Algerian helmer-writer Sofia Djama’s debut feature drama “The Blessed” arrives in Dubai after an auspicious world premiere in the Horizon’s competition of the Venice Film Festival. Not only did exciting young star Lyna Khoudri nab the section’s best actress kudo for the role of Fériel, but the film also collected a pair of important collateral prizes: the Brian Award for a film which “best champions human rights, democracy, pluralism and freedom of thought” and the Lina Mangiacapre Award for a film which “changes the image of women in the cinema.”

Oran-born Djama studied literature in Algiers, later penning a collection of short stories set in the Algerian capital. She adapted one of them for her first prizewinning short, “Limply One Saturday Morning.” Djama says, “I like short stories. I like the tempo, the rhythm, the moments of rupture. I find that this literary form makes it possible to highlight absurdity. As I am the author of my stories, I can betray myself without scruples and without moderation.”

“The Blessed” is about generational conflict and also how history and politics impact intimacy. Djama set the action in 2008 to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the revolution of October 1988, when Algerian youth confronted the regime, demanding a democratic state, access to multiparty politics, openness in the media, social justice and the end of single party rule by the army. Sadly, the gains of this revolution did not last. She says, “I imagined that my couple belonged to this generation who militated in 1988 and that we find 20 years later facing a country that went through a civil war. And this couple has a child who is 20 years old in 2008.”

For her next feature, Djama will adapt another of her short stories, one that returns to the character of Fériel. Meanwhile, “The Blessed” opens in France on December 13th. BAC handles international sales.

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Sofia Djama