The 15 breakout Arab filmmakers of 2024

With a host of striking debuts garnering international attention, here are the regional directors and creators to watch in the coming year

Filmmakers Maryam Touzani, Amjad Al Rasheed, Nayla Al Khaja and Meshal Al Jaser. EPA; Getty Images; AFP
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For the first time in history, Arab cinema is thriving in every corner of the Middle East and North Africa. With the emergence of Saudi Arabia as a formidable creative force and international platforms such as Netflix partnering more closely with local filmmakers, the world is taking notice of the region's talent like never before.

And while seasoned luminaries such as Kaouther Ben Hania and Mohamed Diab continue to draw global acclaim, it is the region's emerging talent that is setting the course for the future of the art form.

Offering up box office powerhouses and award-season contenders, these are the filmmakers to keep on your radar for 2024 when their acclaimed and anticipated star-making films will reach audiences in the region and around the world.

Ali Kalthami

Saudi Arabia

It’s hard to overstate the influence that the Saudi writer, director and producer has had on the kingdom’s burgeoning film and television scene. After all, Telfaz11, the Saudi production company that he cofounded in 2011, helped shape an entire generation’s tastes, as the country’s youth turned to YouTube for original local content before cinemas opened in 2018.

Over the past year, the filmmaker, 40, took his career to the next level, not only shepherding one of his long-running web series Alkhallat into a successful Netflix original film, Alkhallat+, in February, but also making his directorial debut with Mandoob, a neo-noir movie about a desperate night courier who starts selling contraband to pay for his sick father’s medical care.

Mandoob has become an instant hit in Saudi Arabia, earning a record opening for a local film in mid-December, with an international release to follow in 2024 which sets the stage for more art house Saudi blockbusters to come.

Mohamed Kordofani


With his debut feature Goodbye Julia, Kordofani has firmly established himself as one of the most significant chroniclers of modern Sudanese society, earning the first Freedom Prize at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival in May before his film became a surprise box office hit across the region in December. An expanded international release is planned for 2024.

The film’s story, which follows three characters in Sudan's capital Khartoum, is a powerful critique of the racism that divided the country in two, while also being accessible and open-hearted enough to both bring in new audiences to the region’s art house scene and sidestep controversy.

While the current dire situation in Sudan may have affected the immediate future of his newly established production house, Kordofani is still working to share the untold stories of his home any way he can.

Farah Nabulsi


While it was Farah Nabulsi’s Oscar-nominated, Bafta-winning 2020 short The Present that first put her on the radar of the international film community and beyond, it is her feature debut The Teacher – set for a Middle East cinema release in February – that cements her as one of the region’s brightest talents, not to mention one of the most significant artistic advocates for the Palestinian people.

The Present tells a simple story of a man working his way through West Bank checkpoints with his daughter to deliver a birthday gift to his wife. Meanwhile, Nabulsi’s follow-up is a richer, more nuanced work. Here, in the film that won the coveted Jury Prize at the 2023 Red Sea International Film Festival in December, there are no heroes, and the biggest question is left for the audience to answer: What would you do if you were trapped in these circumstances?

Amjad Al Rasheed


Jordanian filmmaker Amjad Al Rasheed got the world talking in May when his debut feature Inshallah a Boy became the first movie from the country to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, before going on to win both the Gan Foundation Award and the Rail d’Or Award for Best Feature Film.

Al Rasheed, 38, however, would rather not keep the spotlight on himself. His aim was for the film to shine a light on the injustice endured by women in his home country.

Inspired by stories told to him by relatives, the film follows a young woman who is forced to pretend she’s pregnant to prevent her home being given away after her husband’s death.

Inshallah a Boy has picked up awards around the world since its premiere, and Al Rasheed’s clear-eyed moral righteousness puts him on a pathway to many more stories that will get the world talking.

A regional theatrical release of the film is expected in 2024.

Maryam Touzani


After an award-winning premiere at Cannes in 2022, The Blue Caftan – the second feature by Moroccan filmmaker and actress Maryam Touzani – made its mark multiple times in the past year. It became the first Moroccan film to be shortlisted for an Academy Award and was then followed up with a record-breaking global box office run.

Starring Saleh Bakri, the film sold the most tickets overseas of any Moroccan film in recent history, according to French promotional organisation Unifrance, and received more than 45 awards on the global festival circuit.

Touzani's first film, Adam, put her in the conversation. Her second effort elevated her to a global force for regional film. Touda, a film she’s co-written with her husband Nabil Ayouch, himself the director of the acclaimed 2021 film Casablanca Beats, is expected to be released in 2024.

Ibrahim Alkhairallah

Saudi Arabia

A fellow Telfaz11 cofounder, Alkhairallah made history this year when Sattar, a wrestling comedy in which he stars alongside Saudi actor Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj, became not only the highest-grossing Saudi film ever, but the third biggest ticket seller since Saudi Arabia reopened cinemas, behind only Spider-Man: No Way Home and Top Gun: Maverick.

The first release of his newly founded production company AlShimaisi Films – named after the street in Riyadh where he purchased bootleg DVDs growing up – Sattar has turned the international industry’s eyes to young Saudi filmmakers.

In addition to his starring role, in which Alkhairallah reprised one of his popular YouTube characters, he also wrote and produced the film, which will serve as a template for other hybrid comedies he is already planning. Several announcements are expected in 2024.

Tawfik Alzaidi

Saudi Arabia

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has become a flourishing home for artists in nearly every discipline, where creative opportunities can be found at every corner. In the decades before this cultural push, however, many artists had to abandon their dreams for more practical pursuits.

Norah, the debut feature of Saudi director Tawfik Alzaidi, tells one such story inspired by the kingdom’s past. It is about a teacher who moves to a small town to help children realise dreams that he will himself never reach.

It is the story of Alzaidi, too, who began his film journey in 2006 and now has an acclaimed film under his belt – a soulful work that sets the stage for great things to follow.

His next feature, an action adventure drama, will be called Thuraya. Shooting will begin in late 2024 as part of a multi-picture development deal with recently founded Saudi production company Red Palm Pictures, led by Former Universal Pictures executive Paul Chesney.

Omar Hilal


While Egypt has long had the region’s most prolific film industry, the country has never produced a film quite like Voy! Voy! Voy!, the first movie directed by Omar Hilal.

The first co-production from Image Nation Abu Dhabi, Vox Cinemas and Film Clinic, the film follows an impoverished security guard who pretends to be blind to join a football team for the visually impaired so that he can escape his circumstances to Europe.

Equal parts uproarious and socially considered, Egypt’s 2024 Oscar submission may not have earned a spot on the shortlist, but it was a hit with audiences in the region, earning rave reviews and box office success ahead of an expected 2024 international release.

Hilal knows how to craft a crowd pleaser, and there’s surely plenty more where that came from.

Asmae El Moudir


While Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir’s latest documentary The Mother of All Lies may not mark her debut (she released her first film The Postcard in 2020), it does mark her entrance to the world stage. It earned a coveted spot on the 2024 shortlist for Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards following its Cannes premiere in May.

The deeply personal film, expected for a theatrical release in 2024, is a powerful exploration of her roots and identity, both as a Moroccan and a human being. In it, she discovers that a photograph she has had of herself since she was a child is not actually of her, causing her to turn into an amateur detective to solve the puzzle of her own family.

Whether she continues in documentaries or branches into fiction, she has certainly marked herself as a talent to follow.

Malik Nejer

Saudi Arabia

Simply put, Saudi filmmaker Malik Nejer is a pillar, along with his long-time creative partner Abdulaziz Almuzaini, of Saudi Arabia’s animation industry. The pair’s long-running series Masameer County has grown from YouTube sensation to Netflix hit and has helped shape the sense of humour of the kingdom’s youngest generation.

But it was Nejer’s live-action feature directorial debut in the Netflix original film Head to Head, which had its premiere on the platform in August, that proved he’s only begun to scratch his potential.

The offbeat film managed to hit the streaming site’s global top 10 list two weeks running – a first for a Saudi production. Nejer is set to follow that up with a yet-to-be-announced animated feature releasing in 2024, with plans to take a more grounded and personal approach in his future live-action ventures separate from his long-time partner.

Abdulaziz Almuzaini

Saudi Arabia

Abdulaziz Almuzaini has always been defined by his boundless energy and headfirst approach to creative endeavours. When he was still in high school, he landed a job as a cartoonist at a prominent newspaper despite never having drawn a cartoon, and grew into one of the most popular satirists in Saudi Arabia.

While animation has long been his trade and more such projects with his collaborator Nejer are in the works, Almuzaini is following up the success of Head to Head by quietly writing one original script after another that he will then produce at his newly founded live-action production firm Sirb Productions. Several announcements are set for 2024.

Bassel Ghandour


Over the past year, no film was more hotly debated in the Levant than Bassel Ghandour’s The Alleys.

The feature debut of the man who wrote the acclaimed 2014 Jordanian film Theeb dives headfirst into Amman’s underbelly, creating a crime epic like the region had never seen, and proving he is equally skilled at directing as he is at writing.

While the controversy it created for its depiction of a flawed society may have made people give it a shot when it hit Netflix, it is the film’s quality that won it a legion of supporters.

Ghandour, currently living in London, is now hard at work on his next feature, which he promises will raise the stakes considerably, with an official announcement expected in 2024.

Meshal Al Jaser

Saudi Arabia

At 28 years old, Al Jaser may be younger than many of the other rising stars coming out of Saudi Arabia, but he is already one of the country’s most distinctive stylists.

With his 2020 short film Arabian Alien, he captured the region’s attention. With his new Netflix original film Naga, which had its premiere in September at the Toronto International Film Festival, in the months before its global streaming release he generated a spirited conversation online.

The film sees the young director pulling out nearly all the tools in his toolbox to tell the story of a young woman stranded in the desert on a nightmarish adventure to get home, creating images unlike any in the region’s filmic history.

Nayla Al Khaja


For Nayla Al Khaja, the Red Sea Film Festival 2023 premiere of Three, her debut feature, was a long time coming. The trailblazing filmmaker has long served as one of the most prominent voices in Emirati cinema, a social advocate and prolific director of short films that date back to the mid 1990s.

Shot in Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah and Bangkok, her psychological thriller follows a boy enduring a mental health crisis that his family believe is the result of a curse.

With a wide theatrical release in the GCC and Egypt set for February 1, Al Khaja’s film will surely be warmly embraced in the country’s film community, which has continually fought to get Emirati stories on the big screen in an evolving film landscape.

Khalid Fahad

Saudi Arabia

The Gulf’s film catalogue continues to broaden, with filmmakers each year venturing into genres that the region has never seen before. The 2023 release Valley Road, the debut feature of Saudi director Khalid Fahad, was one such milestone.

A Disney-inspired adventure film complete with original songs, digital effects and elaborate choreography, Valley Road is the first family feature made in Saudi Arabia, produced by Ithra, the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture based in Dharan.

In 2024, Fahad will follow that up with his first Netflix original film called From the Ashes, set to hit the platform on January 18. The tragic drama is based on true events, unravelling the story of a fire that started in an all-girls school.

Updated: January 04, 2024, 9:35 AM