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Toronto: Array of Arab Co-Productions at Festival

A number of film projects from the Arab world, including those from Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine and Lebanon, will unspool at this year’s Toronto Intl. Film Festival.

Palestinian helmer Hany Abu-Assad, fresh off of his Oscar-nominated love story “Omar,” will present the world premiere of his latest feature, “The Idol.”  Pic is inspired by the story of Mohammed Assaf, the Gaza-based teen crooner who catapulted to fame across the region last year when he defied odds to be crowned winner of the Arab world’s version of “Idol.” “The Idol” is a co-production from Palestine, Qatar, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.

Not to be outdone, Algerian helmer Salem Brahimi will debut his Algerian-French co-production, “Let Them Come(pictured), a fictionalized take on life in late-1980s Algeria under the power of Islamists. Pic marks the documentarian’s first foray into feature filmmaking.

Also wading into feature filmmaking for the first time is fellow documentarian Mai Masri, a Palestinian helmer whose “3000 Nights” will also make its world debut at TIFF. A Palestine/France/Jordan/Lebanon/UAE/Qatar co-production, pic follows a group of Israeli and Palestinian female prisoners inside an Israeli jail.

Other world premieres from Arab directors include Moroccan helmer Hicham Lasri’s “Starve Your Dog,” about a desperate journalist’s struggles to interview a former despot and, in turn, secure a major comeback; and Lebanese helmer Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya’s “Very Big Shot,” a wacky, comical Lebanese-Qatari co-production about three brothers attempting to run a cocaine-smuggling ring out of their family’s Beirut pizzeria.

Tunisia-born, Paris-based Leyla Bouzid will present the North American premiere of “As I Open My Eyes,” which follows an underground band on the eve of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution. The film, a Tunisia/France/Belgium/UAE co-production, was made with the support of a SANAD grant from the Abu Dhabi Film Fest.

Gaza brothers Arab and Tarzan Nasser, who burst onto the scene in 2013 with “Condom Lead,” will present “Degrade,” about 12 women trapped in a hair salon in Gaza; Ethiopian helmer Yared Zeleke will unspool his debut feature “Lamb,” French-Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch will present “Much Loved,” which zooms into the prostitution scene in Marrakesh; Herman Hailey will also represent Ethiopia with her “Price of Love,” a tale of romance between a cabbie and a hooker. And Algerian Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche will be on hand with the French production “Story of Judas.”

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