Director: Abu Bakr Shawky
Starring: Omar Al-Atawi, Azzam Nemr, Toleen Barbood
Matar is the youngest child in a family of camel jockeys. When his brother falls in a race and is killed, Matar steps up to save his own camel, Hofara, from the butcher, beginning a potentially deadly trek through the desert in search of a better life. “This is a Saudi film, but it’s so universal,” Egyptian director Abu Bakr Shawky told Arab News in August. “The deeper we got into exploring this world, the more I found themes that are at the heart of great global storytelling; ideas of vengeance, of love, of running away from your problems and finding your destiny.”
Director: Yasir Al-Yasiri
Starring: Alanoud Saud, Nour Alkhadra
The Iraqi director’s fantasy movie — based on the best-selling novel by Saudi writer Ibraheem Abbas — was given the honor of opening the festival on Nov. 30 (it also screens Dec. 1). “Hwjn” is set in a world where djinn are living invisibly among humans. The titular djinn and his family are disturbed when a human family moves into their Jeddah home, but he soon becomes fascinated by them, particularly Sawsan, played by Nour Alkhadra. Alkhadra told Arab News that she landed the part after sending Al-Yasiri a tape of her playing out scenes from Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.”
Director: Faris Godus
Starring: Sohayb Godus, Najm, Hakeem Jomah
Expectations are high for the latest from the Godus brothers after the success of their debut feature “The Book of Sun,” which was picked up by Netflix. “Fever Dream” focuses on Abdulsamad, a former football star with a bad reputation who tries to mend his awkward relationship with his daughter Ahlam so that she will help him manage his reputation on social media and rebuild his fame in a positive light. They partner with a high-profile PR team and move into real-estate marketing. But as Abdulsamad’s fame grows, he discovers it’s not quite what he dreamed it would be.
Director: Meshal Aljaser
Starring: Adwa Bader, Yazeed Almaiyul
Bader was officially recognized as one of the Rising Stars at the Toronto International Film Festival, where “Naga” premiered. Bader plays Sarah, whose conservative father approves a shopping trip, on condition that she abide by a strict curfew. That ‘shopping trip’ is actually a cover story for Sarah’s secret date with Saad at a party in the desert, which quickly turns into a disaster, with Sarah stranded miles from home and in a desperate race against the clock to avoid her father’s ire. TIFF programmer Peter Kuplowsky said the film “blew me away with its shocking prologue” and that Meshal “was navigating so many provocative themes, and never at the expense of character or momentum.”
‘Yesterday After Tomorrow’
Director: Abdulghani Alsaigh
Starring: Ismael Al-Hassan, Ahmad Alsadam
Alsaigh’s sci-fi movie is the story of two brothers living with their widowed mother having moved back into their childhood home. There, they discover a portal to the past — to a time when their father, whom they never met, was still alive. But the longer they stay there and try to connect with him, the harder it will be to reunite with their mother in the present. Meanwhile, distressed by their disappearance, she teams up with her best friend to try and discover what happened to them.
‘Khaled El-Sheikh: Between the Thorns of Art and Politics’
Director: Jamal Kutbi
Starring: Khaled El-Sheikh, Samawa El-Sheikh
Kutbi’s documentary focuses on the famed Bahraini singer Khaled El-Sheikh, whose appetite for pushing musical boundaries has seen him richly rewarded, but also brought opprobrium from audiences uncomfortable with innovation. Kutbi follows El-Sheikh’s rise to stardom from his time as a university student in Kuwait studying economics and politics before dropping out to focus on music.