As the opening movie for this year’s festival, we have chosen Sofia by Meryem Benm'Barek-Aloïsi. This is her feature film debut. Sofia is a hard-hitting drama that dares to comment on tabooed topics, as we have seen several movies do the past years. The film was shown at the prestigious Cannes film festival last year, in the Un Certain Regard section; where Benm'Barek-Aloïsi also won prize for best script. Actress Sarah Perles is a guest at our festival and will be attending the opening.
Language Arabic, french
Lenght 80 min
The laws for sex outside marriage are strict and punished with prison in Morocco, and this serves as the the political context for director Meryem Benm'Barek-Aloïsi’s feature film debut. Born in Morocco and raised in Belgium, Benm'Barek-Aloïsi aims her focus on a conservative, outdated and sexist society. This kind of society becomes a problem for 20 years old Sofia (Maha Alemi), who has denied her pregnancy until the labor has started. Sofia leaves the family dinner together with her cousin Lena (Sarah Perles) to give birth, but all the hospitals refuses to let her in because she can’t identify the father of her child. Fortunately, they meet one merciful doctor who helps them. After giving birth, the situation worsens as Sofia is in desperate need of the father acknowledging her child to avoid going to prison. Sofia is just as much a film about class as it is about gender, subtly told through costumes, language and misé-en-scene. It is also a film as much about the society as it is about its characters, which becomes its main strength.
Egypt, US, Austria
Lenght 97 min
People are left out of the society for many different reasons. Yomeddine highlights several ways of being an outsider in the Egyptian society. The main character Beshay is a man who, at a young age, was placed by his father in a colony for lepers hoping it would provide a better life for him. When Beshay's mentally ill wife dies, he decides to return to his birthplace and potentially a better future in Qena, outside Luxor, together with his orphaned friend Obama. But on their way, they face a number of prejudices from the Egyptian society, especially towards Beshay's disease.
Yomeddine, which translates to Judgement Day in Arabic, is director A. B. Shawky's directorial debut and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Even though the film depicts the darker sides of life in Egypt, it is most of all a character-driven road movie with both comic and heart-warming moments. Definitely feel-good!
Tunisia, France, Belgium
Lenght 100 min
According to reports from the UN, Tunisia has sent more young men to join the ranks of the Islamic State than any other country. What makes a person travel into a war zone? Director Mohamed Ben Attia, who visited Arab Film Days in 2017 with his feature debut Hedi, tries to come up with answers in the heartbreaking drama Dear Son, which was screened at last year’s film festival in Cannes.
Riadh and Nazil have invested everything they have in their 19 year-old-son Sami. Sami, on his side, is suffering from migraine and anxiety about his upcoming college entrance exams. Then, one day, he leaves his parents and travels to Syria. In desperation and despair Riadh follows, to get him back again. Ben Attia’s main focus is on the parents, and he makes a smart decision in letting the film examine the indirect victims of extremism: the ones left behind that has to continue their life in the unknown.
Libanon, Syria, Frankrike, Tyskland
Språk Arabisk, engelsk
Lenght 120 min
Still Recording won the Critics Week Prize at Venice Film Festival for its depiction of everyday life in the midst of the Syrian civil war. Art students Saeed and Milad decide to leave Damascus and go to Douma, a suburb under rebel control. Over more than four years, the film depicts the two friends and their acquaintances as they go through liberation, war, siege and hunger, but also laughter, parties and a tireless belief in the good in people. Directors Saeed Al Batal and Giath Ayoub have distilled 500 hours of footage into two.
The result is discouraging but moving. The film never attempts to explain the chronology of the Syrian civil war but chooses instead to focus on some of the meetings that interfere with the lives of the two friends: A telephone between a rebel and one of Assad's soldiers, a sniper's confession before firing, a man exercising among all the ruins. As a spectator of these events, it is difficult not to ask the question: Is there anything we could have done?