Oscars 2024: What Arab films have been submitted for Best International Feature?

Official nominations will be announced on January 23 as region bids for first win in more than 50 years

Voy! Voy! Voy! stars Mohamed Farag as Hassan, a man who pretends to be blind. Photo: Film Clinic
Powered by automated translation

Egypt selected Omar Hilal’s Voy! Voy! Voy! as its Oscar entry for Best International Feature this week, following submissions from more than 90 countries so far.

Z, an Algerian-French political thriller directed by Costa-Gavras, remains the only Arab feature to have won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

It was submitted by Algeria in 1969 and won the following year.

After half a century of misses, can the cold streak be broken at next year's Oscars? Here’s a look at all the films submitted from the Arab world.

Voy! Voy! Voy! by Omar Hilal, Egypt

The dramedy, directed by Hilal, is based on a true story. It follows Hassan (Mohamed Farag), an impoverished but ambitious young man living in Egypt. He feigns blindness so he can join a visually impaired football team with plans to escape to Europe during a football tournament held there.

Hanging Gardens by Ahmed Yassin Aldaradji, Iraq

The film by Ahmed Yassin Aldaradji follows Asaad (Hussain Muhammad Jalil), a young boy who scavenges a landfill for metal and plastic he can sell with his brother Taha (Wissam Diyaa). Among the litter, Asaad comes across a human-size doll, presumably brought in and left behind by US soldiers.

Asaad names the doll Salwa and decides to keep and care for it, bathing it and trying to keep it from prying eyes. Soon, however, his secret is revealed, and he is in the crossfire of those who want to take Salwa for themselves, those who seek to commercialise from it, as well as those who want to obliterate it.

Inshallah a Boy by Amjad Al Rasheed, Jordan

The film is directed by Amjad Al Rasheed and dives into the nuances of Jordanian family law with a resonant story that begins when mother-of-one Nawal (Mouna Hawa) is suddenly widowed. Under local inheritance rulings, she discovers that her late husband's wider family are entitled to her property because she previously gave birth to a daughter, not a son. In dire straits, she pretends to be pregnant with a son.

Bye Bye Tiberias by Lina Soualem, Palestine

The documentary by Lina Soulalem revolves around four generations of Palestinian women, centred on Soulalem's mother – Succession star Hiam Abbass. Soualem zooms in on Abbass, whose grandparents Umm Ali and Hosni were forcibly displaced from their home in Tiberias in 1948.

Generations later, Abbass grows up in Deir Hanna but leaves her village and family behind at a young age to follow her ambition of becoming an actress in Europe. Thirty years later, Soualem returns with Abbass to her native village in the surroundings of Lake Tiberias. Once there, she begins questioning her mother’s bold choices.

The Mother of All Lies by Asmae El Moudir, Morocco

The documentary film is directed, written, produced and edited by Asmae El Moudir. It follows her exploration into the search for truth regarding her family background, combining personal and national history such as reflecting on the 1981 Bread Riots and drawing conclusions over contemporary Morocco.

Alhamour H A by Abdulelah Alqurashi, Saudi Arabia

Directed by Abdulelah Alqurashi, the film is based on true events that happened in Jeddah in the 2000s. The film revolves around a security guard who gains a huge fortune through fraud and convinces others to invest their money with him in the promise of a quick profit before things take a turn for the worse.

Goodbye Julia by Mohamed Kordofani, Sudan

The film by Arab Sudanese director Mohamed Kordofani, tells the story of Mona, a singer from north Sudan, who is overcome with guilt after covering up the murder of a man from the south. Aiming to clear her conscience, she invites the man’s widow, Julia, and her son, Daniel, into her home.

Four Daughters by Kaouther Ben Hania, Tunisia

Kaouther Ben Hania’s Four Daughters tells the story of a mother named Olfa (Hend Sabry) who discovers that two of her daughters have been radicalised and joined ISIS. To fill the void left, film director Kaouther Ben Hania mixes documentary and fiction as she invites professional actresses and brings the viewer closer to the life stories of Olfa and her daughters.

The Burdened by Amr Gamal, Yemen

Based on a true story, the film by Amr Gamal follows Yemeni couple Ahmed and Israa. Set in 2019, both lose their jobs amid the country’s economic crisis. They have three young children and are struggling, then Israa unexpectedly finds out she’s pregnant with their fourth.

The shortlist of the 15 films will be announced on December 21 with the official nominations list revealed on January 23. The winner will be announced at the Oscars ceremony in March.

Updated: December 05, 2023, 7:17 AM