THE YEAR IN REVIEW: The best international films of 2022
Director: Wissam Smayra
With: Mona Zaki, Nadine Labaki, Georges Khabbaz
The original Italian version of “Perfect Strangers” had already been remade around the world before its Arabic-language iteration was released on Netflix. But nowhere else has it caused as much of a stir as in the Middle East. Vanity is simple: seven friends at a dinner party decide to play a game, placing their phones in the center of the table to broadcast their calls and messages to everyone. As the night wears on, their secrets are revealed, shattering everything they thought they knew about each other. Not only was it the best version of the film so far, with a perfect cast and memorable performances, but it was also the bravest: each of its stars pushed themselves in ways they never did. had never been able to do in a regional film before, breaking taboos, capturing the world’s attention and changing Arab cinema forever.
‘Kira & El Gin’
Director: Marwan Hamed
With: Karim Abdel Aziz, Hend Sabri, Razane Jammal
The highest-grossing film in the history of Egyptian cinema, “Kira & El Gin”, is Marwan Hamed at his best. This is a crowd-pleasing historical epic that not only captures the spirit of Egypt past and present, but sets the stage for a new future for the country’s film industry. Following two men fighting British occupation in Egypt during the 1919 revolution, Hamed’s film rarely sags despite its nearly three-hour runtime and sprawling cast, structured more like a suspense thriller than a social studies conference. As Hamed jumps from genre to genre through his films, proving equally gifted with each, one wonders how he will pull it off, if he tries. But it would be foolish to bet against him as he continues to ramp up his career from his peak.
Director: Tariq Saleh
With: Fares Fares, Tawfeek Barhom, Mohammad Bakri
Egyptian-Swedish filmmaker Tarik Saleh has a problem to solve. Growing up in Europe, he was always labeled as “other” – an idea reinforced in books in his school’s library describing Arabs as “stupid” and “uncivilized”. Now firmly established as a filmmaker, Saleh refuses to make films suitable for the Western gaze, plunging his camera deep into Egyptian society and forcing international viewers to accept seeing things through eyes that are not their own. In ‘Boy from Heaven’, Saleh descends into a corruption scandal at the influential Al-Azhar Mosque, following a hero whose strong Muslim faith is unwavering as he uncovers the evils lurking within. for all to see, with scenes and images you won’t discover anytime soon. Forget.
Director: Bassel Ghandour
With: Maisa Abd Elhadi, Nadia Omran, Munther Rayahna
In 2014’s “Theeb,” Jordanian writer Bassel Ghandour created perhaps the greatest example of a Bedouin Western in film history. With “The Alleys”, Ghandour steps into the director’s chair for the first time and transforms the streets of Amman into a setting of modern noir, in which the darkness that lurks in the city’s alleys slowly rises to the surface. The sprawling nature of the film is both a plus and a minus, but it’s a moving snapshot nonetheless, enhanced by star performances from Maisa Abd Elhadi and Nadia Omran.
“You Look Like Me”
Director: Dina Amer
With: Dina Amer, Mouna Soualem, Lorenza Grimaudo
Filmmaker Dina Amer is best known to global audiences for her fearless journalism in 2013’s “The Square” and various Vice News stories she produced as a foreign correspondent from the front lines of regional conflict. “You Resemble Me” cements her as a filmmaker to watch, as her harrowing, experimental account of the life of Hasna Ait Boulahcen, the woman mistakenly considered Europe’s first suicide bomber, is a deeply moving dissection of the roots of terrorism and racism that Arab women face in Europe. One of the most original films released this year.
Director: Sally El-Hosaini
With: Nathalie Issa, Manal Issa, Kinda Alloush
The story of Yusra and Sara Mardini, two Syrian sisters who risked their lives to escape conflict for a better future, for one of them to become an Olympian, is so powerful that a film capturing their story could not to be inspiring. El-Hosaini, the Welsh-Egyptian filmmaker behind 2012’s excellent ‘My Brother the Devil’, has made it something more – a thought-provoking reframing of the refugee experience at a time when Syrians and many others still suffer from this stigma. as a chronicle of women’s empowerment as the structures that held them back crumble, all told with a light touch that never alienates the huge global audience the Netflix movie enjoyed.
Director: Maha Haj
With: Amer Hlehel, Ashraf Farha, Anat Hadid
Palestinian cinema is often, and understandably, a boundless dissection of the plight of its people. But that’s by no means its only manifestation, as Maha Haj, a former collaborator of famed satirist Elia Suleiman, proves with her latest feature, “Mediterranean Fever,” the sequel to her acclaimed 2016 feature “Personal Affairs. “. Haj focuses on smaller human issues here, following an aspiring writer who suffers from depression and befriends a petty crook living next door. Sometimes comedic, the film drifts into dark territory while still keeping its audience guessing. After winning Best Screenplay at Cannes in 2022, Haj has established herself as one of the region’s most unique voices.
“The Blue Kaftan”
Director: Maryam Touzani
With: Saleh Bakri, Lubna Azabal, Ayoub Missioui
There is no more versatile actor working in Arab cinema today than Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri, who with Touzani’s ‘The Blue Caftan’ capped off a formidable run of eight films over the past two years, including “The Present” and “Amira” by Mohammed Diab. This may be his best performance to date. He plays Halim, a struggling master tailor in Morocco whose life is turned upside down when he and his wife take in a young apprentice. However, his co-star Lubna Azabal as his wife Mina, who has quietly endured her own private battle with breast cancer as she and her husband struggle to communicate, steals the filmed show in stark fashion. . With this one and “Adam” of 2019, Touzani is already one of the great chroniclers of Morocco.
Director: Mohamed Al-Salman
With: Asem Alawad, Ibrahim Alkhairallah, Abdullah Aljafal
The singular contemporary Gulf filmmaker Mohamed Al-Salman does not make films so that the world understands Saudi Arabia, he makes them so that Saudi Arabia understands itself. “Raven Song”, his feature debut after years of acclaimed shorts, is an elegant leap into 2002 in the Kingdom, a formative period for both the filmmaker and his country, during which the struggle between traditionalism and modernity was so stormy that she came forward. prominently even in the world of poetry. Sometimes dreamlike, “Raven Song” is a film that defies definition, with interpretations likely to roll for years to come.
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