x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Arab, Indian films set to shine at Cannes

Films from India and the Arab world will feature throughout this year's Cannes film festival programme in what is one of the most anticipated editions of the event in recent memory.

A still from the film After the Battle by Yousry Nasrallah. Courtesy MK2
A still from the film After the Battle by Yousry Nasrallah. Courtesy MK2

The Cannes film festival is renowned for its cinematic showcase of the best films from around the globe. Two years ago, when the festival director Thierry Fremaux realised there was a lack of Indian films in the festival's line-up, he encouraged the jury member Shekhar Kapur to quickly make a documentary on Bollywood.

This year, no such fabrications have been needed, as films from India and the Arab world appear throughout the programme in what is one of the most anticipated editions of the festival in recent memory.

Two regional filmmakers stand a chance to win the coveted top prize, the Palme d'Or: the Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah uses the backdrop of last year's Tahrir Square protests for his latest film, Baad El Mawkeaa (After the Battle). Intriguingly, the main protagonist is a horseman coerced by the Mubarak regime into carrying out attacks on protesters.

The Iranian director Abaas Kiarostami, a Cannes favourite, is turning Japanese in his new film, titled Like Someone in Love, chronicling a 24-hour encounter in Tokyo between an old Japanese man and a young lady.

The Un Certain Regard section, made up of new talent and upcoming auteurs, is often where the most interesting and stylish films can be discovered.

The Palestinian Elia Suleiman will be showing her short film, part of the portmanteaux project, 7 Days in Havana. As with New York, I Love You and Paris, Je t'aime, the film features a collection of films made by different directors from around the world. Suleiman, as is his wont, plays himself in a story about the much-romanticised Cuban capital.

The Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch's Les Chevaux de Dieu (God's Horses) is inspired by the May 2003 terrorist attacks in Casablanca. The thriller tells the story from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy sent to prison, where he becomes enticed by fundamentalists.

Miss Lovely from India sounds like a film for Bollywood afficionados. Set in 1986 Mumbai, it's the story of two brothers who make underground films (with titles such as Lady James Bond) for a small-town picture house. Cracks in their fraternal relationship appear with the arrival of a vulnerable young actress.

One of the last films announced for the festival is Le Serment de Tobrouk (The Oath of Tobrouk) by the French philosopher and journalist Bernard-Henry Levy. Made during the eight-month conflict in Libya that resulted in the overthrowing of Muammar Qaddafi's regime, the film traces the unfolding of that unusual war, a spontaneous popular revolt that became a revolution through the determination of people in Libya, Paris, London, New York and elsewhere.

Cinefondation, a section aimed to promote the works of film students and young filmmakers, features Pascale Abou Jamra's 20-minute short Derrière Moi Les Oliviers (Behind Me Oliver Trees), about a family returning to their native Lebanon having spent a decade in Israel.

In the short film section, the Turkish filmmaker L Rezan Yesilbas will present his film Sessiz-be Deng (Silent), while the Moroccan director Fyzal Boulifa will show The Curse.

Cannes is such a huge affair that in addition to the official selections there are two sidebars: Directors' Fortnight and Critics' Week. Playing in the Fortnight section is the Algerian Merzak Allouache's El Taaib (Repent), about a young jihadist seeking to be penitent of his crimes.

Also showing is the Iranian Massoud Bakhshi's film A Respectable Family, about an academic who returns to his homeland to teach in Chiraz. Making an appearance in Critics' Week is the Hindi-language film Peddlers by Vasan Bala, about three unusual characters whose paths cross in Mumbai.

A true test of mettle will occur at this year's festival care of the Indian director Anurag Kashyap and his film Gangs of Wasseypur. The tale of family vengeance, spanning three generations, runs for a testing five hours and 20 minutes.