While the Oscar nominations for 2020 have taken some serious heat over the lack of diversity (again), the 92nd Academy Awards has marked something of a stepping stone when it comes to Arab cinema, with four films nominated for the ceremony on February 9.
From takes of torment and tension in the heart of Syria, to stories of family and brotherhood in Tunisia, here’s what you should know about the Arab Oscar nominations.
Nominated for Documentary (Feature), directed by Waad Al-Kateb
Filmed over the course of five years, For Sama, showcases the haunting plight of Aleppo as Waad Al- Kateb documents falling in love with her husband Hamza, raising their daughter Sama, and the complicated decision of leaving or remaining in Syria.
Waad Al Kateb’s heart-wrenching love letter to her daughter broke BAFTA records with four documentary nominations, won the Prix L’Ceil d’Or for Best Documentary at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, and is currently nominated for the Academy Award’s Best Documentary Feature.
Nominated for Documentary (Feature), directed by Feraas Fayyad
Set in Ghouta, The Cave follows Amani Ballour’s life as a doctor living and treating patients with her female colleagues in a makeshift hospital situated in a cave, while living through bombings and systemic sexism in war-ridden Syria.
A movie that marks director Fayyad’s second Best Doc following 2017’s Last Men in Aleppo, that won People’s Choice Award for Documentaries at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.
Nominated for Short Film (Live Action), directed by Meryam Joobeur
In rural Tunisia, Mohammed fears his estranged son has been part of ISIS when he returns radicalised with a Syrian Niqabi for a wife. Brotherhood discusses the fragility of human nature as it navigates through the complexity of family reunions.
Brotherhood received Best Canadian Short Film at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival and is currently nominated for the Academy Award’s Best Live Action Short Film, making Meryam Joobeur the first Tunisian female director to receive an Oscar’s nomination.
Nefta Football Club
Nominated for Short Film (Live Action), directed by Yves Piat
Nefta Football Club examines the naïveté of youth, as two brothers, stumble upon a headphone-wearing donkey carrying white-powder bags, and take him with them to the village. Little do they know, the donkey is bait for a drug-deal.
The light-hearted comedy short received the Audience Award at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and is Yves Piat first Academy Award nomination.
The 92nd Academy Awards takes place on Sunday, February 10, at the Dolby Theater, Los Angeles