Screen profiles 12 potential hot festival titles out of Asia, the Middle East and Africa for 2020, including new films from Ann Hui, Mohamed Diab and Kaouther Ben Hania.
Love After Love (China)
Dir. Ann Hui
Hong Kong filmmaker Ann Hui revisits the work of Eileen Chang with this adaptation of 1943 novella Aloeswood Incense about a young woman from Shanghai who heads to Hong Kong to continue her studies, but ends up working for her aunt, seducing rich and powerful men. The cast features Eddie Peng, Ma Sichun and Faye Yu. Hui is regularly feted on the Asian festival circuit but has not been selected for an A-list European event since 2011 when A Simple Life played in competition in Venice. She was last in Cannes with Boat People in 1983, could this change this year?
Contact: Fortissimo Films
Mogadishu (South Korea)
Dir. Ryoo Seung-wan
The Berlin File director Ryoo’s latest action drama stars Kim Yoon-seok (1987: When The Day Comes), Zo In-sung (The Great Battle) and Huh Joon-ho (Default). North and South Korean embassy diplomats have a history of diplomatic clashes on the African continent, but when civil war breaks out in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu, they are forced to cooperate to escape. Beyond their domestic popularity, Ryoo’s features regularly screen at festivals worldwide, while his boxing drama Crying Fist played in Directors’ Fortnight in 2005, winning the Fipresci award.
Contact: Lotte Entertainment
Moneyboys (Austria, France)
Dir. C.B. Yi
Taiwanese star Kai Ko plays a young Chinese rent boy – or so-called moneyboy - who sells his body to support his family, opposite Zhexi Lin as an experienced hustler who takes him under his wing. It is the debut feature of Chinese-Austrian director C.B. Yi who studied at the Vienna Academy under the guidance of Michael Haneke. The Mandarin-language drama is set in China but was shot in Taiwan due to its taboo LGBTQIA+ storyline.
Contact: Totem Films
Three Mothers (working title) (Japan)
Dir. Naomi Kawase
A couple adopts a baby boy after a long and emotionally painful struggle to conceive fails. Their happiness as parents is shattered a few years later when they are threatened with blackmail by a young woman claiming to be the child’s biological mother. Cannes regular Kawase adapted the screenplay from a best-selling novel by Japanese writer Mizuki Tsujimura.
Untitled Kiyoshi Kurosawa war epic (Japan)
Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa
In 1940s Japan, a merchant witnesses a conspiracy whilst travelling and decides to take action to reveal it to the world, against the wishes of his wife. This epic drama is co-scripted by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, whose Asako I & II competed in Cannes in 2018, and Tadashi Nohara, co-writer of Hamaguchi’s Happy Hour. Yu Aoi (Birds Without Names) heads the cast.
Wu Hai (China)
Dir. Zhou Ziyang
A young couple living in the city of Wuhai in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in Northern China head to a romantic spot on a local mountain top to mark their third wedding anniversary, but all is not as it seems. Huang Xuan (Blind Massage, Youth) co-stars as a man who contemplates desperate measures as he battles spiralling debts, opposite Yang Zishan (Till The End Of The World) as his wife, who hails from a wealthy family. It is the second feature of Inner Mongolia director Zhou after award-winning debut Old Beast.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
Dir. Mohamed Diab
This drama is inspired by the real-life phenomenon of Palestinian prisoners whose sperm is smuggled out of Israeli jails so their partners can conceive through artificial insemination. It is Egyptian director Diab’s third feature after his breakout 2010 film 678, about sexual harassment in Cairo, and post-revolutionary drama Clash, which opened Cannes Un Certain Regard in 2016. Tara Abboud stars as a teenager who is trying to track down her biological father. Other cast members include Jordanian actress Saba Mubarak, Palestinian actors Ali Suleiman and Ziad Bakri, and US-Palestinian star Waleed Zuaiter. It produced by Egypt’s Mohamed Hefzy at Film Clinic, Moez Masoud at Acamedia and Mona Abdelwahab at The Studio. Palestinian filmmaker-producers Hany Abu Assad and Amira Diab as well as Egyptian producer Sarah Goher are creatively overseeing the production.
Contact: Pyramide International
Dir. Darin J. Sallam
The events of 1948 in Palestine are retold through the eyes of a 14-year-old Palestinian girl growing up in a small village. She has to swap dreams of furthering her education for a fight for survival as the Palestine War of 1947-49 - which saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians driven from their homes by Israeli fighters - changes her life forever. It is the debut feature of Sallam after award-winning shorts Still Alive, The Dark Outside and The Parrot. It is produced by Jordanian company Talebox and Sweden’s Laika Film and TV. Cast includes Ashraf Barhom (Tyrannt, The Kingdom, Agora, 300) and Ali Suleiman (Jack Ryan, Paradise Now, Rattle the Cage) as well as Jordanian newcomers Karam Taher, in the titutular role, and Tala Gammoh.
The Gravedigger (Djibouti)
Dir. Khadar Ahmed
Somali-Finnish filmmaker Khadar Ahmed captures life in the slums of Djibouti City in the horn of Africa with sympathy and wry humour through the tale of a devoted couple who eloped there from their rural villages as teenagers. When the wife falls ill many years later, the man returns home against her will to raise money for an operation. Canadian-Somali model Yasmin Warsame plays the female lead opposite Omar Abdi, who is best known internationally for his role in Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s 2008 short film Citizens, which Ahmed co-wrote. Ahmed attended Cannes’ Cinéfondation residency programme with The Gravedigger in 2015. It recently won the €20,000 Works in Progress prize at Marrakech’s Atlas Workshops in December and was also showcased in the work-in-progress event of the Les Arcs Film Festival.
Contact: Bufo, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tunisia)
Dir: Kaouther Ben Hania
A Syrian refugee agrees to become the human canvas for a body art work by a renowned US artist, under which a Schengen visa is tattooed onto his back, in the hope it will get him to Europe. The international cast features Italy’s Monica Bellucci, Belgium’s Koen De Bouw and Tunisian actor Yahya Mahay. Ben Hania made waves in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2017 with Beauty And The Dogs while her mokumentary Le Challat de Tunis was showcased in Cannes parallel ACID sidebar and documentary Zaineb Hates The Snow premiered out of competition at Locarno. Long-time collaborators Habib Attia at Cinetelefilms and Nadim Cheikhrouha at Tanit films lead produce.
Contact: Bac Films
Dir. Ismaël Ferroukhi
Ferroukhi, who won Venice Lion of the Future with The Great Journey in 2004, explores contemporary Morocco through this tale of a young boy who is sent to work at a swanky tennis club, where his eyes are opened to the possibilities of another type of life. The director has promised a positive and poetic tale about a young boy who changes his world through sport. Ferroukhi was last in Cannes in 2011 with World War Two drama Free Men. Producer Chraibi’s credits include Olivier Laxe’s Mimosas which won the Grand Prix at Cannes Critics’ Week in 2016.
Contact: Lamia Chraibi, La Prod
The Notebooks (Lebanon)
Dirs. Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige
A Montreal-raised teenage girl of Lebanese origin discovers her mother’s turbulent past in war-torn 1980s Beirut when an old suitcase containing her adolescent notebooks, audiotapes and photographs is sent to their home out of the blue. Lebanese directorial duo Hadjithomas and Joreige are best known for their 2012 documentary The Lebanese Rocket Society which premiered at Denmark’s CPH: DOX.