Nine films to see in the UAE during the FrancoFilm Festival

We shine a spotlight on nine Franco-Arab films that will be shown in Abu Dhabi and Dubai during the FrancoFilm Festival to highlight cross-cultural ties between the countries

'Hannah' will be shown at Cinema Akil. 
'Hannah' will be shown at Cinema Akil. 

Each year, across the world, the International Month of Francophonie is celebrated in March, in a bid to promote the French language. In the UAE, more than 30 events are taking place, including the FrancoFilm Festival, starting on Friday, during which nine films will be screened, as part of the “Emirati-­French Cultural Dialogue” agreement between the two nations.

“We have decided to highlight Franco-­Arab co-productions to underline the richness and diversity of these creations,” explains Ludovic Pouille, the French ambassador to the UAE. “This year, and for the first time, we are proud to join forces with the independent platform Cinema Akil to offer quality and thought-­provoking films to audiences in the UAE,” he adds.

The festival has also partnered with Manarat Al Saadiyat to offer selected, free screenings in the capital, while Cinema Akil screenings are subject to regular ticket pricing.

New this year is also the Audience Choice Award, which will be given to the film that attracts the most ­viewers. Which ones deserve your time? Here’s more on each of the films that are being screened throughout the week.

Paris La Blanche

Director: Lidia Terki

Run-time: 86 minutes

Subtitles: English

The festival kicks off at Cinema Akil at 7.30pm on Friday, with a ­screening of the 2017 film by Algerian director Terki, starring Tassadit Mandi, Zahir Bouzerar and Karole Rocher. The story follows 70-year-old Rekia, who decides to leave her village in Algeria to visit her war veteran husband, Nour, in Paris, and bring him back home. But 40 years abroad has changed the family man, who now seems more like a stranger.

Cinema Akil: Friday, March 1, 7.30pm; Sunday, March 3, 9.15pm; Friday, March 8, 5pm

Girls of the Sun (Les Filles du Soleil)

Director: Eva Husson

Run-time: 115 minutes

Subtitles: English

This 2018 drama directed by Frenchwoman Husson was a Palme d’Or nominee at the Cannes Film Festival that year. Bahar, the commander of the Kurdish battalion Girls of the Sun, aims to liberate her hometown from the hands of extremists, as well as her son, who has been taken hostage. French journalist Mathilde observes the bravery of these warriors first-hand.

Cinema Akil: Saturday, March 2, 5pm


Director: Andrea Pallaoro

Run-time: 95 minutes

Subtitles: English

This is an Italian, French-­language film by director Pallaoro, which won much praise when it came out in 2017, while actress Charlotte Rampling, who plays the titular character, won an award at the Venice International Film Festival for her performance. It’s an ­intimate portrait of a woman who drifts between reality and denial after her husband is imprisoned and she’s left alone to deal with the consequences.

Cinema Akil: Friday, March 1, 9.30pm; Monday, March 4, 7.15pm

Dilili à Paris (Dilili in Paris)

Director: Michel Ocelot

Run-time: 95 minutes

Subtitles: Arabic and English

A spate of kidnappings plagues Belle Epoque Paris. Kanak Dilili, with the help of her deliveryman friend, investigates. As she does, she encounters a bevy of extraordinary characters, who each provide her with a clue to solving the crimes. Ocelot’s animated film offers a journey through French cultural history, wrapped up in a mystery.

Cinema Akil: Saturday, March 2, 3pm; Tuesday, March 5, 7.15pm; Friday, March 8, 3pm


Director: Faouzi Bensaidi

Run-time: 106 minutes

Subtitles: English

This Arabic-language film is a collaborative project hailing from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Moroccan filmmaker Bensaidi tells the story of Abdelkader and Malika, a newly married couple who are struggling to survive. They dream of leaving their family home to start a life together, but a violent incident changes the path of their lives dramatically.

Cinema Akil: Saturday, March 2, 7.30pm; Tuesday, March 5, 9.15pm

Les Rois Mongols (Cross My Heart)

Director: Luc Picard

Run-time: 102 minutes

Subtitles: Arabic

It’s Montreal in 1970 and 12-year-old Manon’s family is on the verge of collapse, as her father is dying of cancer and her mother is struggling with depression. Manon and her ­younger brother are about to be placed in foster care, so she hatches a plan to live free of parental control in an isolated rural cabin. This award-winning 2017 film from the French-Canadian director, actor and comedian tells a poignant story from the point of view of the children.

Cinema Akil: Saturday, March 2, 9.15pm; Wednesday, March 6, 9.45pm

Manarat Al Saadiyat: March 7, 7.30pm

L’Apollon de Gaza (The Apollo of Gaza)

Director: Nicolas Wadimoff

Run-time: 80 minutes

Subtitles: English

The Arabic, French and English-­language documentary by award-­winning Swiss director Wadimoff begins in the summer of 2013. That’s when a 2,500-year-old statue of Apollo, the classical Greek and Roman deity of arts and poetry, was discovered in the nets of a fisherman in Gaza. Then it vanishes and its disappearance incites all sorts of theories, rumours and crazy speculation.

Cinema Akil: Sunday, March 3, 7.30pm; Thursday, March 7, 9.30pm

Manarat Al Saadiyat: Tuesday, March 5, 7.30pm

Seule à mon mariage (Alone at My Wedding)

Director: Marta Bergman

Run-time: 121 minutes

Subtitles: English and French

Bergman’s directorial debut is a heartfelt tale about a Roma woman who becomes a mail-order bride. The French-Romanian film shows how Pamela, played by Alina Serban, who lives with her grandmother and two-year-old daughter, signs up for an online wedding service that leads her to Belgium to marry an older man, in the hope that she can start a new life.

Cinema Akil: Monday, March 4, 9.15pm; Thursday, March 7, 7pm

Manarat Al Saadiyat: Wednesday, March 6, 7.30pm

Ghost Hunting

Director: Raed Andoni

Run-time: 94 minutes

Subtitles: English

Palestinian director Andoni places an advertisement in a newspaper in ­Ramallah in an effort to find former inmates of Al Moskobiya interrogation centre in Jerusalem – where Andoni was held at age 18. The filmmaker finds an eclectic group of craftsmen, architects and actors who re-enact their interrogations and discuss in detail their experiences in the prison, as they all come to terms with painful memories that begin to resurface throughout the making of this film.

Cinema Akil: Wednesday, March 6, 7.15pm; Saturday, March 9, 5pm

For more information on the festival, visit

Published: March 1, 2019 08:00 AM


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