We predicted it, 2021 might just be the year of Arab cinema. The line-up at Berlin Film Festival is the latest example of it.
In an online-only event (in-cinema screenings have been postponed until June) the 71st edition of the festival is set to includes six Arab films, four of which are directed by women. The selected films are but a reflection of a growing generation of female Arab filmmakers who are overhauling the region’s film industry.
And they’re finally getting the spotlight they deserve. From Egypt to Palestine, these are the Arab films heading to Berlin Film Festival.
Egyptian director Ayten Amin’s coming of age teen drama was also screened at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. Featuring an entire cast of nonprofessional actors, Souad reflects on the realities of growing up in a conservative society as a female teenager. The film tells the story of two social media obsessed, carefree sisters, Rabab and Souad, as they experiment with makeup, seduction and intimacy.
Lebanese director Eliane Raheb’s docudrama is a cathartic introspection of the life of a queer man who flees Lebanon to Spain in his early twenties, due to conflicts over his religious and sexual identity. 37 years later, he returns to his home country and confronts his tormented past.
As I Want
Emerging Palestinian filmmaker Samaher Alqadi directs a hard-hitting political film for her feature-length documentary. As I Want follows Alqadi from joining a crowd of protesters in the streets of Cairo two years after the Arab Spring, to confronting dark childhood memories on a visit to her parent’s house in Ramallah, all the way to giving birth to her first child.
Directed by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, the Lebanese couple behind The Lebanese Rocket Society, the film will see its world premiere at this edition of Berlin Film Festival. Starring The English Patient’s Rim Turki and Netflix’s Nocturama actress Manal Issa, the film follows the story of teenager Alex, who lives together with her mother Maia in Montreal. Alex’s curiosity leads her to go through her mother’s memory box, only to unveil a troubled adolescence spent in wartime Beirut, an era that the film directors themselves have experienced.
Seven Years Around the Nile Delta
The Egyptian film directed by Sharief Zohairy is an eight-year-long cinematic travelogue documenting everyday life in 32 cities and villages of the ecologically endangered area of the Nile Delta. The project started just after the Egyptian revolution in 2011 and is inspired by Zohairy’s journey between Alexandria and his birth place Al-Zarqa, a come and go he used to do with his father everyday.
Death of a Virgin, and the Sin of Not Living
Lebanese director George Peter Barbari’s debut feature film deconstructs myths surrounding masculine rites of passage. The story highlights the experience of four young men as they travel to visit a sex worker for the first time, unveiling their inner fears and longings.