Three Arab female directors make Cannes 2020 official selection

Fri, 2020-06-26 10:52

PARIS: The physical version of this year’s Cannes Film
Festival may have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but
on June 3, Thierry Frémaux, the Festival’s General Delegate,
released its Official Selection of 56 shortlisted movies, each of
which will receive a Cannes 2020 endorsement label to encourage
their promotion on release.

“No one knows what the second half of the year may bring and
whether it will be possible to organize major film events again in
2020, including the Festival de Cannes,†said Frémaux. “Cannes
has therefore decided to adapt its format for this peculiar

Of the record 2,067 Cannes Film Festival submissions, 532 of the
movies were made by female directors, and of the 56 selected
movies, 16 are by women. While this is a long way from the goal of
Collectif 50/50 — the association for gender equality and
diversity in cinema launched in 2018 — it’s a good start.

Three of those 16 shortlisted female directors have Arabic
heritage; Danielle Arbid from Lebanon, Ayten Amin from Egypt, and
French-Algerian director Maïwenn. All three explore facets of
female identity, sexuality, and adolescence and family

‘Passion Simple’ by Danielle Arbid

Danielle Arbid is a Lebanese filmmaker. (Supplied)

Lebanese filmmaker Danielle Arbid’s fourth feature is based on
a 1992 novel by Annie Ernaux. It stars French actress Laetitia
Dosch and Russian-Ukrainian former ballet dancer Sergei Polunin in
the leading roles. Dosch plays a reclusive academic who has a
highly-charged affair with a Russian diplomat (Polunin), with a
narrative that follows her journal entries as her whole existence
focuses on their next erotic rendez-vous. After “Parisienne, Peur
de Rien†(2016), “Beirut Hotel†(2011) and “Un Homme
Perdu†(2007), this is the first of Arbid’s films without an
obvious link to Lebanon.

“Maybe this is because I’ve been living in Paris for 30
years and I finally consider myself as French as Lebanese,†Arbid
told Arab News. “I’ve been making films long before the whole
#metoo movement. I don’t believe there is a feminine or a
masculine cinema, but I am really happy that women are finally
being taken into consideration. No one helped me professionally
because of my Lebanese origins or because I am a woman —
certainly not in Lebanon, where most of my work is censored, or in
the Arab world. Being a woman hasn’t proved a hindrance in
filmmaking. The female representation at Cannes is still not
entirely satisfactory, but at last we’re moving in the right

‘Souad’ directed by Ayten Amin and Mahmoud

‘Souad’ is directed by Ayten Amin and Mahmoud Ezzat.

Ayten Amin’s second feature — co-directed by Mahmoud Ezzat
— focuses on Souad and Rabab, teenager sisters of an
ultra-conservative family. Nineteen-year-old Souad leads a secret
life on social media. When Souad commits suicide, 12-year-old Rabab
travels to Alexandria to find Ahmed, the key figure in Souad’s
online life, seeking answers to her death.

“Cinema is difficult for both men and women in Egypt, but I
have to admit that it’s a lot more difficult for women,†Amin
told Arab News. “I have to prove myself every time, as though
every project is my first. I’ve had more successes than several
of my male colleagues, but they’ve had more opportunities than me
and — despite my track record — they’re much better paid. So,
I guess being a woman in cinema is definitely a hindrance. Cinema
is male-dominated everywhere. However, I’m always on the side of
a good film regardless of gender. In making ‘Souad,’ I was
supported by my friend, Sameh Awad, who became its producer because
he was enthusiastic about it, even though he isn’t involved in

What does she need to redress the balance?

“I need public funding to support cinema in Egypt, as well as
European funding. We need to start assessing projects in the Middle
East according to the talent and artistic values of the films, and
not just as hot topics to serve the European point of view of Arab

‘DNA’ by Maïwenn

Maïwenn has now made six feature films. (AFP)

Franco-Algerian filmmaker and actor Maïwenn is no stranger to
moviemaking. Her actress mother, Catherine Belkhodja, brought her
to castings from the age of three. “My mother only loved me on
the silver screen,†Maïwenn told Arab News.

When she was 15, Maïwenn met director Luc Besson, 31, at the
César Awards ceremony. A year later, they married and moved to LA.
They split in 1998 after Besson began a relationship with Milla
Jovovich, who was playing the lead in his film “The Fifth
Element,†in which Maïwenn also had a role.

In a manifesto she publicized as the #metoo movement gained
traction, Maïwenn wrote.

“I reclaim the right to have power in my work without
frightening men.†Her statement ended with, “We’ll get

Maïwenn has now made six feature films, winning the Prix du
Jury at Cannes for 2011’s “Polisse,†which she also starred
in and wrote. In her latest, “DNA,†Maïwenn plays the lead
role of Neige, a woman deeply attached to her Algerian grandfather,
who provided a buffer against her toxic parents. When Emir dies,
tensions escalate between Neige’s extended family members,
triggering a dramatic identity crisis.

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Source: FS – All – Interesting – News
Three Arab female directors make Cannes 2020 official