Arab films and directors in the Cannes Film Festival

Menna Taher from Cannes, Monday 14 May 2012

On the eve of the film industry's most important and prestigious festival, Ahram Online considers the presence of Arab films throughout the history of the festival

Ibn El Nil

Throughout the history of the film industry's most prestigious festival, there were a number of Arab films in the Official Selection; this year the Arab presence is more salient than in the past.

From the inaugural Cannes Film Festival in 1946 Egypt was among the participants with the film Dunia by Mohamed Karim. In the early years of Cannes, every year or two there were films by Egyptian directors like Youssef Chahine, Salah Abu Seif and Kamal El-Sheikh.

Egypt had two entries for instance both in 1952 and 1954. Chahine's Ibn El-Nil (Son of the Nile) and Ahmed Badrakhan'sLeilet Gharam (A Night of Love) competed in 1952, while El-Wahsh (The Monster) by Abu Seif and Seraa Fil Wady (Struggle in the Valley) by Chahine competed in 1954.

However, since Chahine's Adieu Bonaparte in 1985, there has been no Egyptian entry in the official competition until this year with Youssry Nasrallah's Baad El-Mawkea (After the Battle).

Though this is Nasrallah's first participation in the official competition, his debut Sarkat Sayfeya (Summer Thefts) was screened in the parallel director section in 1988. His Bab El-Shams (Gate of the Sun) based on a novel by renowned Lebanese author Elias Khoury, was selected outside the competition in 2004 and last year there was a special screening of 18 Days, in which he directed a segment.

This year, the Arab presence is more marked. The Egyptian producer and director Marianne Khoury will be among the jury at the International Critics' Week, the Palestinian actress Hiam Abbas is among the jury of the official competition and acclaimed Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suliman is participating with the collaborative film7 días en La Habana (7 Days in Havana) made up of seven segments by different filmmakers. The film is competing in the Un Certain Regard section which aims to encourage innovative and daring works. Another Un Certain Regard entry is Les Chevaux de Dieu (God's Horses) by the Moroccan director Nabil Ayoush.

Although Arab films have not had a salient presence throughout the history of Cannes, there are a few filmmakers who have made an appearance a number of times.

The two most prominent of these were the Egyptian Youssef Chahine and the Algerian Mohamed Lakhdar-Hamina, who had won the Palme d'Or for his film Waqa'a Seneen Al-Gamr (Chronicle of the Years of Fire) in 1974.

The film is the only Arab entry to win a Palme d'Or, so far. Highly bloody, it is set during Algeria's war for independence from France and takes place amongst Algeria's peasant communities.

Lakhdar has competed with two other films in the official competition, Rih Al-Awras (The Wind of Awras) in 1967 and Rih Al-Raml (Wind of Sand) in 1982.

Participants from the Arab world usually hail from Egypt, Algeria, Morocco or Lebanon, in addition to Elia Suleiman who is Palestinian.

Several Arab filmmakers have also won awards outside the main competition. In 1997 Chahine had been crowned the Commemorative Golden Jubilee, while in 2002 Suleiman won the Jury prize for his film Ed Ilhia (Divine Intervention). In the Un Certain Regard section, the Moroccan filmmaker Faouzi Bensaidi won in 2003 for his film Mille mois(A Thousand Months)

The most recent Palme d'Or entries by Arab filmmakers were Al-Zaman Al-Baqi (The Time That Remains) by Suleiman in 2009 and in 2006 the Algerian film Beldiyoon ( Days of Glory) by Rachid Boucharib, which won the award for best actor.

This year, the Cannes Film Festival opens on 16 May and will run until 27 May.


Official competition entries of Arab films in the Cannes Film Festival's history:

1946 Dunia by Mohamed Karim (Egypt)

1947 Maarouf, the Cairo Cobbler by Jean Mauran (Morrocco)

1949 Mughamart Antar we Abla (The Adventures of Antar and Abla) by Salah Abu Seif (Egypt)

1952 Ibn El-Nil (Son of the Nile) by Youssef Chahine (Egypt)

         Leilet Gharam (A Night of Love) by Ahmed Badrakhan (Egypt)

1954 Al Wahsh (The Monster) by Salah Abu Seif (Egypt)

         Seraa Fil Wady by Youssef Chahine (Egypt)

1955 Hayah Aw Moot (Life or Death) by Kamal El Sheikh

1956 Sabab Imraa (The Youth of a Woman) by Salah Abu Seif

1957 Ila Ayn? (Where To?) by Georges Nasser (Lebanon)

1962 Ames Et Rhymes by AbdelAziz Ramdani (Morocco)

1964 El Leila El Akheera (The Last Night) by Kamal El-Sheikh (Egypt)

1967 Rih Al-Awras (The Wind of Awras) by Mohamed Lakhdar-Hamina (Algeria)

1970 Al-Ard (The Land) by Youssef Chahine (Egypt)

1974 Saat El-Tahrir Dakkat, Barra Ya Isti'mar (Time of Liberation, Time up for Colonialism)   by Heiny Sorour (Lebanon)

1975 Waqa'a Seneen Al-Gamr (Chronicle of the Years of Fire) by Mohamed Lakhdar- Hamina (Algeria)

1982 Rih Al-Raml (Wind of Sand) by Mohamed Lakhdar-Hamina (Algeria)

1985 Adieu Bonaparte by Youssef Chahine (Egypt)

1992 Au Pays Des Juliets (In the Country of Juliets) by Mehdi Charef (Algeria)

2006 Beldiyoon ( Days of Glory) by Rachid Boucharib (Algeria)

2009 Al-Zaman Al-Baqi (The Time That Remains) by Elia Suleiman (Palestine)

2012 Baad El-Mawkea (After the Battle) by Youssry Nasrallah (Egypt)


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