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Venice Film Festival 2022: The Middle Eastern movies to look out for

Iranian directors are prominent in Venice, among a number of Middle Eastern filmmakers covering issues from displacement to love
Soudade Kaadan won the Lion of the Future award at the 75th Venice Film Festival. Her follow-up focuses on the plight of Syrians trapped in Damascus (Reuters)

This year’s line-up of the 79th Venice Film Festival has been unveiled, and features rich content from across the Middle East, as the region's filmmakers battle it out for the festival’s most prestigious award, the Golden Lion.

This year, the festival runs from 31 August until 10 September and opens with Noah Baumbach’s eponymous adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel White Noise.

A number of Arab films have been announced as part of the line-up. 

In the Orizzonti (or Horizons) category, Algerian-born filmmaker Rachid Hami will debut his third film For My Country (Pour la France). The film, shot partly in Morocco, follows the story of a young cadet who dies during an initiation process at a prestigious French military school. 

Featuring in the Horizons Extra category is Syrian filmmaker Soudade Kaadan with Nezouh. Referring to the displacement of souls and people in Arabic, Nezouh is set in war-torn Damascus, where despite the barrage of bombs, Mutaz refuses to flee and endure the life of a refugee. His wife and daughter are left with the difficult choice of whether to stay with him or escape to safety.

 opens with Noah Baumbach’s eponymous adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel White Noise.
Venice opens with Noah Baumbach’s eponymous adaptation of Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel White Noise (Venice Film Festival)

The same category features Janain mualaqa (Hanging Gardens), a debut film from Iraqi director Ahmed Yassin Aldaradji. The film follows As’ad, a 12-year-old rubbish picker working in Baghdad’s dumps.

The Hollywood Reporter claims that the Venice Film Festival is taking a “political stand” by featuring four Iranian films, in light of the country's recent crackdown on local filmmakers. Just last week, acclaimed Iranian director Jafar Panahi was sentenced to six years in prison for criticising the government.

Now, his latest film, No Bears, is competing in the festival. The film, which portrays two parallel love stories, was shot in secret, as Panahi is banned from working in his home country.  

Also by Iranian directors are Beyond the Wall by Vahid Jalilvand, World War III by Houman Seyyedi and Without Her by Arian Vazirdaftari, which tells the story of a woman attempting to emigrate from Iran.

Venice is the oldest film festival in the world and precedes Hollywood’s award season.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.