Watch a clip here Set in Iraq, shot in Syria , based on a famous Palestinian novel by Ghassan Kanafani assassinated by the Israelis in and directed by an Egyptian, this harrowing film is about a group of Palestinian workmen in the early 50s trying to cross the border illegally from Iraq into Kuwait, to join the oil boom.
They get a lift inside a water tank and are stuck there when the driver is held up by customs officials. The action takes place inside the tank in the searing desert heat as the men dream of the homes and loved ones they left behind.
A classic of the Palestinian experience. Watch a clip here This powerful film about working-class boys growing up in Tunisia caused a stir because it deals with sexual harassment and homosexuality. A carpentry apprentice is about to celebrate his wedding but he and his close friend have both been victims of sexual abuse, notably by the monstrous local carpenter.
This dark secret threatens to come out before the young man's wedding. Several Arab films in the mids — another is Michel Khleifi's Wedding in Galilee — explored the close links between sexual oppression and political and social oppression, whether in the form of traditional patriarchal orders or foreign military occupation or entrenched class interests. Man of Ashes does this brilliantly.
Barakat was the master of classical cinema in Egypt, and this film is based on a novel by the great Taha Hussein. It is humane and beautifully made. The heroine, a peasant girl, decides to take revenge on a handsome engineer who has seduced her sister and caused her "honour" killing by her uncle. In order to do so, she becomes his live-in maid but soon finds herself falling in love with him. It stars a very young Faten Hamama, who went on to become a huge star and who plays every role with grace and elegance, without ever seeming contrived or dull.
Zeina Daccache, 12 Angry Lebanese: I was on the jury when this won the top documentary award at Dubai in The director is a young Lebanese drama-therapist who put on a production of 12 Angry Men inside Lebanon's most notorious prison and filmed the long protracted process.
The film was partly an attempt to reform the country's criminal and penal laws and improve prison living conditions. It also enabled Daccache to extend her drama-therapy work to prisons across Lebanon , and she had started working in Syria shortly before the current conflict began.
It is deeply moving and full of humanity, particularly in the way it describes the process of lifting men from a profound states of despair into a renewed desire to live and build a different future for themselves. Based on a novel by Naguib Mahfouz, this film's theme is decadence.
It is set on an illicit barge on the Nile where disenchanted government employees meet to get drunk and smoke hashish. Made soon after President Nasser's death, the film is critical of the old "socialist" bureaucracy, which had become extremely corrupt. It has the foresight and courage to mark the end of an era, with eyes keenly locked on a not-very-promising new one.
One could consider the film overmoralising in that it conflates sexual freedom with corruption, but it has a great subversive power and is still banned in many Arab countries.