Arab filmmakers picked for Cannes Film Festival juries

Arab filmmakers picked for Cannes Film Festival juries
Filmmakers from Algeria, Egypt, and Tunisia will be jurors at the world's most prestigious film festival
2 min read
16 June, 2021
Tunisian filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania at a cinema award ceremony in Paris on January 15, 2021. [Photo by Bertrand Guay/AFP via Getty Images]

Three Arab filmmakers will be gracing juries at Cannes, the world’s most prestigious film festival set to take place next month.

Filmmakers Kaouther Ben Hania, from Tunisia, and Sameh Alaa, from Egypt, will join the six-member short films jury; the winning film will be awarded the Short Film Palme d'Or.

The same jury will judge the Cinéfondation section of the festival, for student films. Russian-born Algerian director, producer, and screenwriter Mounia Meddour will be a juror for Un Certain Regard ("A Certain Gaze"), a category at Cannes for unusual films.

Ben Hania was Oscar-nominated for her films Beauty and the Dogs (2017) and The Man Who Sold His Skin (2020). She grew up in a large family in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

She said in an interview last year, she spent the little alone time she had with her imagination; books, then filmmaking brought sense and order to the chaos of her imagination. 

Her co-juror Sameh Alaa, a 34-year-old director, producer, and writer, was the first Egyptian ever to win a Palme d'Or at Cannes, for his short film "I’m Afraid To Forget Your Face" (2020), called "Sixteen" in Arabic.

Alaa won the top prize in extraordinary circumstances. The festival, which usually takes place in May, was cancelled last year for only the second time in its history because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, a symbolic event was organised in October, with only one award to be given. Alaa’s film, which, rather fittingly, was about reunion, won the award.

"The best moment in 2020 was when the film Sixteen won a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival," Alaa said in an interview last year. "It's a moment I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.”

On the Un Certain Regard jury is Mounia Meddour. Her film Papicha made Cannes’ official selection in 2019, in the same category she will be judging.

The awards for the three categories will be presented on the last three days of the festival, set to go ahead in person in the French Riviera town - pandemic permitting.