Every year, the world looks forward to the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent film festival in the United States that hat has brought to light since its founding in 1978 some of the globe’s most beloved films that bigger award shows have time and again missed, classics such as “Momento,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “The Usual Suspects,” and “The Blair Witch Project.” This year’s edition, which is set to run from January 24 to February 3 in Utah, has reportedly had a record-breaking number of submissions from 152 countries, with many films from the region in the game. Here are five of the region’s entries to this year’s festival to keep an eye on.
1. Dunya's Day
With “Dunya’s Day,” Raed Alsemari Raed Alsemari became the first Saudi Arabian film director honored with the premier of a locally-made movie in his home country. “Dunya’s Day” is a film with an all-Saudi, all-female cast that was shot on location in the Kingdom and that will shortly become the first Saudi Arabian film shown at Sundance.
Known for her first feature fiction film, “The Day I Lost My Shadow,” which was awarded The Lion of the Future award for best debut film in the 2018 Venice International Film Festival, Syrian director Soudade Kaadan is back again, this time with “Aziza,” a short black comedy that offers a dynamic take on the life of Syrian refugees.
This short Tunisian film tells the story of a hardened shepherd’s son who returns home after a long journey with a new wife, with tension rising between father and son. The film will be one of just 73 short films out of 9,443 total worldwide submissions and one of a few selections made by Middle Eastern / North African directors. Tunisian American writer/director Meryam Joobeur is currently developing the feature version of “Brotherhood.”
“Gaza” has been described by Variety as a film that “brings us into a unique place beyond the reach of television news reports […] offering us a cinematic and enriching portrait of a people attempting to lead meaningful lives against the rubble of perennial conflict. This Irish-funded film, which is directed by Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell and falls under the World Documentary category, tells the story of 17-year-old Karma Khaial, a beautifully shot portrait of Palestinian life that offers the viewer a rare chance to see life in Gaza.
“Advocate” is a joint Israeli, Canadian, and Swiss production that examines Israeli human-rights lawyer Leah Tsemel, who has defended Palestinians against a host of criminal charges in Israeli courts for nearly five decades. The film is directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche.