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7 Arab productions to be highlighted at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival

The 2021 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, or TIFF, will be taking place from the 9th to 18th of September in the Canadian city, after a ‘hybrid’ (half physical, half virtual) edition was held in 2020. Focusing on sharing films of various genres and backgrounds, the Festival is considered a first “trial run” for the Oscars: we therefore have no doubt about the quality of the 7 Arab productions selected this year.

A world famous event

Referred to as the “Festival of Festivals”, the event was created in 1976, and quickly became one of the main events in the world of cinema, along with the Cannes Festival. Some 300 to 400 films are presented each year, with an audience of approximately 280,000 spectators. We can imagine the exposure and influence given to these productions, which will be categorized in different programmes such as contemporary world cinema / discovery / short-cuts etc.

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Costa Brava, Lebanon by Mounia Akl (Lebanon)

This feature film by Lebanese writer-director Mounia Akl was selected for the prestigious Venice Film Festival and TIFF 2021.

Using themes such as pollution and the Lebanese trash crisis that took place in 2015, similarly to one of her other productions Submarine (2016), the director tells the story of a couple in Beirut, who witness the city’s new garbage dump set up beside their new house.

A work with environmental overtones, largely inspired by reality.

Beity by Isabelle Mecattaf (Lebanon)

After studying film at New York University, Isabelle Mecattaf was awarded the Black Family Film Prize for her second year short film program.

Her film depicts a difficult and anxiety-ridden day in a wealthy household in the Lebanese capital and is, according to TIFF, a portrait of parents’ pain seeking a better life elsewhere.

Mecattaf says in an interview that she wants to create “a compelling, entertaining and enjoyable story.”

Trumpets in the sky by Rakan Mayasi (Palestine/Lebanon)

According to Rakan Mayasi, a German-born independent writer-director-producer living in Lebanon, “perfection is boring“. He studied at the Asian Film Academy, and counts famous Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami among his teachers.

His short film, Trumpets in the Sky, follows a young Syrian girl working in a Lebanese potato field whose life changes dramatically when she learns that her mother has sold her in marriage. The story is a kind of documentary intertwined with fiction, a description of the world’ s traditions and a socio-political critic of patriarchy.

The Devil’s Drivers by Mohammed Abugeth & Daniel Carsenty (Palestine/Germany)

This documentary, shot over 8 years, follows two Palestinian Bedouin cousins who smuggle illegal workers into Israel. Chased by the army, their life is a long hunt: this film will surely be breathtaking.

The directors Carsenty, and Jerusalem-born Abugeth, both worked in Germany.

Huda’s Salon by Hany Abu-Assad (Palestine)

This politically driven thriller, based on true events, tells the story of the violent confrontation between two women (a hairdresser and her client) who are trying to cope with life in a country under occupation.

Filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad is notably the director of hit film The Mountain Between Us (2017) starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet.


Farha by Darin J. Sallam (Jordan)

Jordanian filmmaker Darin J Sallam is now among TIFF’s “directors to watch” for her first feature Farha.

This tale, inspired by real events, is set in Palestine in 1948 and shows little Farha, who is found locked in a cellar in her village when war breaks out. She witnesses horrors and must learn to survive.

Actress Karam Tahar plays Farha, and her co-stars include Ali Suliman, who also stars in Huda’s Salon.

The Gravedigger’s Wife by Khadar Ayderus Ahmed (France/Somalia)

Somali director currently lives in Finland, and marks his debut with this film, after several short films, such as The Night Thief (2017).

The Gravedigger’s Wife is a romance about how Guled, a Djiboutian gravedigger tries to find the money for his wife Nasra’s surgery procedure as she suffers from a chronic kidney disease.

The director’s work has been compared to the Dardenne brothers‘, internationally known for their prizes at the Venice Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival.

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Published on 19 August 2021

#Arab world