Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 August 2020

The Arab films debuting at this year’s Venice International Film Festival

The festival will be the first industry event to be held in a physical location since the pandemic began

Alberto Barbera, director of the 77th Venice International Film Festival, announced the event’s line-up on Tuesday. EPA
Alberto Barbera, director of the 77th Venice International Film Festival, announced the event’s line-up on Tuesday. EPA

Three feature films and one short by Arab directors will be shown at the 77th Venice International Film Festival, which will take place from September 2 to 12.

Festival director Alberto Barbera announced this year's line-up on Tuesday, July 28, and said organisers were keen to feature more international films to ensure the festival remained "a shop window for the best cinema production in the world".

It will be the first film festival to be held in a physical location since the pandemic began.

Screenings will take place in traditional venues, as well as at two outdoor arenas – Giardini della Biennale and a skating rink on the Lido – with adopted safety measures established by authorities. The films selected to screen at the festival will be divided into three categories: The Venezia 77 (the main competition), Horizons and Out of Competition. Actress Cate Blanchett will lead this year’s competition jury.

Three films from Arab filmmakers will debut in the Horizons section, which is dedicated to international cinema. Two other films by Arab filmmakers will also be screening outside of the main programme.

The short film A Fleur De Peau (Under her Skin) by Algerian filmmaker Meriem Mesraoua will be screening in the Horizons short films competition. The drama 200 Metres, by Palestinian director Ameen Nayfeh, will be showing at Venice Days, an independent programme held in association with the Venice Film Festival.

Here's a closer look at the films:

‘The Man Who Sold His Skin’

Directed by Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania, the film tells the story of Syrian refugee Sam Ali, who agrees to have his back tattooed by a caustic contemporary artist so he can travel to Paris and be with the love of his life. However, he soon becomes a sought-after work in the art market. The film, which was written by the director herself, stars Yahya Mahayni and Monica Bellucci.

Ben Hania is best known for her 2013 feature Le Challat de Tunis, a mockumentary that shines an unsettling light on Tunisian attitudes towards women. The film revolves around the director’s search for a man who is travelling around the country slashing women’s rears.

Her 2017 drama Beauty and the Dogs tells the story of a college student who seeks help after an assault. But she soon faces a bureaucratic nightmare when she discovers the perpetrators are police officers. The film was selected as the Tunisian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Oscars.

‘Zanka Contact’

Zanka Contact “mixes western and romance, violence and laughter, rock ‘n’ roll and traditional desert music. It is directly inspired by the crazy mix of western and eastern influences that is Casablanca,” French-Moroccan filmmaker Ismael El Iraki said about his debut feature.

The film revolves around an Irish ex-rock star, Oisin, who loses his voice and sobriety to cancer. Oisin’s hope in the future is restored after he falls in love with golden-voiced streetwalker Rajae, in Casablanca. They soon embark on an adventure across Morocco’s underbelly, where they encounter various seedy characters.

El Iraki’s 2007 short film Carcasse won the Short Film Corner Prize at Festival de Cannes, where it debuted. His 2009 short Harash won a special mention at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.

‘Gaza Mon Amour’

Directed by Palestinian twins Arab and Tarzan Nasser, Gaza Mon Amour tells the story of 60-year-old fisherman Issa, who is in love with Siham, a dressmaker at his local market. As he musters up the courage to propose, Issa discovers an ancient Greek statue of Apollo in his fishing net, which he then hides at home. The discovery soon upends life as he knows it.

The storyline is inspired by a real-life incident in 2014, in which an ancient statue of Apollo was fished out of the sea off the Gaza coast.

The Nasser brothers had their feature debut at the 2015 Cannes Critics’ Week with Degrade, a film about a group of women who become trapped in their local hair salon.

'A Fleur De Peau' (Under her Skin)

This short film by Algerian filmmaker Meriem Mesraoua, which will screen in the Horizons competition, is a childhood tale set in Oran, Algeria. The film tells the story of Sarah, who must follow new rules set by her mother as she forbids her from biting her nails.

‘200 Meters’

Directed by Ameen Nayfeh, 200 Meters tells the story of Mustafa and Salwa, a Palestinian couple from villages that are only 200 metres apart, but separated by the wall that wends through the West Bank’s border communities. The situation puts a strain on their otherwise happy marriage, but the pair strive to make it work. Every night, Mustafa shines a light from his balcony to wish his children on the other side goodnight. After receiving news that his son has been in an accident, Mustafa rushes to the checkpoint but is denied entry. He then hires a smuggler to help him cross.

Nayfeh has worked on several award-winning short films, including the 2017 title The Crossing. He has also directed documentaries, including The Eid Gift.

Updated: July 29, 2020 01:34 PM

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