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The Buzziest MENA Filmmakers Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival 2024

From AlUla to Casablanca: MENA filmmakers make waves at Cannes

The 2024 Cannes Film Festival has officially unveiled its highly-anticipated lineup for its 77th edition, scheduled to get underway in the South of France from May 15 to 25. With a stellar mix of acclaimed veterans and rising stars, the 10-day long festival is set to be a cinematic feast.

Alongside the main event, Cannes Critics Week steps into the spotlight, shedding a light on emerging talents during its 63rd edition running from May 15 to 23. Led by artistic director Ava Cahen, this year’s lineup boasts 11 handpicked features from a staggering pool of 1,050 submissions. With seven films battling it out for top honors and nine making their debut bid for the prestigious Camera d’Or, the stakes are higher than ever.

Amidst all of the glitz and glamor, regional filmmakers are also making a buzz with their titles. From Saudi Arabia’s historic Cannes debut to a gripping exploration of the questionable early years of Donald Trump, here’s a sneak peek at six Middle Eastern filmmakers set to steal the show at La Croisette next month. 


Making its debut in the prestigious Un Certain Regard section, Saudi director Tawfik Alzaidi’s inaugural film marks a historic moment for local cinema at the Cannes Film Festival. Titled Norah, this gripping drama unfolds in 1990s Saudi Arabia, tracing the transformative journey of two unlikely individuals whose fateful encounter alters the course of their lives. As Nader, a new teacher, arrives in a remote village, he crosses paths with the titular Norah, whose curiosity and courage ignite a spark of inspiration within him. Drawn to each other, Norah begins to question the confines of her familiar world, propelling both characters into uncharted territory.

Penned by Alzaidi himself, Norah received acclaim and support from the Saudi Film Commission’s Daw Film Competition, a testament to its groundbreaking narrative and cinematic vision. Notably, Norah stands as the first Saudi feature film to be entirely shot in the breathtaking AlUla region, further elevating its significance as a milestone in Saudi Arabian filmmaking.

‘Motel Destino’

Algerian-Brazilian filmmaker Karim Ainouz, known for his electrifying thriller Firebrand featuring Alicia Vikander and Jude Law, returns to Cannes with his latest creation. Titled Motel Destino this provocative film marks Ainouz’s eighth venture into fiction and promises an intimate exploration of youth ensnared by a suffocating elite. Set against a backdrop of simmering tension, Motel Destino delves into the tumultuous journey of a young man embroiled in a relentless battle against oppression. At its core, the film weaves a gripping tale of love and defiance, where the protagonist’s fight for survival intertwines with a woman’s courageous stand against patriarchal forces.

‘The Apprentice’ 

Another contender in the competition section is The Apprentice, a biographical drama helmed by Iranian-Dutch director Ali Abbasi. This film delves into the formative years of Donald Trump’s career as a real estate magnate in 1970s and 80s New York City. At its core, The Apprentice focuses on the intricate relationship between Trump and his mentor, Roy Cohn, delving into themes of power dynamics and moral corruption. Featuring an ensemble cast including Sebastian Stan as Trump, Jeremy Strong as Cohn, and Maria Bakalova as Ivana Trump, The Apprentice offers a captivating glimpse into the origins of one of modern history’s most polarizing figures.

‘Everybody Loves Touda’ 

Set to grace the Cannes Premier section, Everybody Loves Touda by French-Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch tells the poignant tale of Shaeirat, a young singer and poet, navigating life’s challenges in a small village while raising her deaf-mute son. As she dreams of a brighter future in Casablanca, Shaeirat embarks on a journey filled with aspirations of fame and security for her child. However, the bustling streets of Casablanca prove to be more daunting than she anticipated, presenting Shaeirat with obstacles that test her resilience and determination. 

Co-written by Nabil Ayouch and his wife Maryam Touzani, both renowned figures in the film industry, Everybody Loves Touda is a raw and compelling tale of hope and perseverance. This cinematic gem follows in the footsteps of Ayouch and Touzani’s previous collaboration, The Blue Kaftan, which made waves at Cannes in 2022. With accolades including the Fipresci prize and a historic Oscar nomination, The Blue Kaftan set the bar high for Moroccan cinema, solidifying Ayouch and Touzani’s reputation as master storytellers.

‘Across The Sea’

French-Moroccan director Saïd Hamich Benlarbi’s second feature Across The Sea will get a special screening slot. Produced by Barney Production, the 1990s-set melodrama stars Grégoire Colin, Anna Mouglalis, and Ayoub Gretaa and follows the clandestine life of a Moroccan immigrant in Marseille over a decade.

‘The Brink Of Dreams’

Set to grace the prestigious Cannes Film Festival’s Critics’ Week, The Brink of Dreams (original title: Rafaat Einy El Sama) represents a groundbreaking achievement for Egyptian cinema. Handpicked by the esteemed three-time Artistic Director of the festival, Ava Cahen, this documentary marks a significant milestone for directors Nada Riyadh and Ayman El Amir.

The Brink of Dreams delves into the empowering journey of a group of young Coptic women as they challenge societal norms through their all-female theater troupe. The coming-of-age drama explores their courageous quest to break free from traditional constraints, embracing their journey towards womanhood with unbridled passion and determination.

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