Lebanese filmmaker Mounia Akl and Syrian filmmaker Diana El Jeiroudi will compete at the event.
Two Arab films have been selected to premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival, which will take place from September 1-11.
Costa Brava, the directorial debut of Lebanese filmmaker Mounia Akl will compete in the festival’s Horizons Extra section. This US-Germany-Qatar co-production pairs Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri (The Present) with Nadine Labaki. The Lebanese actress and director, whose 2018 film Capernaum was nominated for an Oscar, hasn’t appeared on screen in two years, since featuring in Oualid Mouaness’s film 1982.
Costa Brava is co-written by Akl and Spanish filmmaker Clara Roquet (El Adios) and has Bakri and Labaki playing a couple who leave Beirut in the hope of living a pollution-free life in the mountains. This utopian existence is destroyed, however, when the government decrees that a landfill be built right next to their new home, bringing the city’s rubbish right to their doorstep. Suddenly, the Badri family face being torn apart as tensions rise in their household.
On-screen, Akl, who divides her time between Lebanon and New York, is already famed for starring in the TV series Beirut, I Love You, which she co-created and co-directed. She has also helmed a number of shorts, including the 2016 effort Submarine, also set around Lebanon’s waste crisis. Co-written with Roquet, it was selected for the Cinefondation competition at the 69th Cannes Film Festival.
Receiving its premiere in the non-fiction segment of the out-of-competition strand is the documentary Republic of Silence, a co-production between Germany, France, Syria and Qatar. The director is Syrian filmmaker Diana El Jeiroudi, whose film promises to be a highly personal account of her childhood in Syria and, 40 years on, her exile in Berlin.
As the synopsis puts it: “She grew up in the lands of dictators and surveillance, where images are censored, photos are burned, thoughts are discreet, and mouths are kept shut. 40 years later, from her exile in Germany, Diana El Jeiroudi is a documentary filmmaker reclaiming the images and sounds of the Syrian land and its people, half of whom are scattered around the world. In this emotionally charged carefully crafted film, El Jeiroudi presents a first-person account of how she ended up in Berlin, how she grew up to internalise a world of silence and oppression, how she learned to negotiate her existence and well-being in the face of a mutating enemy, how she bore witness and became involved, how she revolted and claimed herself – and how cinema has saved her life.”
An English literature graduate, who worked in marketing and advertising before switching to documentary filmmaking, the Damascus-born El Jeiroudi founded the Dox Box International Documentary Film Festival in Syria. She’s already directed several shorts and documentaries, and she executive produced last year’s Venice entry Notturno, from Italian director Gianfranco Rosi, who previously won the festival’s Golden Lion for Sacro Gra.