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Four of the Films Participating at Cannes This Year are Directed by Arabs

Cannes Film Festival Red Carpet

Nadine Labaki attends the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 24, 2015 in Cannes, France. Getty

The official selection of the 71st Cannes Film Festival, which runs on May 8-19, has been announced last week. Of the main films competing, two were directed by Arab filmmakers. Yomeddine by AB Shawky and Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum are among two of the films in the main competition for the esteemed Palme d’or title, meanwhile Sofia by Meryem Benm’Barek and My Favorite Fabric by Gaya Jiji are participating in the sidebar Un Certain Regard lineup. Though when it comes to diversity, the selection still has ways to go, it’s better than 2017 and 2016, which only saw two and one Arab filmmakers in the competition, respectively (It’s important to note that more films may be added as the festival kickoff draws nearer.)

In contrast, of the almost 100 films being screened during Tribeca Film Festival, none are directed by Arabs, which is all the more reason to celebrate the four Arab filmmakers showcasing their work in the French Riviera next month. Here, what you need to know about Shawky, Labaki, Benm’Barek, and Jiji.

Nadine Labaki
Nadine Labaki is a Lebanese director who has shown at Cannes twice, in 2007 (Caramel) and in 2011 (Where Do We Go Now). Her new film, Capernaum is one of the three films directed by women in 2018 Cannes lineup. Set in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, the politically-charged movie tells the story of a child who launches a lawsuit.

AB Shawky
Abu Bakr Shawky is an Egyptian filmmaker who is most widely known for his works Martyr Friday (2011) and Things I Heard on Wednesdays (2012). Yomeddine, which is his first entry to Cannes, tells the story of a leprosy patient who accompanies an orphan child on a trip across Egypt in search of his family.

Meryem Benm’Barek
The Moroccan director’s first feature film Sofia has been selected for the sidebar Un Certain Regard lineup during the upcoming festival. The film, which tells the story of a single mother who is searching for the father of her unborn child to avoid getting in trouble with the law, is the first Moroccan movie to be chosen by the esteemed festival since Nabil Ayouch’s “Much Loved” in 2015.

Gaya Jiji
Gaya Jiji is a Syrian filmmaker and actor who is known for her film, My Favorite Fabric, which will be showing at the Un Certain Regard portion of the Cannes Film Festival. Set in the Syrian capital of Damascus, the drama follows a young woman’s journey of self-discovery.

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