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Top 7 MENA films premiered at Cannes Film Festival 2024

The top 7 MENA films that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 2024
4 min read
23 May, 2024
The New Arab highlights seven standout MENA films that premiered during Cannes 2024 and are worth keeping an eye on this year.

The Cannes Film Festival this year showcased screenings from the Middle East and North Africa that captured significant attention.

The New Arab has curated a list of the top seven films premiered there, and we highly recommend giving them a watch.

The Seed of the Sacred Fig (2024) 

Director Mohammad Rasoulof – Iran, France, Germany

In the bustling streets of Tehran, the life of Judge Iman takes a drastic turn when he discovers his gun missing, leading him to suspect his own family, including his wife and daughters. The film explores the intricate dynamics of familial relationships, as suspicion and distrust put their bonds to the ultimate test. 

Despite facing an eight-year prison sentence in Iran, Director Mohammad Rasoulof's determination to present this story at Cannes highlights the enduring power of artistic expression in challenging times.

Norah (2024) 

Director Tawfik Alzaidi – Saudi Arabia

Transporting audiences back to the conservative landscape of 1990s Saudi Arabia, Norah introduces us to Nader, a newly arrived teacher in a remote village, and Norah, a spirited young woman yearning for freedom. Their secret affair blossoms amidst the shadows of societal restrictions and impending danger, fueled by their shared passion for art and beauty.

Against the backdrop of a repressive society, the film serves as a reminder of the power of love and the human spirit's pursuit of liberation.

To a Land Unknown (2024)

Director Mahdi Fleifel – Palestine, UK, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia

To a Land Unknown tells the story of Chatila and Reda, two Palestinian cousins in Athens, Greece, aiming for a better life in Germany. They face tough challenges as refugees, pushing themselves to their limits. Their journey highlights the struggles of seeking refuge and finding hope in difficult times.

Across the Sea (2024)

Director Saïd Hamich Benlarbi – Morocco, France, Belgium, Qatar

Across the Sea follows Nour, a young immigrant who comes to Marseille, France, for a better life. He faces tough challenges surviving on the outskirts of society, getting involved in small crimes with an uncertain future. But meeting Serge, a charismatic but unpredictable cop, and his wife Noémie, gives Nour hope.

The story spans from 1990 to 2000, showing Nour's search for love, identity, and belonging in a world that's changing fast.

East of Noon (2024) 

Director Hala Elkoussy – Egypt, Netherlands, Qatar

East of Noon welcomes viewers into a fantasy world rooted in Egyptian folklore. It follows young Abdou, a musical prodigy who defies tradition with his music. As Abdou's melodies resonate across the timeless landscape, he confronts the norms, embarking on a bold journey of self-discovery.

Director Hala Elkoussy's tale celebrates Egypt's cinematic heritage, with enchanting characters and captivating storytelling that transport audiences to a realm of limitless imagination.

The Brink of Dreams (2024)

Director Nada Riyadh & Ayman El Amir – Egypt, France, Denmark, Qatar, Saudi Arabia

In a remote village in Upper Egypt, a group of young girls breaks societal norms by forming a street theatre group. They dream of a life beyond their traditional upbringing. Through daring performances, they challenge the expectations of their Coptic families and local communities. Daughters of the Nile, filmed over four years, shows their journey from rebellious teens to empowered women.

This film is a powerful story of resilience and strength, capturing their universal longing for self-discovery and freedom.

Everybody Loves Touda (2024) 

Director Nabil Ayouch – Morocco, France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway

In the charming villages of Morocco, Touda dreams of a life beyond what society expects. She wants to become a Sheikha, a traditional Moroccan performer. Despite facing criticism from her community, Touda finds comfort in her music, singing about resistance, love, and freedom. Every night, she performs in local bars, her voice filling the streets as she imagines a better future for herself and her son.

Driven by a desire to break free from tradition, Touda sets her sights on the bright lights of Casablanca, determined to make her own way in a world full of opportunities.

Alexander Durie is a journalist working across video, photography, and feature writing. He has freelanced for The Guardian, Al Jazeera English, The Economist, The Financial Times, Reuters, The Independent, and more, contributing dispatches from Paris, Berlin, Beirut, and Warsaw

Follow him on Instagram: @alexander.durie