Egyptian director Abu Bakr Shawky's Hajjan to open Rotterdam Arab Film Festival

Menna Osama, Monday 6 May 2024

Saudi Arabia's film Hajjan (Jockey) by Egyptian director Abu Bakr Shawky will open the 24th edition of the Rotterdam Arab Film Festival (RAFF), which is scheduled to take place between 30 May and 2 June.



The feature-length film world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (2023) in the Discovery Programme, a segment showcasing works by emerging talents globally.

It then vied for numerous awards at international festivals, including the Arab Film Festival held in San Francisco (Nov 2023), where it was the opening film, the Red Sea International Film Festival (Saudi Arabia, Dec 2023), Palm Springs International Film Festival (USA, Jan 2024), Hollywood Arab Film Festival (USA, April 2024), among others. 

Most recently, the film had a triple win, as it scooped Best Feature, Best Actor (Omar Alatawi, for his role as protagonist Matar) and Best Cinematography awards at the Gulf Cinema Festival (Apr 2024).

Meanwhile, Hajjan is nominated for each of the six award categories presented to feature films at the eighth Critics Awards for Arab Films: best feature film, best screenplay, best actor, best music, best cinematography and best editing. The Critics Awards for Arab Films is held on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival, scheduled between 14 and 25 May 2024.

Coined as a camel epic, the film follows Matar, a boy who embarks on a journey across the desert. The story is “an immersive experience capturing the essence of rivalry, legacy, and the unique bond between a boy and his camel.” read the synopsis, pointing to the Saudi identity and heritage as an important backdrop for the film. 

The film stars Abdulmohsen Alnemr, Omar Alatawi, Ibrahim Al-Hasawi, and Alshaimaa Tayeb, among others.

Egyptian screenwriter and director Abu Bakr Shawky is among the most successful filmmakers of his generation. His directorial debut, Yomeddine (Judgement Day, 2018) premiered in the Official Selection of the 71st Cannes Film Festival and competed for the Palme d’Or and a Golden Camera. 

At Cannes, the film won the François Chalais Prize, a recognition rewarding the exceptional skills in reporting and journalistic values embedding the film. 

Following its success at Cannes, the film scooped numerous awards including a Tanit d’Argent, at the Carthage Film Festival (2018). 

Yomeddine was Egypt’s submission for best foreign-language film for the Academy Awards 2019 but was not nominated.

The Rotterdam Arab Film Festival, one of the oldest and fastest-growing festivals in Europe, is dedicated to showcasing films from the MENA region, including the presentation of many award-winning titles.

This year’s edition of the RAFF will feature 14 feature-length films so far, representing Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Palestine, Qatar, Egypt and Tunisia.

Night Courier (2023) directed by Ali Kalthami will also represent Saudi Arabia. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (2023).

Egypt will be represented by Flight 404, a narrative directed by Hani Khalifa.

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