houria' by Mounia Meddour
HOURIA by Mounia Meddour

(France, Algeria, 2022)

After her critics' loved Papicha which screened in Un Certain Regard 2019) Mounia Meddour is back, and once again collaborating with her spellbinding leading lady, Lyna Khoudri. Also written by the director, the film is set in Algiers where Houria, a young and talented dancer in the making, is violently attacked by a former terrorist and ends up in hospital. Needless to say, now that her career dreams are shattered, she must then accept and love her new body. Surrounded by a community of women, Houria will find meaning in her life by inscribing dance in the reconstruction and sublimation of wounded bodies. This is probably a good fit for Un Certain Regard competition.

'Among Us' by Sofia Alaoui
AMONG US (OUM) by Sofia Alaoui

(Morocco, 2022)

There is big noise around the debut feature by the Moroccan filmmaker noticed for her multi-award winning short So What If the Goats Die which won Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2020, as well as a Priz César for best short film. Hailed as "a mystical journey into contemporary Morocco, between social drama and science fiction," Alaoui has brought together first timer Oumaïma Barid, with Mehdi Dehbi, Fouad Oughaou, and Souad Khouyi. Also penned by Alaoui, the screenplay centers on Itto, 22 and newly married, who lives with her parents-in-law with her husband during her pregnancy. As the pregnancy comes to an end, a supernatural event will upset their daily life. About it, the filmmaker said "Even though it borrows from the codes of science-fiction cinema, I want this film to be, above all, mystical." It is a favourite for Un Certain Regard.

'Nezouh' by Soudade Kaadan
NEZOUH by Soudade Kaadan

(Syria, 2022)

This is a project which passed by the Atelier of the Cinéfondation in 2019 after Kaadan's first oeuvre, the award-winning film The Day I Lost My Shadow premiered in Venice in 2018 and won the Lion of the Future Orizzonti prize. The story takes place in the context of the Syrian conflict, in Damascus, where young Zena lives with her family in an area about to be bombed. Her father makes the firm decision to stay at home, not leave like all the others. With little time left, Zena and her mother Hara must make their own, very difficult decision. We see this in Critics' Week as Kaadan's work is something that needs to be cherished, with leisure, away from the hustle and bustle of the main competitions.

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