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4 Movies By Female Arab Directors To Watch

March, a time when we celebrate a change in season, the month in which Mother’s Day falls for many nations, and when International Women’s Day is celebrated across the globe. March is also Women’s Month for many countries across the globe, an annual declared month to celebrate all that women have contributed to events in history and contemporary society! So, to mark this month of all that is woman, we are looking at four works by Arab female directors in the region that have redefined cinema:

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1. “Capernaum” by Nadine Labaki

“Capernaum” is a 2018 film by Lebanese director and actress Nadine Labaki. It is the story of a little boy named Zain El Hajj, played by a Syrian refugee child actor Zain Al Rafeea, a 12-year-old boy living in the slums in Beirut. The film focuses on Zain serving his five-year prison sentence for stabbing someone, and how it results in him suing his parents in protest of the life they have given him. Using the flashback format, it also focuses on his life and on his encounter with an Ethiopian immigrant, Rahil, and her son, Yonas. The film was listed as the Lebanese entry for Best Foreign Language Film, and was officially nominated for the Academy Awards in 2019. In addition, it won a total of 22 awards at a handful of festivals.

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2. "The Perfect Candidate" by Haifa Al Mansour

"The Perfect Candidate" is a 2019 film by perhaps Saudi Arabia’s most renowned female director Haifa Al Mansour. It tells the story of a young female doctor, Maryam, and her ambition to change society around her. Having been prevented from traveling to Dubai for employment due to her male guardian not being up to date, she decided to challenge social norms by running for office, while having to deal with the challenges of being a woman.

The movie was chosen to compete in the Golden Lion Award at the 76th Venice International Film, and was considered for Saudi Arabia's entry for Best International Feature Film. 

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3. “Scales” by Shahad Ameen

“Scales,” a film by Saudi Arabian director, writer, and producer Shahad Ameen, is a haunting story of resistance and rebellion, about a strong-willed girl, Hayat, who lives in a fishing village where each family must give one daughter to the creatures in nearby waters. In turn for this dark tradition, the villagers are able to hunt the sea creatures. Spared by her father, the villagers see Hayat as a curse, who is determined to fight for her place in the village. But, after the birth of her baby brother, she must decide whether to accept giving herself to the creatures or escape from the village. “Scales” premiered at Critics' Week at the Venice International Film Festival, where it won the Verona Film Club Award.

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4. "The Neighbor" by Nāyla Al-Khāja

"The Neighbor” by Nāyla Al-Khāja, the UAE’s first female film director-producer, is about an English teacher, Sara, who accepts her new job in Dubai, but is immediately confronted by language and cultural barriers when dealing with her neighbors: Moza, and her granddaughter, Fatma. The film won the 2013 Muhr Emirati Special Jury Prize at the Dubai International Film Festival, and was nominated for the Muhr Emirati Award. “Neighbor” was given the Best Short Film title in 2015 at the Middle East Now Festival, in Florence, Italy.

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