MUBI is a wonderful place to watch any film you fancy, particularly older titles by world cinema auteurs. In recent years it has accumulated quite a catalogue and with its new plans to distribute and even begin to produce content, that is only going to grown.
When we looked for Arab titles, the list wasn't as extensive as we would have liked. For example, from Palestinian helmer Hany Abu-Assad, we only found his Oscar-nominated Omar. MUBI is a wonderful source to look up any title as they are all listed on the streaming platform, even when you can't play them there yet. So when we found Abu-Assad, we saw all his other titles and got to yearn to rediscover them. Along with Elia Suleiman, Nadine Labaki, films from the Gulf and much much more.
But we did find a few gems and MUBI does have a large selection of Youssef Chahine titles, so we'll make sure to catch up on those while we await new titles -- particularly now that they've acquired sales company The Match Factory.
ARAB BLUES by Manele Labidi
The French-Tunisian comedy stars Iranian thespian Golshifteh Farahani (pictured above) as a psychotherapist from Paris who decides to move back to her native country of Tunisia. The charming debut feature by Labidi, it deals skillfully with whether it's ever possible to come home, breaking taboos, and building a community in a place that appears foreign to us -- even if it is our birthplace.
WADJDA Haifaa Al-Mansour
Another woman-directed film and yet one more debut feature, this one by Saudi Arabia's Haifaa Al-Mansour, Wadjda is touching, simple and important. It changed the culture in Saudi but it's also a stand-alone watch that doesn't try to preach with its entertainment. Inspired by Iranian cinema, where filmmakers use children to often approach adult themes without being subjected to censorship, this one is a must-watch to dip one's toes into Saudi films.
OMAR by Hany Abu-Assad
If ever a film captured the tragedy of the Palestinian existence, it's Omar. Powerfully written, beautifully shot and downright heartbreaking, Abu-Assad's film features some of the best casting of Arab actors in a tale that will play with your mind for weeks to come, after watching it. It is not a coincidence that it went all the way to the Oscars but in our humble opinion, it really should have won. And it will inspire in the viewer a desire to watch most of Abu-Assad's past work, which is also quite perfectly intense.
THE LEBANESE ROCKET SOCIETY by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige
Real-life husband and wife filmmaking team Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige have a talent for mixing archival footage with modern themes to create narrative documentaries that get to the heart of the matter. The Lebanese Rocket Society deals with a group of scientists, students and army experts who are tapped to develop a space program for their country, Lebanon, in the 1960s. Lebanon was in fact the first Arab country to start sending rockets into the sky.
CAIRO STATION by Youssef Chahine
One of many titles by beloved Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine, Cairo Station stars Farid Shawqi and Hind Rostom. The MUBI synopsis reads: "In Cairo’s chaotic central station, Qinawi, an impoverished newspaper vendor, develops an infatuation with the free-spirited Hannuma, who dodges the authorities to peddle soft drinks to passengers. When he faces rejection, Qinawi’s obsession becomes dangerous as he falls into a state of insanity." The film is one of the most celebrated works of the late Chahine who is a bit of a national treasure in Egypt and beloved for his modern eye and sexually charged themes around the world.
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