Two films directed by female Arab directors have been shortlisted for the 2021 Academy Awards, scheduled to take place on April 25. The two filmmakers that will hopefully be nominated for an Oscar this year are Palestinian-British director Farah Nabulsi for her short film The Present, and Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania for The Man Who Sold His Skin.
Nabulsi’s film is shortlisted in the Live Action Short category, alongside Karishma Dev Dube’s Bittu, Doug Rolland-directed Feeling Through and The Human Voice from filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar among others. Hania’s critically-acclaimed film is shortlisted for the International Feature Film award among 14 other films, alongside Chilean director Maite Alberdi’s The Mole Agent, a Czech biographical drama directed by Agnieszka Holland Charlatan and Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round.
Although the shortlists for the nine categories were released last night, filmmakers, actors, and fans alike will have to wait until March 15 to see which ones of the shortlisted films are nominated for an Academy Award. Since the films were released, both the films by Hania and Nabulsi have generated buzz amongst fans and movie critics.
The Present, which is Nabulsi’s directorial debut, won accolades like the audience award at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in February 2020. The film follows Yusuf and his daughter, who set out in the West Bank to buy his wife a gift for his wedding anniversary. But the task is deemed impossible due to the challenges of life under occupation.
The Man Who Sold His Skin by Hania follows Nabulsi’s political route, exploring themes of freedom but through the eyes of a Syrian refugee who becomes commodified as artwork. The film features Yahya Mahayani as a Syrian refugee who allows his body to be turned into a work of art. The film is a love story and a satire of the art world itself, but more of a complex study of a refugee’s struggle with the borders and residency permits.
Apart from Nabulsi and Hania, director Majid Majidi is also representing the Middle East in the Oscars shortlist with the Iranian drama Sun Children, which sheds light on forced child labor.