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Festival About DIFF Policies Connect
DIFFDIFF Journal 2018Cannes 2018: 5 Major Milestones That Arab Cinema Scored This Year
DIFF Journal
Cannes 2018: 5 Major Milestones That Arab Cinema Scored This Year
Sun May 13, 2018
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The 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival kicked off a few days ago with a fantastic lineup of Arab films that broke the record for the most Arab films in a single Cannes edition. Five Arab countries are represented this year with highly anticipated films mostly from newcomers and one major veteran.

Nadine Labaki’s years-in-the-making CAPHARNAUM will make a splash in competition, and Egyptian newcomer Abu Bakr Shawky’s YOMEDDINE secured a surprising and joyous slot in competition – a rare feat for a debut filmmaker. In Un Certain Regard, the festival’s section mostly dedicated to emerging filmmakers, Meryem Benmbarek’s SOFIA and Gaya Jiji’s MY FAVORITE FABRIC will have their world premieres later this week. And in the Quinzaine des Realisateurs (Directors’ Fortnight), Mohamed Ben Attia’s WELDI will launch after what was a fantastic debut for Attia in HEDI (which won the Berlinale Best Actor and First Feature awards).

There are several reasons to celebrate the glowing presence of Arab cinema in Cannes this year: major records have been broken and important milestones have been achieved. Let’s take a look at the five most notable milestones for Arab cinema at Cannes

1. First Arab female filmmaker to ever compete for the Palme d’or
Lebanese director Nadine Labaki became the first ever female Arab filmmaker to compete for the Palme d’or with a film in competition. Previously, all Arab films selected in competition at Cannes were by male directors from countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria. With CAPHARNAUM, Labaki has already made history. She’s also the first Lebanese director to have a film in competition in almost 30 years – another reason why her film is one of the hottest titles on the Croissette (Gaumont has snatched French distribution rights).

2. First Arab debut film to ever compete for the Palme d’or
Egyptian director Abu Bakr Shawky became the first Arab and Egyptian first-time filmmaker selected for the official competition in Cannes in the festival’s entire 71-year history – a major milestone and certainly an inspiring story that gives much hopes to the region’s emerging filmmakers that dreams can, and do, come true. The film is going to be among the first competition titles out of the gate and we will have a dedicated feature about it soon on the DIFF journal as well as our social media channels.

3. Five Arab films – a record
With 5 Arab films in Cannes’ competition, Un Certain Regard and the Directors’ Fortnight, this is the highest number of Arab feature films in a Cannes edition. Headlines here on the Croissette are already being written about how the world is taking note of Arab cinema and the curiosity factor is higher than ever.

4. First time in 48 years: 2 Arab films in competition
Not since 1970 have two films from the Arab world competed for the Palme d’or in competition. With both CAPHARNAUM and YOMEDDINE, Arab cinema has broken a 48-year-old record with two titles among 21 films competing for one of the industry’s highest honors.

5. Three Arab female filmmakers have films in Cannes
Here’s a fascinating and certainly encouraging tidbit – among the 5 Arab films selected in competition and sidebars at Cannes, three of them have been made by women: Labaki, Jiji and Benmbarek. It’s an interesting time for female filmmakers in the industry around the world, and it’s a great sign to see top international film festivals opening doors to unique female storytellers from the Arab world.
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