Wael Hattar's top 10 Arab films to see at Dubai International Film Festival 2015

After sharing my top 30 list of films to see at the upcoming Dubai International Film Festival, my friend and Tea with Culture podcast* partner Wael Hattar suggested sharing his list too.

There are quite a few overlaps between his top 20 list and mine, so I asked him to focus on sharing a list of top Arab films to see at the festival. Wael shared his Dubai International Film Festival top picks two years ago, so I'm glad he's back to share his list this year. The list includes why he chose them and links to buy the tickets online. 

Over to you Wael.


There's a broader choice of Arab films his year, many of these films move away from the usual renditions of the struggles we see in Arab films and present an alternative outlook on these struggles. Here's my top 10 in alphabetical order.


3000 Nights
Director : Mai Masri  
Arabic and Hebrew dialogue with English subtitles / 103 mins  
Rating: 15+ (Contains: Adult References, Coarse Language, Drugs and Violence) 

A Palestinian film about prison, but this time it’s a pregnant woman and how she deals with it. Definitely something new to see, but also from the mind of a director who’s past works were documentaries. 



As I Open My Eyes
Director : Leyla Bouzid
Arabic dialogue with English subtitles / 102 mins
Rating: 18+ (Contains: Adult References, Brief Sex, Coarse Language, Male Nudity and Violence)

An 18 year old Tunisian girl graduates, a look at life, fun and music before any of the revolutionary uprisings. Most of the Arab films are just about some war, so I'm always happy to see something alternative and the life around and under all the drama we have in the news.



Ave Maria
Director : Basil Khalil
Arabic, English and Hebrew dialogue with English subtitles / 14 mins
Rating: PG

A short film that was selected for Cannes earlier this year, I am interested in its topic as two religious situations have a problem that needs solving but have to work around their oaths. A light-hearted look at a topic everyone in the region takes too seriously and heavily and I hope that in its satirical undertones a decent point is made.



The Curve
Director : Rifqi Assaf
Arabic dialogue with English subtitles / 81 mins
Rating: PG

The Curve is a road movie, so it's a little different to the usual war related topics we have in Arab cinema (or at least I hope so). A man in a van off on a trip to find himself and collects a few people along the way. Honestly, I'm not expecting too much out of this first feature, but I am interested in Rifqi Assaf will tell the story and hoping for interesting non cliche characters.



Director : Philippe Faucon
Arabic and French dialogue with English subtitles / 79 mins
Rating: PG

Based on a collection of Arabic poems By Fatima Elayoubi, Fatima is a mother in France where her daughters are adapting and she is trying to hold on to them and herself while working odd jobs, with a poor hold on the French language. Tough but touching. 

Let them Come
Director : Salem Brahimi
Arabic and French dialogue with English subtitles  / 95 mins
Rating: 18+ (Contains: Adult References, Brief Sex, Strong Language and Violence)

Not usually a fan of Algerian films about the violence in the 1980s or the Islamists issues, but this seemingly well developed emotional story of a forced marriage and defending a family within the horrible settings of that time got me interested in what could be a well rounded film.

Director : Danielle Arbid
Arabic and French dialogue with English subtitles / 121 mins
Rating: 18+ (Contains: Adult References, Drugs, Sexuality, Strong Language and Nudity)

Semi autobiographical and set in the 1990s, a 19 year old girl moves to Paris from Lebanon and tries to adapt by herself as she starts her education. As a fan of the storytelling and pace thatDanielle Arbid has with her other films, the care taken with this character should be well placed making for a wonderfully told story. 


Starve Your Dog 
Director : Hicham Lasri
Arabic, Berber and French dialogue with English subtitles / 94 mins
Rating: 15+ (Contains: Adult References, Coarse Language and Violence)

Social, satirical and experimental film by Moroccon director Hicham Lasri who’s last few films at DIFF were wonderful. Definitely something we don’t have in abundance in Arab cinema (or done as well). 

Yallah! Underground
Director : Farid Eslam
Arabic and English dialogue with English subtitles / 85 mins
Rating: 12+   

A documentary about the underground music scene with all the changes happening to region. Features some people I know and a scene I’m interested in and support, so I'm interested to see how this portrays our region.

Director : Majid Al Ansari
Arabic dialogue with English subtitles / 92 mins
Rating: 15+ (Contains: Coarse Language and Violence)

This is the first full feature for Emirati filmmaker Majid Al Ansari, a thriller about a man locked in a small prison cell. Creepy yes, let's hope for the best.

A special mention to two additional films I'm very keen to see at the festival. They are not films from the Arab world, but follow the theme of struggle and/or identity around the time of war.


The Childhood of a Leader
Director : Brady Corbet
English and French dialogue with English subtitles / 116 mins  
Rating: 15+ (Contains: Adult References, Adult Themes, Brief Nudity and Violence)

A young actor’s first feature as a director that did well in the festival circuit. I’m interested in that creepy factor (based on Sartre’s story set at the end of WW1) and tell tales of the darker development of a young American boy in France.

Land of Mine
Director : Martin Zandvliet
Danish, German and English dialogue with English subtitles / 100 mins

Prisoners of war in post WWII sweeping for mines, so yes, a tense psychological Danish drama will keep you locked in and thinking about sides and the ideas left after the wars are over.



* The podcast has been on hiatus but will be back soon.