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The Biggest Arab Releases Heading to the El Gouna Film Festival

Egyptian rapper Ziad Zaza is in one of them!

The El Gouna Film Festival (GFF) has officially announced its selection of Arab films for its sixth edition after announcing a dynamic first wave of international films. 14 Arab films from all over the region have been chosen for the eight-day festival running from Oct. 13 to 20. Amr Salama, an acclaimed Egyptian director known for his film Sheikh Jackson, will open the festival with his short, 60 Pounds, setting the stage for the diverse selection of Arab films to follow. Read on to discover all of the documentaries, short films, and features from Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and beyond heading to this year’s El Gouna Film Festival. 

‘60 Pounds’

Amr Salama, Egypt 

Short Film

Amr Salama’s 60 Pounds marks the acting debut of one of Egypt’s most hard-hitting trap artists, Ziad Zaza. The film is based on Zaza’s hit song 60 Geneh and follows a gripping narrative surrounding the artist’s life and upbringing. The director masterfully translates the artist’s music into a captivating visual story that is both thought-provoking and emotionally resonant. The film is a part of the Short Film Competition section of the festival. 


Leila Kilani, Morocco 

Feature Narrative Competition

The film, set in El Mansouria, a town near Tangier, blends dreamlike depictions of nature with the world of the internet. The Leila Kilani-directed feature tells the story of Lina, a teenager who communicates by writing keywords and questions on her body. A selection for the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Birdland explores the intersection of nature and technology, as well as the resilience of youth.

‘Goodbye Julia’

Mohamed Kordofani, Sudan

Feature Narrative Film, Cinema for Humanity Award

Sudanese filmmaker Mohamed Kordofani’s debut feature, Goodbye Julia, which received the Cannes Film Festival‘s Un Certain Regard Freedom Prize, is set to have its Arab world premiere at GFF. Making history as the first Sudanese film to be selected for the CIFF, Goodbye Julia follows the story of Mona, a retired singer in northern Sudan, trapped in a tense marriage and plagued by guilt after covering up a murder. To make amends, she invites the deceased’s widow, Julia, and her son, Daniel, into her home. As Mona struggles to admit her transgressions to Julia, the country’s turmoil threatens to intrude into her home and bring her face-to-face with her sins..


Ibrahim Nash’at, Germany, United States

Feature Documentary

The gripping documentary, directed by Egyptian filmmaker and journalist Ibrahim Nash’at, offers fascinating insight into the world of the Taliban. As Nash’at himself is the subject of this feature, it provides a unique level of personal peril as he is tasked with documenting the activities of two prominent figures– Mawlawi Mansour, the new head of the air force, and Mukhtar, a lesser-known fighter. An eyewitness account of the takeover of a former US military base in Kabul is provided by Nash’at. 


Sonia Ben Slama,  Lebanon, Tunisia, France

Feature Documentary

Sonia Ben Slama (Maktoub) offers an intimate portrait of a mother and two daughters who work as Tunisian wedding musicians in her second feature-length documentary. It is a film that illustrates a society firmly governed by traditional social values that contrasts professional lives with personal dilemmas. 

‘The Red Sea Makes Me Wanna Cry’

Faris Alrjoob, Germany, Jordan

Short Film

In addition to its Cannes Film Festival premiere, The Red Sea Makes Me Wanna Cry will participate in the GFF’s short film competition. In this short, we follow Ida, a woman deeply affected by the disappearance of her partner, who is on a quest to find him and bid him a final farewell at the enigmatic location where he vanished.

‘Objects Are Closer Than They Appear’

Ahmed Sobhy,  Egypt

Short Film

As a result of a visa card glitch, Naeem visits his sister’s home to seek financial assistance, only to discover that she has been robbed. He is forced to confront his deep-seated feelings of self-doubt and shame as a result of this unexpected turn of events. The film has been selected for the Clermont-Ferrand International Film Festival.

The Goat’

Ilaria Borrelli, Egypt, France

Feature Narrative 

With Egyptian actor Amr Saad and American actor John Savage as the lead characters, the film tells the story of Hadiya, who is targeted by a Western corporation looking to gain control over her village’s one and only source of water. In search of her missing father, Hadiya embarks on a perilous journey through the desert accompanied by her loyal goat.

‘Sea Salt’

Leila Basma, Czech Republic, Lebanon

Short Film

Nayla, a Lebanese teenager experiencing her first taste of freedom, faces life-altering choices at the end of summer. This film has been chosen for screening at the 2023 Venice International Film Festival.

‘The Shanabs’ 

Ayten Amin, Egypt

Feature Narrative

A star-studded comedy starring Egyptian actresses Lebleba and Laila Eloui, Sawsan Badr, and Heidy Karam. The story revolves around the “Al Shanab” sisters, who reconcile their differences following the loss of a family member. 

Zinet, Alger, Le Bonheur’

Mohammed Latrèche , Algeria

Feature Documentary

Mohammed Latrèche presents a documentary about the making of the classic Algerian film Tahia Ya Didou (1970) and the memories of the late actor Mohamed Zinet. As a result, Latrèche transports viewers from the labyrinthine streets of the Casbah to the vibrant port of Algiers.

‘But Not Forgotten’

Gehad Alam Eldin, Egypt

Short Film

During the film, a 21-year-old woman must cope with her brother’s death and bid him farewell, posing the question: can a fragile bond unite them?

‘Let Us Play Yesterday’

Menna Ekram, Egypt

Short Film

Let Us Play Yesterday depicts an event where students defy established hierarchies within a convent school, creating a compelling depiction of the conflict between youthful defiance and established norms.


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