Ten Arab Films to See at Dubai International Film Festival 2017

Here's my list of top 10 films to see from the Arab world. Out of thes 10, I've already seen

The Blessed (dir. Sofia Djama) and Wajib (dir. Annemarie Jacir), two strong films by two female directors that I strongly recommend you don't miss, and I am looking forward to discovering new (and hopefully good) Arab films this year.  

Click on each title for more information and to buy tickets. 

The Blessed / Les bienheureux
Director: Sofia Djama
Algeria | 15+ | Arabic and French dialogue with English subtitles | 102 min

In Algiers, a few years after the end of the civil war, Amal and Samir decided to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in a restaurant. On their way there, they discuss the state of their country. 

Amal talks about lost illusions and Samir about the necessity to cope with them. Meanwhile, their son Fahim and his friends Feriel and Reda wander through a hostile Algiers and encounter the harsh reality of life in the city. 

Cactus Flower / Zahret Al Sabar
Director: Hala Elkoussy
Egypt | 12+ | Arabic dialogue with English subtitles | 102 min 

Aida is a struggling actress in her early thirties, from a provincial background. She finds herself on the streets of Cairo along with her elderly neighbour Samiha, a reclusive bourgeois.

With no money and nowhere to go, the two women, aided by young Yassin, a street-savvy kid, embark on a journey to find shelter. 

An extraordinary friendship grows among the unlikely trio, a friendship comparable to a delicate flower blooming from a thorny cactus. 

Kiss Me Not / Balash Tbousny
Director: Ahmed Amer
Egypt | 15+ | Arabic dialogue with English subtitles | 88 min

The film follows a young and ambitious Egyptian director who faces issues while shooting a kissing scene in his new film with the leading actress Fajr who decides to pursue a more religious path.

Never Leave Me
Director: Aida Begić
PG | Arabic and Turkish dialogue with English subtitles | 96 min

A tender tale of solidarity between a trio of young orphans. After his mother dies, 14-year old Isa is sent to an orphanage for Syrian refugees in Turkey. There he makes an uneasy alliance with 11-year old Ahmad and 10-year old Motaz.

The boys are grieving for their parents - Ahmad’s father disappeared in Syria, while Motaz was abandoned by his mother when she remarried. So, whilst not quite sure of each other, the boys are united by their dreams of leaving the orphanage to pursue their various ambitions. 

Although the three boys are very different in their temperament and desires, in face of adversity, they are forced to start relying on each other. The dangers that threatened to ruin their lives will give them a reason to find love, friendship and hope. 

One of These Days
Director: Nadim Tabet
Lebanon | 18+ | Arabic dialogue with English subtitles | 91 min

It’s a sunny autumn day in Beirut and we’re following three young people, Maya, Yasmina and Tarek, as they live their lives amidst a rumbling backdrop of civil unrest, terrorism, war and weapons. 

Yet, like young kids the world over, their minds are more preoccupied with staving off boredom and negotiating the delicate politics of seduction and romance. Over 24 hours, we follow the trio as they navigate the beautiful, damaged, traumatized, electric city they call home.  

Until the Birds Return
Director: Karim Moussaoui
Algeria | PG | Arabic and French dialogue with English subtitles | 113 min

Modern-day Algeria is a maelstrom of stories, as its citizens negotiate the fragile barriers between past and present in these three short stories, reflecting various aspects of life in the North African state.

A nouveau-riche property developer’s past catches up with him unexpectedly. An ambitious neurologist finds his military past isn’t so easy to shake of and a woman finds herself in a dilemma between head and heart. 

Three tales of small human dramas that somehow successfully speak to universal themes and quandaries to which we can all relate.  

Until The End Of Time / Ila Akher Ezaman
Director: Yasmine Chouikh
Algeria | PG | Arabic dialogue with English subtitles | 93 min

In the cemetery of Sidi Boulekbour, Ali the old gravedigger meets the 60-year-old Johar, who is visiting her sister's grave for the first time after losing her husband. Johar wants her final resting place to be next to her sister, so she decides to organize her own funeral and asks Ali to help her.

But preparations for the final journey go awry when Ali and Johar unexpectedly start to realize they have feelings for each other.  

Director: Annemarie Jacir
Palestine | 15+ | Arabic dialogue with English subtitles | 97 min

Internationally acclaimed director Annemarie Jacir, who returns to the DIFF with her latest feature, winner of the Don Quixote Award at Locarno Film Festival and this year's Palestinian Oscar entry, Wajib.

The heart-warming story of the rediscovery and reconciliation of a troubled father-son relationship, Wajib follows a day in the life of Abu Shadi and his son Shadi. With his sister’s wedding a month away, Shadi travels from his job as an architect in Rome to help his father in the customary hand-delivery of the wedding invitations. 

As the estranged pair spend the day together, the tense details of their relationship come to a head, challenging their fragile and very different lives. 

Watermelon Club / Nadi Al Batikh
Director: Yaser Al Neyadi
United Arab Emirates | 15+ | Arabic dialogue with English subtitles | 75 mins

Six men meet up to practice weird and mysterious rituals that recall their shocking past secrets.

Director: Sahim Omar Kalifa
Iraqi Kurdistan | 12+ | Dutch and Kurdish dialogue with English subtitles | 95 mins

Havin, a Kurdish shepherd's wife, flees to Belgium with her nine-year-old daughter, when she is accused of having an affair. Her husband Zagros believes her and follows her to the West, only to be plagued by doubts once he is there.