The time when only Hollywood produced the bulk of must-see films is long gone. Emerging cinematic hubs such as the Middle East, Bollywood, Nollywood, and even Spain, have risen to prominence and are delivering critically-acclaimed films on a fraction of the budget. The Middle Eastern film industry, in particular, has undergone tremendous changes similar to the dramatic shifts seen in areas such as sports, middle eastern online casinos, and fashion. It has produced engaging and thought-provoking films that have captivated viewers both locally and abroad. In this article, we will explore the enthralling world of Middle Eastern cinema by highlighting five excellent films that should be on your must-see list.
Copilot: A Gripping Tale of Love and Political Turmoil
A movie inspired by the true story of the 9/11 attacks, Copilot depicts the connection between Ziad Jarrah and Aysel Sengun, his girlfriend. It was created by Anne Zohra Berrached and written in collaboration with Stephanie Misrahi as the action is divided into five chapters, each marking one year of the couple’s relationship.
The two meet as students in the mid-90s in Hamburg, and that’s the movie’s starting point as well. Unlike going for sensationalism, Anne went for naturalistic cinematography and exceptional dramaturgical choices. Furthermore, the creator’s grounded storytelling and assured direction deliver a captivating human exploration of love, the lies we often tell ourselves, and the duty each person has. It also touches on the tricky political climate that continues to mess with people’s lives on a personal and global level.
Costa Brava, Lebanon: Intergenerational Drama in an Environmental Crisis
This intergenerational drama from Mounia Akl was shot in 2020, a few months after the unfortunate incidents in the Port of Beirut. Set in a not-so-distant future, the movie is centered on the Badri family and the process that transforms their paradise-like homestead into a toxic prison, both literally and metaphorically. The Badris used to live in a cozy environment, but the amount of trash being dumped near their home has tarnished their surroundings. This low-budget film features a talented cast of both established and emerging actors.
A Hero: A Compelling Social Drama of Morality and Public Opinion
The third entry on our list is actually the winner of the 2021 Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie, made by Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, is a fable-like social drama that tells the story of a divorced father going through all sorts of situations.
The man has to juggle his own conscience and the court of public opinion in his attempt to be released from prison. In the movie, Amir Jadidi portrays Rahim, a man who gets a two-day parole from prison because of debt. Rahim plans to use a lost bag containing gold to secure his freedom. However, his scheme gains attention from both traditional and online media, as well as charitable organizations. As a result, the lies and omissions he has used to create a heroic image start to threaten his newfound freedom.
You Resemble Me: A Haunting Study of Identity and Tragedy
This is Dina Amer’s debut film and is a stunning and horrifying study of the backdrop of the real-life case of Hasna At Boulahcen. Boulahcen, a young Moroccan-born Frenchwoman, was sadly slain during a raid in Paris in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. The media hyped her as Europe’s “first female suicide bomber,” despite forensic evidence indicating that the bomber was an unidentified man.
The video goes into Boulahcen’s life, beginning with her tight relationship with her younger sister and ending with her separation from social services, which left her with a terrible emotional wound. As an adult, Mouna Soualem’s character, Boulahcen, suffers from anger, sadness, and abuse, as well as drug addiction. Her engagement with her cousin’s online jihadist avatar propels her quest even more.
Amer expertly employs deep fake technology to produce a disturbing effect, morphing Boulahcen’s visage into other pictures representing her fragmented identity. This method adds a horror film-like intensity to “You Resemble Me,” making it a powerful and emotionally resonant piece.
There Is No Evil: Dark Exploration of Moral Dilemmas & Consequences
Mohammad Rasoulof’s award-winning drama, which won the Berlin Golden Bear, is a captivating exploration of contemporary Iran. Consisting of four interconnected episodes, the film delves into the pressing issues of the death penalty and the restriction of rights. Titled “There Is No Evil,” this remarkable cinematic creation weaves together four moral stories that present men with an unfathomable choice: either carry out the death penalty as ordered or risk everything by rejecting it. The consequences of their decisions ripple through their lives, relationships, and consciences, leaving a lasting impact.
In a grim and matter-of-fact tone, the film portrays the complexities of these moral dilemmas, gradually intensifying with each tale. Mohammad Rasoulof’s uncompromising vision sheds light on the dark undercurrents of society, emphasizing the weight of personal choices and their far-reaching consequences. Notably, the director himself faced adversity, as in 2020, he was sentenced to a year in prison for alleged propaganda. Despite these challenges, the film was courageously brought to life through a clandestine production process, filmed in secret, and smuggled out of Iran.
These five films have surely left an indelible mark on viewers both locally and globally, enthralling them with their raw and emotional performances, gorgeous photography, and fascinating storytelling. Their stories bravely question traditional norms, delving into the complexity of the region’s cultures, and shining a light on serious social issues. The emergence of new movie hubs such as the Middle East and the fast-growing Nollywood industry has changed the scene, challenging Hollywood’s dominance and producing exciting and thought-provoking narratives. The Middle Eastern film industry continues to alter and redefine the world of cinema, and these remarkable films should without a doubt be on any film enthusiast’s must-see list.