Over the past couple of years, Arab cinema has been growing its presence at the Cannes Film Festival, showcasing work from Lebanon, Egypt, and even Saudi Arabia. Notable mention goes to GQ’s Woman of the Year Nadine Labaki and her film Capharnaüm, which won the Jury Prize in 2018. This year, the region celebrates yet another proud moment.
While the 73rd Cannes Film Festival cancellation might serve as grim news to cinephiles, the festival shared its 2020 lineup nonetheless. This year, the festival is omitting its usual competition for awards such as the Palm d’Or, but is dividing the selection into two: The Newcomers, and The Faithful, which comprises previously screened films. The lineup amounts to 56 international films, but here’s what you should know about the three Middle Eastern productions who’ve earned this year’s Cannes seal of approval.
ADN (DNA) - Directed by Maïwenn
The French-Algerian film follows Neige, a French woman who must deal with her identity crisis and her extended family after the death of her Algerian grandfather. The drama film explores the director’s own struggles with her complicated family roots. ADN isn’t Maïwenn’s Cannes or directorial debut. The actress, who played roles in films such as Léon: The Professional, has directed several other French films in the past. In 2011, her film Polisse won the Cannes Jury Prize.
Souad - Directed by Ayten Amin
After Souad’s sudden suicide, her younger sister is left with unanswered questions. The Egyptian drama follows her emotional journey and explores real-life social dynamics that lead to depression and suicide. This is Amin’s first Cannes selection, but the filmmaker is known for her 2011 documentary film Tahrir 2011: The Good, the Bad and the Politician which premiered at the Venice Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival.
Broken Keys - Directed by Jimmy Keyrouz
Inspired by real events, the drama film follows young pianist, Karim, who dreams of a musical career in Europe. After a group of extremists ban music in his Lebanese village and shoot his piano, Karim is left with toilsome circumstances to live with. The Lebanese production was also in Mosul, Iraq. Keyrouz has been nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA in 2017 for his short film, Nocturne In Black, but this marks his Cannes debut.
Passion Simple - Directed by Danielle Arbid
Set in Paris, the drama film intimately follows a married, younger Russian man and his forbidden love with a French researcher who deludes herself in aims of finding him again after his sudden escape. The French film is an adaptation of the eponymous novel by Annie Earneux. This film marks the third Cannes selection for the Lebanese filmmaker; however, the director has been selected for multiple international festivals for the past two decades.