10 Arab Releases Heading to the Toronto International Film Festival 2023

including three world premieres from Saudi Arabia

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has unveiled its full lineup for its 48th edition, scheduled to take place from Sept. 7 to 17. Despite the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, which have brought productions across the globe to a grinding halt as negotiations for a fair deal continue with producers and studio heads, this year’s festival has managed to deliver an exciting and jam-packed lineup of films to look forward to (although most onscreen talent may not be present to promote their films).

Since its founding in 1976, TIFF has gone on to become one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the world today, and is second only to Cannes when it comes to influence and buzz. Being recognized at TIFF is a great indicator of success during awards season, with past recipients of the annual festival’s People’s Choice Award— which is based on audience votes — going on to win an Oscar, such as Jojo Rabbit, La La Land, and Slumdog Millionaire, among others.

Thus, being selected to premiere or screen one of your films during the 10-day film fest is a pretty big deal for directors and filmmakers. This year, moviegoers can expect a diverse slate of features, including a wide range of films by Arab directors, including Hajjan by Egyptian filmmaker Abu Bakr Shawky (Yommedine), which is making its world premiere in Toronto next month. The Saudi film, that revolves around the world of Bedouin camel racing, isn’t the only feature from the Kingdom premiering at TIFF. Meshal Aljaser’s first feature film NAGA, about a young woman stranded in the desert who needs to get home before curfew or face punishment from her strict father, will be screening under the festival’s Midnight Madness section.

Read on for all of the films by Arab filmmakers due to screen at the 48th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival to look forward to.

‘Defiant’ by Karim Amer

Renowned filmmaker Karim Amer, known for his Oscar-nominated work on The Square, obtains exclusive behind-the-scenes access to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and influential figures within the administration. Together, they valiantly battle Russia’s invasion by actively countering disinformation, striving to protect their country.

‘Four Daughters’ by Kaouther Ben Hania

In Four Daughters, Kaouther Ben Hania paints a gripping picture of a mother’s anguish as her daughters become entangled with extremism. Based on a real-life story, the film features Tunisian actress Hind Sabri as Olfa Hamrouni, a Tunisian housekeeper in her forties from a poor background, who has seen her two teenage daughters become radicalized, run away, join Daesh in Libya and end up imprisoned there following an American attack.

‘Hajjan’ by Abu Bakr Shawky

Director Abu Bakr Shawky brings us a rebellious and legendary coming-of-age journey, immersed in the high-stakes universe of Bedouin camel racing.

‘Mandoob’ by Ali Kalthami

In Ali Kalthami’s darkly comedic feature debut, we explore the rarely witnessed ultra-modern Saudi nightlife through the story of an exhausted delivery app driver in Riyadh who ventures into bootlegging as an attempt to break free from his overworked routine.

‘NAGA’ by Meshal Aljaser

A young woman finds herself stranded in the desert, racing against the clock to reach home before curfew, knowing that her terrifyingly strict father could impose severe consequences if she fails, in this thriller directed by Meshal Aljaser.

‘Sisterhood’ by Nora El Hourch

In this film by French-Moroccan director Nora El Hourch, three close teenage girls, who share an unbreakable bond, grapple with the consequences of a significant event that exposes the disparities in their racial backgrounds, social statuses, and cultural advantages, putting their seemingly indestructible friendship at risk.

‘The Mother of All Lies’ by Asmae El Moudir

In this award-winning film, Asmae El Moudir delves into her family’s history and the tumultuous events surrounding the 1981 Bread Riots in Casablanca with no archive footage or photographs to rely on.

‘The Teacher’ by Farah Nabulsi

In the compelling debut feature by writer-director Farah Nabulsi, the intertwined challenges faced by a Palestinian schoolteacher coping with the loss of his son and an American couple’s desperate quest to rescue their son from kidnappers drive the narrative forward.

‘After the Fire’ by Mehdi Fikri

Mehdi Fikri’s gripping debut film, which is making its world premiere in TIFF, unfurls with a gradual and intense build-up, as a mourning family embarks on a relentless pursuit of justice following the tragic police killing of a young man in the suburbs of Strasbourg, France.

‘Bye Bye Tiberias’ by Lina Soualem

Hiam Abbass (known for Succession) reverts to her roots after leaving Palestine to pursue her acting career. Accompanied by her daughter, filmmaker Lina Soualem, this poignant documentary delves into the lives of four generations of women, examining their collective heritage of separation and the intimate connections that bind them.

Share this article

Related stories