Recently a professor in the US asked me if I could put together a list of Arabic language films she might be able to use in her women’s studies and global studies classes. This is only a short excursion around 20 plus countries sharing a common language and multiple problems and plenty of quirkiness. Some countries have only one or two features, like Jordan and the UAE, so those were pretty easy to do. Morrocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria, I apologize to all the wonderful films I didn’t list–and to Iraq, the Arab cinema I know almost nothing about yet. The Middle East also includes Iran, which may have the most powerful films of all, but that’s a whole other list. For that, see the link below.
Cairo Station/The Iron Gate (Youssef Chahine, 1958): A memorable love triangle amongst the workers at a Cairo train station.
Dreams of Hind and Camelia (Mohamed Khan, 1988): Two maids in Cairo struggle with their employers and family.
Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story (Yousry Nasrallah, 2009)
Asma (Amr Salama, 2011) A woman struggles with the shame of AIDS
Caramel (Nadine Labaki, 2007) Daily life of five women at a beauty salon in Lebanon.
Where Do We Go Now? (Nadine Labaki, 2011) Award-winning film that takes a lighter, simplified look at the start of the Lebanese civil war.
West Beirut (1998) Probably the best narrative film on the Lebanese civil war as it affected the middle class
Paradise Now (Hany Abu Assad, 2005) Oscar nominated, two young men are sent on a suicide mission.
Pomegranates and Myrrh (Najwa Najjar, 2008) A newlywed copes with the sudden imprisonment of her husband.
Salt of this Sea (Annemarie Jacir, 2008) A Palestinian American goes back to see what was once her family’s home.
Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008) Israeli animated film about the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
Under the Bombs (Philippe Aractingi, 2007) One woman’s struggle to find her missing child in the midst of Lebanon’s 2006 war with Israel.
The Leopard (Nabil Maleh, 1973) Freedom fighters as revolutionaries
The Extras (Nabil Maleh, 1993) Life and love under a police state
Omar Killed Me (Roschdy Zem, 2011) The difficulty of proving your innocence when your guilty by ethnicity.
Le Grand Voyage (Ismael Ferroukhi, 2004), A young man goes with his father from France to Mecca on an emotionally challenging road trip.
Rachida (Yamina Bachir, 2002): A woman faces down a group asking her to commit a terrorist act at home.
Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo 1966): An epic about one of the most heroic and bloody fights for independence in modern history.
Silence of the Palace (Moufida Tlalti, 1994) A masterful look at the manipulation of poor women in mid-20th century Middle East.
City of Life (Ali Mostafa, 2010) The lives of two young Emirati men collide with the lives of a variety of expats living in Dubai.
Sea Shadow (Nawaf Al Janahi, 2011) A young man tries to understand what love is in a seaside town.
Captain Abu Raed (Amin Matalqa, 2007) A janitor pretends to be an airplane pilot to entertain the kids in his neighborhood.
*For a bit of a taste of the grand cinema of Iran, check out this short list from the website Your Middle East http://www.yourmiddleeast.com/features/5-great-iranian-films_8295