It might only be September but Oscar buzz has already begun. Sure, the show won’t have a host this year (in case you forgot: Kevin Hart withdrew after Twitter pulled out receipts of him making homophobic statements), but next year’s ceremony is cementing the region’s place on the international film circuit.
Arab countries are already making their selections for submissions and by the looks of it, a few might even stand a chance at snagging a nomination for Best International Feature Film, formerly known as the Best Foreign Language Film category.
Last year saw director Nadine Labaki represent Lebanon with her acclaimed film ‘Capernaum’ and Syria was front and centre with Talal Derki’s nomination for ‘Of Fathers and Sons’, but this year we may see Palestine, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia at the forefront.
To give you an idea of what to look forward to, these are the films in the running so far:
‘It Must be Heaven’ by Elia Suleiman
The comedy, which was the only Arab film nominated for the Palme D’Or at Cannes this year is Palestine’s official submission. The film sees Suleiman playing the role of ‘E.S.’—a man who finds himself struggling with displacement as he leaves his homeland in search of another place to call home.
‘Adam’ by Maryam Touzani
First screened at the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Adam has officially been selected as the Moroccan entry for the Oscars. The film, which marks Touzani’s directorial debut tells the story of a woman named Abla who runs a bakery in Casablanca whose life is interrupted after an unmarried pregnant woman knocks on her door.
‘Poisonous Roses’ by Ahmad Fazi Saleh
Set in a poor Cairo neighbourhood, the film snagged the festival’s Best Arab Film Award at Cairo Film Festival and is officially Egypt’s submission for this year’s Academy Awards. The Egyptian drama puts the spotlight on the impoverished lives of those living in the neighbourhood, but in particular, the life of a young man named Taheya, who’s ultimate goal is to convince his brother not to escape their dire situation.
‘Weldi’ by Mohammed Ben Attia
Directed by Mohamed ben Attia, Weldi made its debut at Cannes in 2018, and has been at the receiving end of much critical acclaim since then. The film is a story familiar to many Tunisians, centred around a young man leaving his family behind to join ISIS, but rather than putting the focus on him, Attia shifts the lens towards his loved ones.