What are the two Arabic films in this year's Cannes Film Festival selection?

'Broken Keys' by Jimmy Keyrouz and 'Souad' by Ayten Amin are among the 56 films to be given the coveted Cannes 2020 label

Written and directed by Lebanese filmmaker Jimmy Keyrouz, 'Broken Keys' tells the story of Karim, a pianist who strives to escape from his a war-torn town. Intagram Tarekovish
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The physical 2020 Cannes Film Festival was cancelled last month, amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, organisers have now released a 56-strong list of movies that would have premiered at the prestigious event, including two Arabic films by regional filmmakers.

Broken Keys by Jimmy Keyrouz and Souad by Ayten Amin are among the 56 films to have been selected by festival organisers. The selected films will now feature the Cannes logo when they open in cinemas and other festivals taking place this year.

‘Broken Keys’

Written and directed by Lebanese filmmaker Keyrouz, Broken Keys tells the story of Karim, a pianist in his mid-20s, who dreams of launching a music career in Europe. His war-torn town has been taken over by an extremist group, which has put in place strict rules that ban most modern ways of living. In order to collect the money for his travel to Europe, Karim is forced to sell his piano. However, things get messy when the instrument is shot, and Karim embarks on a perilous journey to repair the broken keys.

The feature film seems to be based on a short that Keyrouz wrote and directed in 2016, titled Nocturne in Black.


Souad is a drama by Egyptian filmmaker Ayten Amin. The film tells the story of a 12-year-old girl named Rabad, who lives in Zagazig, a small conservative town in Egypt. After her older sister Souad commits suicide, young Rabad embarks on a journey looking for answers.

'Souad' is a drama by Egyptian filmmaker Ayten Amin. Instagram Filmclinic 
'Souad' is a drama by Egyptian filmmaker Ayten Amin. Instagram Filmclinic 

The drama is presented with an unflinching realism, as the narrative explores the harsh social dynamics that can lead to the suicide of a young girl.

Amin has been working in film for the best part of the last decade. She began her career by making documentary films during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, such as Tahrir 2011: The Good, the Bad, and the Politician. Her 2013 drama Villa 69 tells the story of a terminally ill architect, who is forced to change his solitary ways after his sister and grandson move in with him.

2020 Cannes list explored 

There are a number of other films in the 2020 Cannes selection by filmmakers with roots in the Middle East, including the French films Passion Simple by Lebanese-born filmmaker Danielle Arbid and AND (DNA) by Maiwenn, who is of a mixed Algerian, Vietnamese and French ancestry.

Some of the other films in this year's official selection include Wes Anderson's French Dispatch, Francois Ozon's Summer of 85, Naomi Kawase's True Mothers and two films by Steve McQueen, Lovers Rock and Mangrove.

Though the films may not be getting a red carpet viewing this year,  it is still good to see a selection of regional films sport the Cannes badge of honour in a bid to boost their distribution potential.