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The Arab Films That Have Made it to The 2020 Sundance Film Festival

The year of 2019 has undoubtedly been a great one for Arab cinema, and as its end gets closer, it brings with it good news for 2020. On January 23, celebrities, producers, artists, and directors from all over the world will head to Park City, Salt Lake City for the Sundance Film Festival which is set to showcase films created by Middle Eastern talent.

With its aim of building a network committed to independent storytelling, and promoting artists, the festival has previously acquainted global audiences to some of the most noteworthy films like Last Men in Aleppo, and Whiplash amongst others. 

“Independent artists create and enrich global culture. Their art, which we’re proud to present, can entertain – and much more: it can illuminate, agitate, and empower. This year’s festival is full of films that showcase myriad ways for stories to drive change, across hearts, minds, and societies,” said Robert Redford, President, and Founder of the Sundance Institute.

Arab films have been making strides at the Sundance Film Festival for many years now, and next year will be no different. Alongside Taylor Swift’s Miss America documentary, a Hilary Clinton series, and a documentary about Nikola Tesla’s struggles, here are all the movies from the region that have made it to the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

The Perfect Candidate (2019), Haifaa Al Mansour

The acclaimed director of Wadjda is back with another empowering film starring Nora Al Awadh, Dae Al Hilali, Mila Al Zahrani, and Shafi Alharthythat. The Perfect Candidate tells the story of a determined young Saudi doctor’s unexpected run for office in the local city elections which shock her family and the city as they battle to acknowledge their town’s first female competitor. 

Luxor (2020)Zeina Durra

A British aid worker meets an archaeologist and former lover named Sultan when she comes back to the antiquated city of Luxor. During her travels, profoundly spooked by a recognizable city, she battles to accommodate the decisions of the past with the vulnerability of the present. The cast of the film features Karim Salen, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Landes, Sherine Reda, Salim Ikram, and Shahira Fahmy. 

Arabian Alien (2020), Meshal Aljaser

Arabian Alien is a thrilling tale about a man named Saad who gets over his downturn after a space alien is brought into his life. The film features Abu Swaleh, Mohammed Alhamdan, and Ana Marte among others.

So What if the Goats Die (2019)Sofia Alaoui

Starring Fouad Oughaou, Said Oughaou, Oumaima Oughaou, and Said Ouabi, So What if the Goats Die is about a young shepherd Abdellah and his father who are hemmed in by snow at their goat pen where their animals are wasting away. Abdellah travels a day to get to a village market for supplies, only to find it deserted due to a strange event.

Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness (2019), Massoud Bakhshi

The story is set in Iran in the present day. Maryam, 22, accidentally kills her husband Nasser who is much older and is sentenced to death. The only person who can save her is Mona, Nasser’s daughter. All Mona has to do is appear on a popular live TV show and forgive Maryam. But forgiveness proves difficult when they are forced to relive the past.

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