Celebrate contemporary cinema of the Middle East with SBS On Demand’s Arabic Film Collection | Movie News

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Wadjda

PG
Saudi Arabia, 2012
Genre: Drama
Language: Arabic
Director: Haifaa al-Mansour
Starring: Reem Abdullah, Waad Mohammed, Abdulrahman al-Guhani
What’s it about?
Wadjda is a 10-year-old Saudi girl who dreams of owning a flashy new bicycle so she can street race against her friend Abdullah, an activity frowned upon for young girls. She picks up all kinds of odd jobs to save money for the bike while trying to support her mother, who’s dealing with a terrible job and a husband looking for a second wife. The mother’s and daughter’s stories play out as duel narratives: the conformist matriarch and the headstrong offspring.

Newcomer Waad Mohammed plays the young, unyielding protagonist who appears to offer hope for the country’s future. The release of Wadjda marked many firsts, including the first full-length feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, the first all-Saudi cast, and the first film from Saudi Arabia submitted for an Academy Award. It was also directed by the country’s first female filmmaker, Haifaa al-Mansour, who completed her masters in Film Studies at the University of Sydney.

Wadjda: Haifaa Al-Mansour interview
‘Wadjda’: A film about female triumph

Hurry! Wadjda leaves SBS On Demand on 17 October.

 

When I Saw You

M
Palestine, Jordan, 2012
Genre: Drama
Language: Arabic, English
Director: Annemarie Jacir
Starring: Mahmoud Asfa, Ruba Blal, Saleh Bakri
What’s it about?
Tarek is an 11-year-old boy among scores of Palestinian refugees displaced into Jordan after the 1967 war. His bleak existence is compounded by the fact his father has gone missing, with his mother Ghaydaa doing what she can to keep Tarek on the straight and narrow. Though an intelligent child, Tarek refuses to adjust to the makeshift schoolroom in their refugee camp and runs away to join a guerrilla training camp (“You’re suffocating me,” he tells his mother). It is here where he thrives, but also where his father’s absence is felt the most. When I Saw You was an Official Selection for the 2012 Toronto Film Festival, and the Palestinian entry for Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards.

 

The Idol

M
Palestine, 2015
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Language: Arabic
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Starring: Tawfeek Barhom
What’s it about?
The Idol is the fictionalised story of Palestinian pop singer Mohammed Assaf, who started his singing career performing at weddings in Gaza. Overcoming demoralising living conditions and heartbreaking family tragedy, Mohammed then faces hurdle after hurdle to enter the prestigious Arab Idol. As the contest progresses, the gifted vocalist becomes a source of pride for Palestinians across the diaspora. With pressure mounting from his people and his bouts with anxiety, Mohammed faces his greatest challenge in the film’s emotional finale.

The Idol is coming to SBS On Demand Tuesday 13 October.

 

Capernaum

M
Lebanon, 2018
Genre: Drama
Language: Arabic
Director: Nadine Labaki
Starring: Zain Al Rafeea, Yordanos Shiferaw
What’s it about?
You might need to check your pulse if Capernaum doesn’t move you to tears. The award-winning film tells the story of child abuse, poverty, corruption and racism in the slums of Beirut through the eyes of a hardened yet innocent child, Zain El Hajj (exquisitely played by real-life Syrian refugee, Zain Al Rafeea). Based on director Labaki’s intimate knowledge of the subject matter, Capernaum follows 12-year-old Zain, who’s serving a five-year criminal sentence while suing his own parents for bringing him into such a cruel world. The highest-grossing Middle Eastern film of all time, Capernaum took in almost $95 million at the international box office, against a production budget of $5.5 million. 

Nadine Labaki, on how ‘Capernaum’ has changed her life

 

In Between

MA15+
France, Israel, 2016
Genre: Drama
Language: Arabic, Hebrew
Director: Maysaloun Hamoud
Starring: Mouna Hawa, Shaden Kanboura, Sana Jammalieh
What’s it about?
In Between shows how Middle Eastern women are often caught in the middle of restricted tradition and unfettered freedom. Upon its release, a fatwa (Islamic religious ruling) and death threats were issued against Palestinian director Maysaloun Hamoud for depicting partying, drug use and homosexuality in the movie. Roommates Laila, Salma and Nour are fiercely protective of the friendship that binds them, despite being from different walks of life: secular, religious, Christian, Muslim, queer. In Between premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and won a swag of audience awards at worldwide festivals that year.

 

3000 Nights

M
Palestine, 2015
Genre: Drama
Language: Arabic, Hebrew
Director: Mai Masri
Starring: Maisa Abd Elhadi, Nadira Omran, Karim Saleh
What’s it about?
This story centres on an innocent Palestinian schoolteacher who is wrongly accused and charged by an Israeli court of being an accomplice to a young Palestinian man who allegedly attacked an Israeli military checkpoint. Layal is sent to a high-security women’s prison to serve her shocking eight-year sentence where she finds out she’s pregnant. Against all odds Layal decides to keep the baby, a son she names Nour. There are rare hopeful moments in 3000 Nights (Layal’s fellow women prisoners loving Nour like their own, an imprisoned doctor with whom she finds love again after her husband deserts her) but the film reminds us how the justice system is often anything but just.

 

Theeb‎‎

M
UK, Jordan, UAE, Qatar, 2014
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Adventure
Language: Hejazi Arabic, English
Director: Naji Abu Nowar
Starring: Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat
What’s it about?
This critically acclaimed film set in 1916 was shot in Jordan’s historic Wadi Rum area and surrounding valleys. It follows the story of orphaned boy Theeb, a Bedouin child who faces a nomadic life of danger in the wake of the Great Arab Revolt against the ruling (and crumbling) Ottoman Empire. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 97 percent rating, with a critical consensus that states, Led by an outstanding performance from Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat in the title role, Theeb is a startlingly assured first effort from director/co-writer Naji Abu Nowar. 

 

Red Satin

M
Tunisia, 2002
Genre: Drama
Language: Arabic
Director: Raja Amari
Starring: Hiam Abbass, Hend El Fahem
What’s it about?
Red Satin, also known as Satin Rouge, stars Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass as recently widowed mother Lilia whose traditional life revolves around her teenage daughter, Salma (played by Hend El Fahem). Lilia suspects Salma is romantically involved with a drummer named Chokri (Maher Kamoun) and follows them both around, which leads her to visiting a cabaret club for the first time. Lilia’s life changes forever when she not only befriends the lead dancer at the club, but begins dancing there herself. Red Satin picked up a swag of nods throughout 2002, including Best African Film at the Montreal World Film Festival and the New Director’s Showcase Award at the Seattle International Film Festival.

  

The String

MA15+
France, 2010
Genre: Drama
Language: Arabic, French
Director: Mehdi Ben Attia
Starring: Claudia Cardinale, Antonin Stahly, Salim Kechiouche
What’s it about?
The casting of legendary Italian-Tunisian actress Claudia Cardinale anchors The String (or Le Fil in French). Cardinale plays old-world, wealthy widow Sara, whose gay son Malik returns to their estate in Tunisia from a life of relative freedom in Europe. Malik suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, stemming from the “string” he feels binds him to his mother and late father’s denial of his sexuality. Malik strikes up a forbidden romance with his mother’s handyman Bilal, and after Sara finds them in bed together, the trio must learn to coexist in love and tolerance. 

 

View the full مترجم للعربية | Arabic Collection at SBS On Demand now.

 

 



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