With The Cannes Film Festival coming to a close on May 22, curiosity is rising as to which director will take home the coveted golden palm fronds. Although many talents competing in the main category come from Europe and the United States, the Middle East also has one powerhouse contender.
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman is in the competition for the Palm d'Or and he is no stranger to golden trophies. Another of his works, A Separation,earned the 69th Golden Globe in January and the 84th Academy Awards in February 2012, and it was nominated for the Academy's Best Original Screenplay. In June, he joined the by-invitation-only Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and then competed for a Palm d'Or in 2013 with The Past—in which Bérénice Bejo won the Best Actress Award for her performance.
The Salesman is a drama inspired by Arthur Miller's Pulitzer Prize-winning play set in Tehran. Emad and Rana have just moved into a flat in the city's centre due to ongoing, dangerous work at their old place. The young couple's lives are then dramatically changed due to an incident with the flat's previous tenant.
The Un Certain Regard section opened with Clash by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab. His directorial debut with Cairo 678 in 2010 brought him many awards from 16 film festivals around the world. Diab wrote all his movies with most of them spotlighting on Egyptian society's pressing issues. Christiane Amanpour presented a Webby Award for his major participation in the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
Clash is set on the aftermath of June 2013 protests and the coup d'état that removed then-president Mohamed Morsi. Exploring human conditions and terrorism roots, the movie is shot from inside a riot police truck in which captured protesters from the Muslim Brotherhood and pro-army supporters are trying to escape.
Competing alongside Clash for the Un Certain Regard's €30,000 prize is Beyond the Mountains and Hills by Israeli director Eran Kolirin. During Cannes 2007, Kolirin's The Band's Visit was nominated for Un Certain Regard and Caméra d'Or and also won Award of the Youth, Jury Coup de Coeur in the Un Certain Regard and FIPRESCI sections. The Band's Visit also earned eight Israeli Ophir Prizes from the Israeli Film Academy.
Beyond the Mountains and Hills is focused on the Greenbaums: David, a father who just returned to civilian life after more than two decades in the army; Rina, the beautiful mother who teaches literature; Yifat, a growing teenage girl who is a reluctant activist; and Omri, the teenage boy with his own struggles. Kolirin poses the question of trying to be good in a dysfunctional society that does not exactly reward good deeds.
Photo Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival