Discover Five Stories By Muslim Creatives at Cannes 2023

Discover Five Stories By Muslim Creatives at Cannes 2023

The 76th Cannes Film Festival took place from May 16 to May 27, 2023. The festival showcased cinema from around the world, including major premieres like “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and Martin Scorcese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.” The festival also featured several short films, documentaries and feature films by Muslim creatives.

1. “Four Daughters” (“Les filles d’Olfa”) directed by Kaouther Ben Hania

This Arabic-language documentary was directed by Kaouther Ben Hania, a Tunisian Oscar-nominated director. “Four Daughters” (Les Filles d’Olfa) is a story of a mother’s loss of her two daughters. Ben Hania invites two professional actresses to fill the roles of the two daughters, Rahma and Ghofrane, in order to understand how they became radicalized enough to make the decision to leave their home country Tunisia for Syria as fighters for Islamic State. The film blurs fact and fiction in an attempt to find a more sympathetic perspective on why Rahma and Ghofrane chose to leave and how Olfa dealt with her loss.

2. “Inshallah a Boy” (“Inshallah Walad”) directed by Amjad Al-Rasheed

The first Jordanian film to be selected for Cannes, “Inshallah a Boy” takes on Jordan’s patriarchal inheritance laws. The film tells the story of Nawal, who after her husband’s sudden death finds she is not entitled to her home (which she paid for herself) or her belongings, as they legally belong to her husband’s family since she does not have a son. Nawal thus decides to pretend to be pregnant so that she can keep her home and her daughter safe. 

3. “Bread and Roses” directed by Sahra Mani

This documentary shows the dire reality for women in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of Kabul in August 2021. The film mostly focuses on Dr. Zahra Mohammadi, who had a flourishing dental practice before the Taliban takeover, and led several protests against their crackdown on women’s rights. The film jumps between several women’s stories as they all are faced with the reality that they may have to leave their home for freedom. It intersperses interviews with cell phone footage of testimonies from Afghan women. 

4. “The Mother of all Lies” (“Kadib Abyad”) directed by Asmae El Moudir

In this film, Moudir traces the story of her family’s involvement in the 1981 Bread Riots in Morocco and examines how the riots impact Morocco today. Moudir grew up in Casablanca, but without many memories documented in photos like her friends, she felt compelled to search for missing memories. Her search led her to the 1981 Bread Riots during the brutal reign of King Hassan II and to surprising stories about her own family’s stories. 

5. “Terrestrial Verses” (“Ayeh Haye Zamini”), directed by Ali Asgari and Alireza Khatami

Iranian directors Asgari and Khatami construct a story from several vignettes which follow everyday people from all walks of life as they navigate cultural, religious and institutional constraints imposed on them by social authorities. The stories offer a nuanced perspective on Iran’s society and was Iran’s only entry in the film festival.

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