All you need to know about Arab filmmakers participating in 76th Cannes Film Festival

Ati Metwaly , Friday 5 May 2023

This year a number of Arab filmmakers will present their films, sit on juries and participate in events at the Cannes Film Festival.


There is a significant number of Arab films set to be screened across most sections of the festival including the Official Competition, Un Certain Regard, La Cinef competition, Critics Week, Special Screenings and Mignight Screenings.

Here is the list: 

Official Competition

This is the main competitive segment of the festival, in which films compete for the top award, Palme d’Or.

Four Daughters (Les Filles d’Olfa)

The film is written and directed by Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania, whose 2020 film The Man Who Sold His Skin landed her an Oscar nomination.

Four Daughters stars Egyptian-Tunisian Hend Sabry and Egyptian Khaled Abol Naga (Kal Naga).

The film follows Olfa, a Tunisian woman and the mother of four daughters. This is the beginning of an intimate journey of hope, rebellion, violence, transmission and sisterhood that will question the very foundations of our societies.


The film is a horror historical drama directed by Karim Aïnouz, a filmmaker born to an Algerian father and Brazilian mother. 

Aïnouz debuted as feature director with Madame Satã (2002) in Cannes Un Certain Regard section. His feature, The Invisible Life (2019) also premiered in Cannes Un Certain Regard and won the Main Award followed by 50 prizes worldwide.

Telling the story of Catherine Parr, the sixth and last wife of King Henry VIII, Firebrand stars Alicia Vikander, Jude Law, Eddie Marsan.

This will be the film’s premiere

Un Certain Regard section

Translated to "a certain glance" this is one of the main sections of the Cannes Film Festival's official selection. 

With screenings taking place at the Salle Claude Debussy, this prestigious segment of the Cannes festival focuses on showcasing up-and-coming filmmakers. Many of the filmmakers who have participated in Un Certain Regard launched their international careers. 

Goodbye Julia

Mohamed Kordofani's debut feature film, Goodbye Julia, is set to make its world premiere.

Directed and written by Kordofani, this entry is the first time a Sudanese film will compete in the section, highlighting the growing strength of Sudanese cinema in recent years.

Goodbye Julia is a drama that centers around Mona, a retired singer from northern Sudan trapped in an unhappy marriage. Mona is wracked with guilt after covering up a murder, and to make amends, she takes in the widow of the deceased, Julia, who hails from South Sudan, along with her son Daniel.

The film stars Eiman Yousif, Siran Riak, Nazar Goma and Ger Duany.

Read more here 

The Mother of All Lies (Kadib Abyad)

Kadib Abyad is directed by Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El-Moudir who also wrote the script and stars in the movie. 

The documentary explores a family’s web of lies and one young girl’s search to find the truth. Through her own voice, Asmae flits between national and personal history to tell the 1981 Bread Riots in Morocco and shows how this event connects with contemporary Moroccan society. 

The Nature of Love (Simple Comme Sylvain)

The film is written and directed by Monia Chokri, a Canadian filmmaker born to a mother of Scottish origin and Tunisian father of Berber roots.

Chokri began acting at a young age, landing numerous roles in award-winning films. She ventured into directing in early 2010s.

Her short film An Extraordinary Person (Quelqu'un d'extraordinaire, 2013) won the Prix Jutra for Best Short Film at the 16th Jutra Awards and her debut feature  A Brother's Love (La femme de mon frère), at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019.[6]

The Nature of Love follows Sophia, whose life is turned upside down when she meets Sylvain . She comes from a wealthy family, while Sylvain comes from a family of manual workers. Sophia questions her own values after abandoning herself to her great romantic impulses.

The film stars Marion Cotillard, Mona Achche, Marie Bunel, Didier Flemand.

Les Meutes

The film is written and directed by Kamal Lazraq, a Moroccan director and screenwriter, also known for The Man with a Dog (2014) and Drari (2011).

Les Meutes focus on a father and son in the suburbs of Casablanca where they get by on petty crimes for a local mob. When a kidnapping goes wrong, they must find a way to dispose of the body.

The film stars Ayoub Elaid and Abdelatif El Mansouri

Critics Week section

This year will be the 62nd edition of the Critics Week and will run between 17 and 25 May.

I Promise You Paradise

The short film I Promise You Paradise is written and directed by Egyptian filmmaker Morad Mostafa. Mostafa worked in several independent films and collaborated as an Executive Director in film Souad that made it to the official selection in Cannes Film Festival 2020.

Morad is an alumni of the Berlinale Talents Campus and Locarno Academy. He is currently developing his debut feature film Aisha Can't Fly Away Anymore in Cinéfondation, the residency of Cannes Film Festival and also in Torino Film Lab and Rotterdam Lab IFFR.

I Promise You Paradise follows the story of Eissa, a 17-year-old African immigrant in Egypt, who strives to beat the clock to save his loved ones after a violent incident.

The film stars Kenyi Marcellino and Kenzy Mohamed. 

Read more here

La Cinef section

La Cinef is a segment of the CFF devoted to the search for new talent. It was created in 1998 to inspire and support the next generation of international filmmakers. 

This year, La Cinef is in its 26th edition, in which films were chosen from among 2,000 submissions.

El-Toraa (The Call of the Brook)

Written and directed by Jad Chahine, El-Toraa will have its world premiere in the Cannes Film Festival's La Cinef section.

Jad Chahine is an Egyptian indie filmmaker. Born in 1996, he studied filmmaking at the Higher Institute of Cinema and the Academy of Arts, Cairo, graduating in 2018.

El-Toraa follows a young boy who goes to a cursed brook and witnesses something that will seal his fate.

The film is also written by Chahine, and stars Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, Heba Khayal and Sarah Shedid.

Read more here 


Directed by Moroccan filmmaker Zineb Wakrim, who studies at the ÉSAV - l'École Supérieure des Arts Visuels (School for Visual Arts) in Marrakech.

With the title translating to "moon," Ayyur is a 13-minute contemplative story of two children of the moon.

Special Screenings section

The films screened in this section are outside the official competition. Throughout the past years, the section became a platform for numerous interesting entries, many of which garnered awards at other international festivals

Little Girl Blue

The film is written and directed by Mona Achache, a French-Moroccan director, actress and screenwriter.

Achache is also known for  The Hedgehog (2009), Defendant (2015) and Les gazelles (2014).

A docudrama telling the story of director Mona Achache's mother, with actors portraying real life characters.

This will be the film’s premiere

Midnight Screenings

Omar la fraise

The film is directed by Elias Belkeddar, a Franco-Algerian producer, director and writer. It stars Reda Kateb and Benoît Magimel.

Elias Belkeddar is also known for Todo se puede (2014), Un jour de mariage (2018) and DJ Snake: Disco Maghreb (2022).

Omar la Fraise follows the story of Omar Zerrouki, a gangster who escapes a life of crime in France for Algiers.

Directors Fortnight


The film is directed by Moroccan Faouzi Bensaïdi, who has also worked on Mille mois (2003), Baya Al Maut (2011) and La falaise (1999). Bensaïdi is also a screenwriter and actor.

Déserts film’s brief reads: “Longtime friends Mehdi and Hamid work for a debt collection agency. To punish them for their poor performance, their management sends them into the suffocating Moroccan Sahara to track down some bad payers. One day, in a gas station in the middle of the desert, a motorcycle parks in front of them. A threatening man is handcuffed to the luggage rack. This is the Fugitive. Their meeting marks the beginning of an unforeseen and mystical journey…”

Arab filmmaker in Cannes jury

Moroccan filmmaker Maryam Touzani has been announced as a member of the nine-person jury for the International Competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

Touzani, launched her career as a film critic, directed two notable short films, Quand ils dormant (When They Sleep) and Aya va à la plage (Aya Goes to the Beach), before collaborating with Nabil Ayouch on Much Loved and co-writing and starring in Razzia.

Her first feature film, Adam, was selected for the Un Certain Regard at the Festival de Cannes in 2019 and shortlisted for the Oscars.

She then collaborated once again with Nabil Ayouch, with whom she co-wrote Razzia – a film in which she also starred – and Casablanca Beats, selected in Competition for the Festival de Cannes in 2021.

Touzani returned to the festival as a director with The Blue Caftan in 2022, which was selected for Un Certain Regard and shortlisted for the Oscars. She is currently working on her first novel and her next feature film.

Angénieux Special Encouragement Award 

Egyptian filmmaker Haya Khairat will receive the Angénieux Special Encouragement Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

The award is offered to support rising talents in the filmmaking industry.

Born 1995 in Cairo, Khairat studied Cinematography at the High Cinema Institute of Egypt.

She participated in the production of titles such as Buying A Man (2017), Afrah AlQoba (2016) and La Totfe' Al Shams (2017).

Cairo International Film Festival’s presence in Cannes.

The Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) will participate in three events associated with the upcoming Cannes Film Festival.

CIFF President Hussein Fahmy and CIFF Director Amir Ramses will attend the Cannes Film Market from May 16 to May 24 to represent the festival.

The CIFF  will present and endorse director Talal Selhami's upcoming film The Shelter as part of the Cannes Film Market's Fantastic 7 initiative. 

The CIFF will also support a workshop called Prioritising Wellbeing at Work: Sparking the Conversation amongst Festivals, in cooperation with Work Place Options and Sane Cinema, as part of the Festivals Hub activities. 

The CIFF will participate in the Festivals Mixer, a networking event for prestigious festival representatives, filmmakers, producers, and distributors, in association with the Festivals Hub.

Read more here


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