Pre-premieres at this year’s festival

Never before have we had this many films in ordinary cinema release in the Arab Film Days’ festival programme. Among the titles that will later be available to audiences across Norway are the feature films Papicha, Arab Blues and The Perfect Candidate (Norwegian title: Maryam).

This year’s program includes five films with distribution in Norwegian cinema. Three of these are Maryam from Saudi Arabia, Papicha from Algeria and Arab Blues from Tunisia – all of them made by strong female directors who have had their films screened at prestigious international film festivals.

In addition to the mentioned films, we have also released other titles from the program. Read more about the opening film A Son here, and the documentaries For Sama and The Cave here

The Perfect Candidate (Maryam)

Saudi Arabia
Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Duration: 1h 41 min
Age limit: 12 years 

Haifaa Al Mansour’s newest film focuses on the medical doctor Maryam from Saudi Arabia, who challenges the patriarchal system by enlisting herself as a candidate for city council. Her goal is to gain power in order to mend the broken road leading to the clinic where she works, which has been neglected by the authorities for too long. 

Despite meeting resistance on all fronts, the first female candidate to city council ignite more and more interest, and Maryam’s development throughout the film highlight what women can bring to the future of Saudi Arabia. Al Mansour shows the slow expansion of Saudi women’s opportunities to shape their own lives, with a film that encourages them to break out of a system that has been holding them back.

After 40 years of prohibitions, the Saudi Arabian state has now opened up for cinemas and film production in the country, and The Perfect Candidate is made with state support. Saudi politics is a disputed topic, but the fact that Al Mansour is allowed to create this film under what is still an authoritarian regime, is a clear step in expanding the freedom of speech for Saudi citizens. It is furthermore our responsibility as viewers to put pressure on the authorities in order to support other people like Maryam in the rest of the Saudi Arabian society.

The Perfect Candidate is distributed by Selmer Media, and will premiere on March 27th, 2020.



Director: Mounia Meddour
Duration: 1h 47 min
Age limit: 12 years

Director Mounia Meddour has chosen her own youth in the Algeria of the 90s as the scene for her debut feature Papicha, which premiered in Cannes in 2019. A violent civil war is raging, and several terrorist groups are taking over the country in the mission of establishing an Islamic state – making it hard not to make connections to the Islamic State’s presence in the region during the past years.

Eighteen year old Nedjama, also called Papicha, and her friends at a boarding school in the capital Algiers, find themselves in the middle of the unrest. Nedjama, brilliantly portrayed by Lyna Khoudri, dreams of being a fashion designer. She spends all her time designing clothes to herself and her friends. At night they dance in secret clubs, but their freedom is threatened by a social and political climate that is becoming more and more authoritative. With the religious radicalism follows rules and prohibitions the girls at the boarding school try to protest, and in the fight for their own freedom they choose to arrange a fashion show as a way of showing their resistance – leading to catastrophe for the ones involved.

Papicha is distributed by Storytelling and will premiere on March 3rd, 2020.


Arab Blues

Tunisia, France
Director: Manele Labidi
Duration: 1h 28 min
Age limit: A – Allowed for all.

The psychoanalyst Selma returns to her childhood home in Tunis after living ten years abroad in Paris, and to her family’s annoyance she wants to open her own clinic. She battles with skeptical neighbors, unreasonable bureaucracy and several tragicomic challenges on the way. How does a psychologist find patients in a society where mental health is a taboo topic?

Arab Blues is a refreshing comedy which discusses difficult issues in an elegant manner. The film gives insight to the Tunisian day-to-day life after the revolution, especially from a female perspective. Golshifteh Farahani is brilliant as the nonchalant and headstrong Selma, and her therapy sessions with patients offers a range of colorful and entertaining personalities. 

Arab Blues is distributed by Another World Entertainment and will premiere on  June 26th, 2020.