Screen spotlights eight titles from the Middle East and Africa that could set sail at film festivals in 2024.
Dir. Ala Eddine Slim
A rough cut of Agora played at last year’s Atlas Workshops at Marrakech, with a story about three missing people returning to a remote Tunisian town, where a local police officer tries to unravel their mystery. Tunisian filmmaker Slim has played extensively on the festival circuit with his previous work, including at FIDMarseille in 2012 with Babylon, which won the Grand Prize; at Venice in 2016 with Lion of the Future prizewinner The Last Of Us; and most recently at Cannes in 2019, with Directors’ Fortnight entry Tlamess. Julie Viez’s French company Cinenovo, which made Lotfy Nathan’s Cannes 2022 title Harka, co-produces.
Contact: Exit Productions
Carissa (South Africa)
Dirs. Jason Jacobs, Devon Delmar
This South African drama was a hit at last year’s Final Cut In Venice lab, winning a post-production prize awarded by Mubi, Cinecitta and The Party Film Sales execs; as well as taking the Coup de Coeur de la Cinematheque Afrique prize from the Institut Francais. Produced by Deidre Jantjies and Annemarie Du Plessis, it centres on a young woman who discovers that the new golf estate where she is looking for work, will be built over her estranged grandfather’s rooibos tea lands. It has also been through New York’s Gotham Film Week, Rotterdam’s CineMart and its homeland market, Durban FilmMart.
Contact: Na Aap Productions
Everybody Loves Touda (working title) (Morocco-France)
Dir. Nabil Ayouch
Franco-Moroccan filmmaker Ayouch follows his 2021 feature Casablanca Beats, the first Moroccan film to compete for the Palme d’Or in Cannes, with a female-driven story about a poet and singer raising her deaf-mute son in a small village who heads to Casablanca in search of a better life. Ayouch co-writes with his wife and actress, filmmaker Maryam Touzani, whose The Blue Caftan, produced by Ayouch, was the first Moroccan film to land on the Oscars shortlist.
Contact: mk2 Films
Dir. Tom Nesher
The debut feature of Israeli filmmaker Nesher – the son of acclaimed Israeli director Avi Nesher – is inspired by tragic personal experience: in 2018 Tom’s brother Ari was killed in a hit-and-run incident. Finally follows a young woman whose younger brother dies in a similar event; when she discovers about his secret girlfriend, she begins to grow closer to the other woman. Producers Haim and Estee Mecklberg are stalwarts of the Israeli scene through their 2-Team Productions, with credits including Eran Riklis’ The Human Resources Manager and Tal Grant’s The Farewell Party. Finally came through the 2021 Sam Spiegel Film Lab, and comes after Nesher’s shorts including 2020’s And Now Shut Your Eyes.
The Legend Of The Vagabond Queen Of Lagos (Nigeria-South Afr-Ger-US)
Dirs. The Agbajawo Collective
This magical realist fable is a unique proposition – a singular story co-directed by seven people, five of whom are youngsters from the slums of Nigerian capital Lagos. It participated in Durban’s FilmMart, and has backing from the Sundance Institute and the Berlinale World Cinema Fund. The film follows a young mother from a waterfront Lagos slum, who stumbles upon blood money marked to build a luxury estate where her community lives. The filmmakers are keen to emphasise the social impact potential of the project, with co-producers including Slum Dwellers International, an organisation supporting over 5,000 slums worldwide.
Contact: Raconteur Productions
Reading Lolita In Tehran (Isr-It)
Dir. Eran Riklis
2024 would be a fitting year for Israeli stalwart Riklis to launch his next film: it is 40 years since his 1984 debut On A Clear Day You Can See Damascus. His latest has the ingredients for a success: an adaptation of Iranian author Azar Nafisi’s 2003 best-selling memoir, it has a starry Iranian cast led by Golshifteh Farahani, Holy Spider lead Zar Amir Ebrahimi, and No Bears actress Mina Kavani. The narrative follows a teacher who gathers seven of her female students to read forbidden Western classics; festival programmers may see a chance to reflect the ongoing political strife in the region, and the activism it has forged.
Contact: WestEnd Films
Things That You Kill (Iran-Tur-Fr)
Dir. Alireza Khatami
An Iranian filmmaker based in Canada, Khatami is known for co-directing Terrestrial Verses, the only Iranian film at Cannes last year, that took a critical look at life in the totalitarian country. His first feature Oblivion won Venice’s Horizons award for best screenplay in 2017. His latest film is a political drama about the patriarchy set in Turkey, featuring a well-known local cast.
Contact: Fulgurance Films
Dir. Ameer Fakher Eldin
When an Arab author arrives on a remote North Sea island intending to end his life, the kind older woman who takes him in draws him out of his depression. Georges Khabbaz, whose credits include Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum, and German star Hanna Schygulla – recently in Poor Things – lead the cast of the second feature from Eldin, who is Ukrainian-born, Syrian through his parents, and lives in Germany. The film won a $30,000 post-production award at Red Sea Film Festival’s Souk market in December; with financing from Hamburg’s regional fund, Eurimages and Telefilm Canada, and co-production from Italy’s Intramovies, Qatar’s Metafora Production and Jordan’s Tabi360, its international credentials are strong. Eldin’s debut The Stranger launched in Giornate degli Autori at Venice in 2021, then becoming Palestine’s 2021 Oscar submission.
Contact: Microclimat Films
Additional reporting by Rebecca Leffler.