Four Arab Films Are Joining the Oscars Race This Year

From Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, and Morocco

There’s not one, but four movies from the region being considered for the prestigious Academy Award. Egypt has selected Omar Hilal’s newest release  Voy Voy Voy as its entry for the Oscars Best International Feature Film award, while Yemen has selected director Amr Gamal’s The Burdened. Tunisia joins the race with Kaouther Ben Hania’s Four Daughters, and last but not least, Morocco has selected Asmae El Moudir’s documentary The Mother of All Lies

The four films are now going to be considered for the shortlist, and if the titles get shortlisted, they could get nominated for an Academy Award. 

Based on real events, Voy Voy Voy is a dramatic comedy that tells the interesting tale of Hassan, played by Egyptian actor Mohammed Farag, a security guard living an impoverished life with his mother. However, he finds salvation in his dreary existence through joining a visually-impaired football team, as they embark on a journey to winning the World Cup in Europe. The plot twist is that Hassan doesn’t actually suffer from vision problems, and therefore has to pretend to be visually impaired, and that’s when things get interesting. The film features a humorous Egyptian cast that includes Bayoumi Fouad, Taha Desouky, Amjad al-Haggar, Hanan Youssef, Mohamed Abdel-Azim, and Haggag Abdel-Azim, alongside guest star Nelly Karim.

The Burdened is also based on a true story that took place in Aden,Yemen in 2019. The storyline revolves around a couple named Israa and Ahmed, who are struggling to lead a normal life and educate their three young children. When Israa becomes pregnant they have to make difficult decisions about the family’s future.

Throughout Ben Hania’s Four Daughters, we witness a mother’s anguish as her daughters become entangled in extremism. Based on a real-life story, Hind Sabri plays Olfa Hamrouni, a Tunisian housekeeper in her forties, who has watched her two teenage daughters become radicalized, run away, join Daesh in Libya, and end up in jail after an American attack. This year was Ben Hania’s first entry— and the only Arab entry— for the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize. 

Previously screened at Cannes earlier this year, The Mother of All Lies tells a gripping story of a massacre in Casablanca through interviews with the director’s family and neighbors. In 1981, El Moudir’s hometown witnessed historic bread riots that inspired the documentary. Cannes awarded the film the coveted L’Oeil d’Or (Golden Eye) prize for best documentary (alongside Four Daughters). 

The deadline for submissions to the Best International Feature Film category is Oct. 2. The list of nominees will be unveiled on Dec. 21, followed by the announcement of the final nominees on Jan. 23, leading up to the grand ceremony slated for March 10, 2024.


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