Films from the Mena region selected for the 2022 Cannes Film Festival

The Cannes Film Festival is back with the promise of promoting films from around the world.

The world’s most prestigious film gathering has fallen on hard times for the past two years – canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, and moved to July last year in a desperate bid to outrun Covid-19.

This year, for the 75th event, it is back in its traditional May spot, with a dazzling array of in-competition and out-of-competition films.

The red carpet will be rolled out for celebrities including Tom Cruise (presenting Top Gun: Maverick) and Baz Luhrmann (back in Cannes with his Elvis biopic). But there will also be plenty of talent from the Mena region.

‘Sky Boy’

Realized by: Tarik Saleh

Sweden’s Tarik Saleh once again returns to his Egyptian father’s roots, as he did for his 2017 police saga in Cairo The Nile Hilton incident.

This film stars Fares Fares, and the Lebanese actor returns for a leading role in sky boythe director’s first participation in the main competition at Cannes.

The story follows Adam, the son of a fisherman, who is offered the chance to study at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. But when the Grand Imam suddenly dies, Adam finds himself in the middle of a power struggle between Egypt’s religious and political elite.

After Saleh directed episodes of Westworld and Ray Donovanas well as Chris Pine’s recent action thriller The contractorit’s intriguing to see him back in the arthouse realm in a film that seems destined to be one of the festival’s talking points.

“Holy Spider”

Realized by: Ali Abbassi

Iranian-Danish filmmaker Ali Abbasi scored a hit with his 2018 fable-like tale Borderand thanks to this, he lands a place in the main competition of Cannes with holy spider.

Abbasi, who is also set to direct episodes of the highly anticipated video game adaptation The last of uswas forced to delay production on holy spider for a year because of the Covid-19, and ended up filming in Jordan.

The plot is extremely seductive: the story follows a journalist who delves into the underworld of the Iranian holy city of Mashhad, as she investigates the murders of sex workers by the so-called “Spider Killer”, who believes he cleans the streets of sinners.

“Under the Fig Trees”

Realized by: Erect Sehiri

Playing in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs section means under the fig trees by Franco-Tunisian filmmaker Erige Sehiri, who grew up in Lyon. She then returned to her parents’ native Tunisia in January 2011, after the fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, where she first worked as a journalist.

Sehiri has since turned to directing, helming the 2018 feature documentary Railroad mentaking place in the world of Tunisian train drivers.

under the fig trees marks his first feature-length fiction film and follows the story of a group of teenagers working as fig pickers for one summer, as flirtations occur and romance sparks. With a cast of non-professional actors, it was filmed in Kersa, an Amazigh village in northwest Tunisia famous for its figs.

‘The dam’

Realized by: Ali Cherri

Also taking part in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, The dam, the new film by Lebanese artist Ali Cherri. Beirut-born Cherri’s acclaimed work in prints, sculptures and video installations has been exhibited around the world and he is the 2021 Artist-in-Residence at the prestigious National Gallery in London.

The dam marks his first feature film. Written by Cherri and Geoffroy Grison, in collaboration with the admired French director Bertrand Bonello (2011’s house of tolerance), it is set in Sudan, near the Merowe Dam, and stars newcomer Maher El Khair. He plays Maher, who works in a traditional brickyard near the Nile, but disappears secretly into the desert every night to build a mysterious mud construction.

A co-production of six countries, including Lebanon and Qatar, it is just as unique as Cherri’s works.


Realized by: Youssef Chebi

Another title from the Directors’ Fortnight is Ashkal, the first feature film by Tunisian filmmaker Youssef Chebbi. While he has already crossed out two short films (To the north and The Depths), as well as co-directing the award-winning 2012 documentary Babylonit looks like a step forward for Chebbi.

Co-written by him and François-Michel Allegrini, the film is a mysterious story set in post-revolutionary Tunisia. Two policemen, Fatma (Fatma Oussaifi) and Batal (Mohamed Houcine Grayaa), discover a burnt corpse in one of the abandoned construction sites in the Jardins de Carthage district in Tunis.

The film has been described as “a detective flick in a film noir vein that slowly edges closer to science fiction,” which is sure to excite viewers at Cannes.

“The Blue Kaftan”

Realized by: Maryam Touzani

In the Un Certain Regard category is The blue caftana film co-produced by Franco-Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch, who last year had the honor of seeing his Casablanca Beats to become the first Moroccan feature film to play in the main competition at Cannes.

The blue caftan is directed by Ayouch’s wife, actress-screenwriter Maryam Touzani, who also had her 2019 film Adam in the Un Certain Regard category. His latest film tells the story of a couple – Halim and Mina – who ran a caftan shop in one of Morocco’s oldest markets. But things change when they take on a young apprentice in the store. Another delicate drama for the Croisette.


Realized by: Lotfy Nathan

Another director with a Tunisian history making his film debut at Cannes this year is Lotfy Nathan. The filmmaker, born to Egyptian parents, is best known for his 2013 documentary 12 o’clock boysbased on illegal bikers in Baltimore.

Selected for Un Certain Regard, his new film Harka tells the story of a young man in his twenties named Ali living on the fringes. Already making a living selling contraband gasoline, his life takes a turn when his father dies suddenly and he has to take care of his two younger sisters. While he insists on finding a legitimate job, only illicit opportunities seem to present themselves.

The role of Ali is Adam Bessa, the French actor who has already starred in Mosul (produced by Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo) and the Netflix action thriller Extractionwith Chris Hemsworth.

The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 17 to 28

Scroll through the gallery below to see the opening ceremony of Cannes Film Festival 2021:

Updated: May 09, 2022, 04:23

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