Leading ladies touch down in Tunisia for new Manarat film festival

Dora Bouchoucha (center) is presiding over the festival. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 11 July 2018

Leading ladies touch down in Tunisia for new Manarat film festival

DUBAI: Some of the Middle East’s leading ladies made an appearance at the first-ever edition of the Manarat film festival in Tunisia this week, including Egypt-based actress Hend Sabri, Jordanian starlet Saba Mubarak and Tunis-born Dorra Zarrouk.
The film festival, which translates to mean “light house” in English, kicked off Tuesday with a screening of Gianfranco Rosi’s Oscar-nominated “Fuocoammare” and is set to run until July 15.
The 2016 film centers on the Italian island of Lampedusa, whose inhabitants are left shaken when waves of migrants land upon its shores.
Organizers delayed the official opening ceremony after eight members of Tunisia’s security forces were killed Sunday in a “terrorist attack” near the border with Algeria, the interior ministry said, the country’s deadliest such incident in over two years.
“In view of the painful events … (the ceremony) has been postponed until Tuesday, July 10.
May God bless our righteous martyrs,” a post on the festival’s official Facebook page read.
Presiding over the event is Tunisia’s first female film producer, Dora Bouchoucha, who also helmed Tunisia’s Carthage Film Festival in 2008, 2010 and 2014.
In 2017, the Huffington Post called her “a born rebel, a trailblazer of wonderful self-assurance, elegance and beauty” and in 2018, she proved that she still has a lot to offer by attending the Cannes Film Festival premiere of the feature film her company, Nomadis Images, co-produced, “Weldi,” or “Dear Son” in English.
The festival aims to strengthen the relationship between Tunisia and countries in the Mediterranean Basin. To that end, organizers are putting on a show of more than 50 films, including movies from Egypt, Algeria, Italy and Bosnia and Herzegovina, among various other countries.
Highlights include “Ghost Hunting,” a 2017 film by director Raed Andoni, and 2017’s “The Man Behind the Microphone,” which tells the story of Hedi Jouini, the so-called godfather of Tunisian music.
The festival will also feature a competition section that will see such films as “The Blessed,” an Algerian offering directed by Sofia Djama, and “A Ciambra,” directed by Itay’s Jonas Carpignano, go head to head for the top prize. The judging panel includes Lebanese actress Manel Issa, Egyptian actress Bushra Rozza and Palestinian actress Manal Awad.
Cinephiles can also enjoy a host of films that are set to be broadcast on public beaches, including La Goulette, La Marsa and Hammam-Lif among others.
For her part, Sabri set to be honored for one of her first-ever movies, 1994 drama “Samt El-Qusur” — “The Silences of the Palace” in English — and Rozza will get a nod from the organizers for her film on sexual harassment, “678.”
Six films to watch at the festival
Tunisia’s Manarat festival is set to run until July 15 and is showing 52 films from across the Arab world and beyond. Here, we take a look at some of the thought-provoking movies that will entertain audiences over the next few days.
‘Withered Green’
Directed by Mohamed Hammad, this Egyptian film tells the story of a defining week in protagonist Iman’s life as she attempts to convince her uncles to attend her younger sister’s engagement. However, a shocking discovery leads her to do away with such traditions. The film, which premiered in 2016, won the Muhr Feature Award for Best Director at the Dubai International Film Festival.
‘Ghost Hunting’
Director Raed Andoni placed a newspaper advert in Ramallah looking for former inmates of Jerusalem’s Moskobiya interrogation center in this 2017 film. The director then oversaw the creation of a replica of the interrogation facility using the memories of the former inmates and filmed the process, as well as interviews with the men.
‘Paradise Now’
This hard-hitting movie tells the story of two childhood friends who are recruited for a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Directed by Hany Abu-Assad and released in 2005, the film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year at the 2006 Academy Awards, but narrowly missed out. It did, however, win a Golden Globe in the same year.
‘The Man Behind the Microphone’
The 2017 film is a portrait of Hedi Jouini, the so-called godfather of Tunisian music. Directed by Claire Belhassine, it tells the tale of his rise to stardom, as well as his family life.
‘Men Don’t Cry’
Directed by Alen Drljevic, this 2017 film plays out in a boarded up Serbian hotel that plays host to a group of veterans undergoing therapy almost 20 years after the end of the Yugoslav Wars. The complexities of the period of hostility are explored through the men and their tangled relationships with one another as they try to battle their sense of shame years after the end of the violent conflict.
‘Laila’s Birthday’
Starring Mohammad Bakri, Areen Omari and Nour Zoubi and directed by Rashid Masharawi, this film tells the story of Abu Laila who finds himself driving a taxi to make ends meet. On his daughter’s seventh birthday, he tasks himself with finding her a cake, but the chaos of daily life in Palestine hampers his plans.

The Six: Female rappers from the Middle East who are changing the game

Updated 18 November 2018

The Six: Female rappers from the Middle East who are changing the game

DUBAI: These women are changing the face of rap in the Middle East with their bold lyrics and powerful prose.


This Moroccan female rapper champions women’s rights and uses bold lyrics to tackle social issues. True to her feisty form, Soultana’s hit “Sawt Nissa” addresses sexual harassment in her home country.

Shadia Mansour

The British-Palestinian rapper uses hip-hop to highlight the Palestinian struggle. Mansour sees music as a medium for expressing dissent.

Mayam Mahmoud

The Egyptian rapper, who has been featured on CNN and the BBC for her efforts to advance women’s rights and combat sexual harassment, is making a name for herself on the rap scene.

Meryem Saci

The music of the Montreal-based songwriter of Algerian origin ranges from soulful R&B and jazz to reggae and hip-hop. Saci’s mixtape, “On My Way,” is a testament to her eclectic sound.


The self-proclaimed “Queen of Arabic hip-hop” has established herself as one of the most important musicians in Lebanon and beyond with hard-hitting lyrics. She even opened the show for Snoop Dog in Abu Dhabi in 2011.