New works by emerging Arab film directors Soudade Kaadan (“The Day I Lost My Shadow”) and Lina Soualem (“Their Algeria”) are among standouts being presented at the upcoming Cairo Film Connection, the Cairo Film Festival’s co-production platform, where eight out of 15 selected projects are by female filmmakers.

This year more than a third of the CFC selection is made up of first-time helmers presenting projects, alongside names who’ve made a splash with their debuts and are now working on their second films, and other directors making their first narrative features after establishing themselves in the documentary world.

Cairo Film Festival president Mohamed Hefzy has noted proudly that they received an unprecedented 110 submissions, most of which came from first-timers.

“We’ve decided to take risks in our choices and shine a light on new and eclectic talents,” said new CFC manager Chadi Zeneddine, who is a former Doha Film Institute programmer.

The three features in post, likely to hit the festival circuit soon, comprise Kaadan’s new Syria-set drama “Nezouh,” about a tough family conflict prompted by the country’s civil war. “Nezouh” follows after Kaadan won the 2018 Venice Film Festival’s Lion of the Future with “The Day I Lost My Shadow.” Hotly anticipated pic is being shepherded by Oscar-winning producer Donna Gigliotti (“Shakespeare in Love”) and has already landed distribution deals in France (Pyramide), China (Stars Collective), and across the MENA region (MAD Solutions).

The other two completed features being presented to buyers and festival programmers at CFC are coming-of-age drama “A Summer in Boujad” by Moroccan first-timer Omar Mouldouira, and “Alam – The Flag,” also a first feature, by  Palestinian filmmaker Firas Khoury. “Flag” follows a 17-year-old Palestinian-Israeli whose political apathy is challenged when he falls for a beautiful and politically engaged new classmate, leading him into a dangerous act of protest against the Israeli government.

The seven features in development include “My Driver and I,” the buzzy directorial debut of New York-trained Saudi actress/director Ahd Kamel (“Collateral,” “Wadjda”). It’s a coming-of-age story about a Saudi girl growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, and her friendship with her driver, based on Kamel’s personal experience.

“Nour” (pictured) by Egypt’s Sara Shazli (“Back Home”), who is making the transition from docs to features, is a coming-of-age drama involving a close friendship between two teenage girls that becomes toxic; Brooklyn-based Egyptian director Farida Zahran’s Cairo-set comedy “The Leftover Ladies,” about a 63-year-old woman who tries to leave her polygamist husband; and “Aicha,” a portrait of a thirty-something Tunisian woman contending with social dictates and disillusionment, directed by Mehdi Barsaoui (“A Son”) are among other standout features in development.

The selected documentary projects at development stage include “Bye Bye Tiberias,” which is Lina Soualem‘s followup to her poignant family portrait “Their Algeria” that won several prizes. In “Tiberias” the Paris-based French-Palestinian-Algerian multi-hyphenate, who is the daughter of Palestinian actor and director Hiam Abbas, unveils the multiple layers of her mother’s journey from leaving the Palestinian village of Deir Hanna, in Galilee, to becoming the renowned star she is today. One of the few Arab talents who appears regularly in American movies, including “Blade Runner 2049” and Hulu’s upcoming “Hellraiser.”

The CFC selection features five projects from Egypt, three from Tunisia, and one project from each of the following countries: Algeria, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Morocco and Syria.

Full list of Cairo Film Connection projects: 

Narrative Projects in Development

“The Leftover Ladies” (Egypt)
Director: Farida Zahran

“My Driver and I” (Saudi Arabia, U.K.)
Director: Ahd Kamel

“Life After Siham” (Egypt, France)
Director: Nameer AbdelMassih

“Nour” (Egypt)
Director: Sara Shazli

“In the Land of Aram” (Lebanon, Armenia)
Director: Tamara Stepanyan

“Ravens of the City” (Egypt, Sudan)
Director: Adham El-Sherif

“Aicha” (Tunisia, France)
Director: Mehdi Barsaoui

Documentaries in Development

“Bullets Do Not Kill. Silence Does” (Tunisia, France)
Director: Hind Meddeb

“American Dream” (Egypt)
Director: Amir El Shenawy

“Bye Bye Tiberias” (Algeria, France, Belgium, Qatar)
Director: Lina Soualem

Narrative Features in Post-Production

“A Summer in Boujad” (Morocco)
Director: Omar Mouldouira

“Alam – The Flag” (Palestine, France)
Director: Firas Khoury 

“Nezouh” (Syria)
Director: Soudade Kaadan

Documentaries in Post-Production

“Mohsen of Iraq” (Iraq, Costa Rica)
Director: Ishtar Yasin

“On the Hill” (Tunisia)
Director: Belhassen Handous