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Cannes 2019: Un Certain Regard Films Review

Since the late 70s, the Un Certain Regard category has become a fan favorite. It selects films that could be considered as hidden gems with daring subjects, and premieres them during the very international festival in Cannes. Below is a selection of five original films that tackled compelling topics in an authentic style.

Adam, written and directed by Maryam Touzani, is a French-Moroccan film that tackles the condition of women in a very norm-driven Middle East. The two chosen heroines share a common storyline, motherhood and the impact of children on a mother’s life. Featuring Abla, a widow raising her 8 year-old daughter, and Samia, who is pregnant and alone.

“The film was born from a real encounter, painful yet inspiring, that forever left an indelible mark on me,” said the director. It’s the story of Samia, expecting a child and abandoned by her partner, the mother-to-be decides to flee home to avoid her family’s reaction. Abla on the other hand represents Touzani’s family who once welcomed a young girl and helped her out without knowing who she was. 

Adam follows the complicated and intense relationship between these two women, a relation that first started with rejection and gradually transformed into compassion. The film contrasts two female personalities; one who is dedicating her time to fulfill a mother's duties, as opposed to another who is plotting an escape strategy by giving her child away.

A brave and courageous act? A coward’s escape plan? Adam sensually traces a common dilemma of many women in the Arab world; expecting mothers who let go of their most precious belonging for the sake of their family’s reputation.
Watch the trailer here.

La Femme de Mon Frère is a Canadian film by director Monia Chokri.

Sophia, young, educated, and unemployed, lives at her brother Karim’s home. The siblings have a very close relationship that is shaken when Karim, a charming seducer, falls in love with Sophia’s gynecologist Eloise.

Chokri, who shares a strong bond with her own brother, depicts the feeling when he fell in love and treated his partner the same way he used to treat her. It was a troubling emotion that drove the director to write the script.

La Femme de Mon Frère is about the different forms of love, but most importantly it’s about family love. A portrait of a young woman caught in between a couple’s story followed by a rapture that drove her to put herself out in the world, try new things, and meet new people.

And while Sophia might seem unsympathetic and ironic in a comedic way, the director intended to have a female character that didn’t resemble traditional feminine roles in cinema.

When it comes to the lighthearted style of directing, Monia briefed her team by saying: “The only rule is that there will be none.”

Watch the trailer here.

The Swallows of Kabul is a French animated movie about love and life in a troubled country. Inspired by the best-selling novel of the same title by Yasmina Khadra, it takes place back in 1998, when Kabul was under the Taliban rule.

Zunaira and Mohsen are two young lovers whose hope defies the political and social stats quo. It only takes a foolish choice to make their life take a drastic turn. Should they escape Kabul or should they stay and face the future?

Directed by Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec, the film’s script was rewritten and brought to life in a very artistic manner. The real life actors inspired the animated characters through their own gestures and movements as they were filmed during the voice over sessions. 

Watching documentaries, TV reports and portfolios of photographs were part of the research process to depict the reality of Afghanistan during the Taliban period, as both directors explained. Moreover, the animated film allowed transforming what could seem as too violent, into meaningful drawings and graphic messages. The Swallows of Kabul is full of symbolism and surrealism.

Watch the trailer here.

Papicha, an Algerian word meaning funny, attractive and a liberated young woman, is a film that follows the life of Nedjma. An 18 year-old student passionate about fashion design and who wants to carry on with life ordinarily despite the ongoing Algerian Civil War.

Set in Algeria in the 1990s, during what is known as the “black decade,” a period of conflict between the government and Islamist groups that lead to the rise of fundamentalism and oppression.

The main character along with her group of girl friends reject the conservative flow and decide to organize a fashion show as a means of freedom of expression, an escape to a liberated space.

Directed by Mounia Meddour, the film represents parts of the director’s life. Meddour, who belongs to an Algerian family of artists and intellectuals left Algeria, after her father, a filmmaker, had received threats like many of his colleagues at the time.

“I wanted to tell the story of this young woman that, through her resistance, takes us on a great journey fraught with pitfalls that shows us multiple facets of Algerian society with its resourcefulness, mutual support, friendship, love – and also struggles,” explained Mounia Meddour.

Watch the trailer here.