slew of new titles that cut a wide swathe in
of themes, concerns and styles represents Arab cinema in the 43rd edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF, Sept.6 to 16), testifying to the sustained dynamism and depth of ilmmaking in the region. At one end of the spectrum, veteran Algerian ilmmaker Merzak Allouache’s latest work world premieres in the festival’s Masters sidebar; at the other, Palestinian writerdirector Bassam Jarbawi will bring the curtains down on the Discovery section with his debut feature.
What is particularly encouraging is that Jarbawi has two other Arab ilmmakers — Syria’s Soudade Kaadan and Israelipalestinian Sameh
Zoabi — for company in the Discovery selection, which, as the name suggests, is aimed at unearthing and promoting fresh cinematic voices. In fact, most of the Arab directors in the TIFF program this year are in their 30s or 40s and have several productive decades of ilmmaking ahead of them.
High on every list of must-watch TIFF 2018 ilms will be Lebanese actress-director Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum. This naturalistic, deeply felt exploration of the lives of marginalised children eking out a precarious existence on the streets of Beirut will play as a Special Presentation. Capernaum premiered in the Cannes Competition earlier this year and won the Jury Prize. In 2011, Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now? earned the TIFF People’s Choice Award.
73, is one of the Arab world’s most celebrated ilmmakers. His new ilm, Divine Wind, shot in striking black and white, is about a young man and woman who are assigned the task of blowing up a petroleum extraction site in the North African desert. Allouache once again explores the dangers of radicalisation.
While both are completely indoctrinated, the two jihadists in Divine Wind have nothing in common. The man is a new recruit and is assailed by doubts; the enigmatic woman is a more hardened soul.
But thrown as they are into a secret mission that could be their last, they are drawn ever closer to each other, which puts their plans at risk.
Bassam Jarbawi, who made an international splash with the short ilm Chicken Heads about a decade ago, will be in Toronto with Mafak (Screwdriver), about a man who, after spending more than a decade in an Israeli jail for a failed attack on a settler, struggles to adjust to life after imprisonment. On his return to his home in Ramallah, he does not feel like the hero he is made out to be.