Visitors to this year’s Mostra de Valencia will have the opportunity to view something unique: a collection of Arab fantasy movies
The 36th edition of the Mostra de Valencia – Cinema del Mediterrani, which will take place from October 15 to 24, 2021, will allocate a space to “Arab fantasy cinema,” a genre “very rarely represented” and little known not only in the region but also around the world.
Mostra de Valencia’s retrospective “Arab Fantasy Cinema” will feature five films from Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia that have never been seen in Spain before. It’s a fascinating but rare genre, and according to the organizers, the reason for its scarcity is that it comes from locations with a specific relationship to otherworldly ideas. Making these kinds of films is a balancing act in avoiding the censorship that many nations impose when the storylines of films attempt to breach red lines on social or religious issues, not to mention the prohibitions on the display of naked bodies or the treatment of erotic topics. Finally, there are many other issues with the technological needs and digital effects that fantasy movies typically require.
But in spite of all the problems, fantasy movies are made. Horror films have a long history in Egypt, for example, but other countries have only recently began to promote the fantasy genre.
“Until recently, fantasy cinema did not have the opportunity to develop in many countries of the region,” said Eduardo Guillot, the festival’s art director, “but recently, very interesting titles have emerged that, at times, resort to supernatural elements to raise important reflections on identity and the political and social situation of each country.”
The first film to be presented is ‘Kandisha’, by Jérôme Cohen-Olivar, based on the Moroccan mythological figure of Aicha Qandicha. It stars a criminal defense attorney who takes on the case of a lady suspected of murdering her husband, only to discover that he was murdered by an angry spirit. The movie is also a reflection on gender violence with a cast that includes Amira Casar (‘Call Me By Your Name’) and David Carradine (‘Kill Bill’).
The psychological horror thriller ‘The Blue Elephant’ (2014), directed by Marwan Hamed, not only excelled in the field of special effects around the world, but also became a major success, becoming the highest-grossing film in Egyptian cinema history.
The film, which was based on Ahmed Mourad’s eponymous novel, included psychedelic hallucinations and diabolical possessions that charmed moviegoers. The sequel, ‘The Blue Elephant 2. Dark Whispers’ (2019), that far surpasses its original and has a production on par with the most expensive Hollywood movies will also be shown at the Mostra De Valencia.
The fourth film to be screened is Hadi El Bagoury’s ‘Warda’ (2014), an Egyptian film in the ‘found footage’ subgenre. It follows a blogger who returns to his hometown to explore and document a series of strange events that have been plaguing his family since his father died.
‘Dachra,’ the first horror film in Tunisian cinema history, directed by newcomer Abdelhamid Bouchnak and screened at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, will round out the lineup. It’s a narrative set in a cannibal-infested community that serves as a societal metaphor on the Maghreb country’s systematic disappearance of children.