x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Films with Arab themes hold sway at Cannes

Now that the first few days of catwalk bling and celebrity razzle-dazzle have died down, the Cannes film festival has returned to what it does best: showcasing strong, socially engaged cinema with a global focus.

The Dutch-Palestinian film director Hany Abu-Assad. AFP
The Dutch-Palestinian film director Hany Abu-Assad. AFP

Now that the first few days of catwalk bling and celebrity razzle-dazzle have died down, the Cannes film festival has returned to what it does best: showcasing strong, socially engaged cinema with a global focus.

The most talked-about premiere on Monday was Omar by the Dutch--Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad, a thriller about revenge, romance and betrayal along the controversial wall dividing Israel from the West Bank. France’s large North African population turned out in force, with one official festival car painted in the colours of the Palestinian Territories’ flag.

Early reviews are already hailing Abu-Assad’s film as a return to the powerful form of his 2005 Oscar contender, Paradise Now. Films with Arab themes and filmmakers with North African heritage have a special resonance here in France, reflecting the country’s troubled colonial history along the southern shores of the Mediterranean.

The hottest local star in Cannes right now is Tahar Rahim, the French--Algerian pin-up best known for A Prophet, who co-stars in two official festival films – Asghar Farhadi’s The Past (read more on page al06) and -Rebecca Zlotowksi’s Grand Central.

On Monday, the football superstar-turned-actor Eric Cantona rolled into town with his French-Algerian actress wife Rachida Brakni to promote his latest film, You and the Night. The struggles of North African immigrants in France is also a theme of Serge Bozon’s bizarre crime-comedy Tip Top, showing in the festival’s Directors Fortnight sidebar.

And as sunshine returned on Monday, your National reporter popped down to the beach and ran straight into that veteran bad girl of French cinema, Beatrice Dalle. Also dipping their toes in the Med over the last few days – metaphorically, if not literally – have been the Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, Casey Affleck, James Franco, Benicio Del Toro, Rob Lowe, Rooney Mara and Noomi Rapace.

But is Cannes big enough for both Dragon Tattoo girls? Watch this space.

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