The Arab world’s representatives at Cannes Film Festival 


Starring: Yaqoub Alfarhan, Maria Bahrawi

Director: Tawfik Alzaidi

Last year, the Saudi-backed “Jeanne du Barry” opened the festival. This year, the Kingdom’s burgeoning film industry takes an even more significant step forward on the global stage with Saudi filmmaker Tawfik Alzaidi’s debut feature “Norah,” which will screen in the festival’s Un Certain Regard section (for “films with unusual styles and non-traditional stories seeking international recognition”). “Norah” is set in AlUla in the late Nineties and follows a teacher named Nader (Yaqoub Alfarhan), whose ambitions of becoming an artist himself are fading. But when he meets Norah (Maria Bahrawi), a young, talented girl, he does his best to help her make the most of her artistic abilities, in the hope that her country may one day embrace her self-expression. Speaking to Arab News in November, Alzaidi said: “People always say to me that this movie contains one thing above all else: the truth. I am so happy that our truth can now be told.” He added: “When audiences of the next generation see this film, I want them to remember one thing: Believe in yourself. And if you have a voice, never stop fighting for it.”

‘Everybody Loves Touda’

Starring: Nisrin Erradi, Joud Chamihy, Jalila Tlemsi

Director: Nabil Ayouch

Franco-Moroccan producer, writer and director Ayouch is no stranger to Cannes. He’s married to Moroccan filmmaker Maryam Touzani and co-wrote her 2022 Cannes entry “The Blue Caftan,” with her. Ayouch’s own “Casablanca Beats” was in competition for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s highest accolade, in 2021. Like the latter, “Everybody Loves Touda” relies heavily on Morocco’s vital music scene for inspiration. The titular character, a single mom in a provincial town, dreams of being a ‘sheikha’ — a traditional performer “empowered by the lyrics of the fierce female poets who came before her, with their songs of resistance, love and emancipation.” Touda dreams of making it big in Casablanca.

‘To A Land Unknown’

Starring: Angeliki Papoulia, Mahmood Bakri, Manal Awad

Director: Mahdi Fleifel

UAE-born Danish-Palestinian filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel has made several memorable short films about the harrowing experiences of Palestinian refugees in Europe — including “A Drowning Man” and “3 Logical Exits” — that have undoubtedly provided inspiration, and information, for this feature film. Two Palestinian cousins, Chatila and Reda, are trying to make their way from Athens to Germany, and have nearly saved enough cash to buy their fake passports when Reda, a drug addict, loses their money. Desperate to get out of their seemingly hopeless situation, Chatila hatches a dangerous plan involving hostages and the two best friends posing as smugglers.

‘Motel Destino’

Starring: Iago Xavier, Fabio Assuncao, Nataly Rocha

Director: Karim Ainouz

Ainouz — born in Brazil to an Algerian father and Brazilian mother — presents his latest feature in the festival’s Official Selection. It’s billed as an ‘erotic thriller’ and centers on the titular roadside ‘love hotel’ run by “hot-headed Elias and his restless younger wife Dayana.” When 21-year-old Heraldo arrives, on the run after an assassination he was meant to carry out went wrong, the established order of Motel Destino’s world is turned upside down as Dayana finds herself intrigued by the newcomer and decides to let him stay. “As the tropical noir plays out, loyalties and desire intertwine to reveal that destiny has its own enigmatic design,” the official blurb reads.

‘The Village Next to Paradise’

Starring: Ahmed Ali Farah, Anab Ahmed Ibrahim

Director: Mo Harawe

The Mogadishu-born Somali-Austrian filmmaker’s debut feature will screen in the festival’s Un Certain Regard section. Judging by the success of his previous shorts, which include “Will My Parents Come to See Me,” it should be worth watching. Harawe told Deadline that his movie “serves as a metaphor for a country that holds the potential for paradise were it not for the circumstances that make such a reality impossible.” “The Village Next to Paradise” is set in a remote village in Somalia, and, according to the festival’s synopsis, “revolves around a newly assembled family as its members navigate between their different aspirations and the complex world surrounding them. Love, trust and resilience will power them through their life paths.”


Four of the world’s most acclaimed directors have films debuting at Cannes this year


Francis Ford Coppola 

The five-time Oscar winner — widely regarded as an all-time great — returns with an epic sci-fi drama with a stellar cast including Adam Driver, Giancarlo Esposito, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Voight, Jason Schwartzman and Dustin Hoffman.

‘Kinds of Kindness’

Yorgos Lanthimos

Lanthimos is one of the most inventive filmmakers working today. Last year’s “Poor Things” picked up four Oscars, including Best Actress for Emma Stone, who teams up with Lanthimos again in this anthology film.

‘The Shrouds’

David Cronenberg

The Canadian filmmaker — one of the finest horror directors around — presents his latest work at Cannes this year. It’s about a technology that allows the living to monitor their deceased love ones in their “shrouds.”

‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’

George Miller

This spin-off from Miller’s excellent 2015 film “Mad Max: Fury Road” tells the origin story of Imperator Furiosa (played in “Fury Road” by Charlize Theron, and here by Anya Taylor-Joy), kidnapped as a child by a biker horde and determined to find her way home.

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