Netflix to broadcast 44 Arab movies, including four Tunisian films

Tunisian director Abdelhamid Bouchnak believes “the time has come for Tunisian cinema to be launched towards universality”.
Sunday 21/06/2020
Tunisian director Mehdi Barsaoui poses in front of the poster for his film “A Son”. (AFP)
Tunisian director Mehdi Barsaoui poses in front of the poster for his film “A Son”. (AFP)

TUNIS- Netflix is set to broadcast 44 Arab movies, including four Tunisian films, in an effort to bring more Arab cinema to the world.

“Netflix is releasing a new catalogue of 44 movies blending iconic and Arabic contemporary films, including the works of notable directors like Youssef Chahine, Youssry Nasrallah, Nadine Labaki, Moustapha Akkad, Anne Marie Jacir, Laila Marrakchi and many more,” the American media services company said in a statement.

Netflix subscribers will discover an important part of the Arab world’s film heritage and new breakthrough films from the region as the company looks to open the door to diverse Arab movie industries, including the Tunisian market, which has recently produced a series of award-winning films and rising stars.

The Tunisian cinema scene was always at the vanguard of Arab film production in terms of breaking cultural social taboos. But the industry leaped forward in 2012,  producing up to 12 acclaimed movies per year, some of which have won prestigious awards in international film festivals.

A young generation of Tunisian directors and producers contributed to the “new cinema” renaissance, boldly tackling social and political issues that were largely seen as off limits before the 2011 uprising that ushered in an unprecedented climate of freedom of expression.

“We want more people around the world to have access to great stories and have the chance to see their lives represented on screen,” commented Nuha Eltayeb, Netflix’s director of content acquisitions for Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa.

“We also believe that great stories come from anywhere and can travel everywhere connecting with audiences far beyond their place or language of origin,” Tayeb added.

The four Tunisian movies to join the streaming giant’s catalogue were all produced between 2017  and 2019.

Netflix first added to its Tunisian catalogue last May, broadcasting the film “On the Puck of the Imp” (“Ala kaf Afrit) by Kawthar Ben Haniyeh. The film examines the true story of Tunisian girl whose sexual assault rocked the nation in 2012.

The second Tunisian film to be added to Netflix’s repertoire was horror flick “Dachra,” directed by Abdelhamid Bouchnak. The movie, which became available on the platform on June 6, was highly popular when it hit the big screens at home in 2019. It deals with themes of magic, sorcery and cannibalism.

Tunisian actress Hend Sabri poses during a photocall for the premiere screening of the movie Noura reve at the Arab World institute in Paris. (AFP)
Tunisian actress Hend Sabri poses during a photocall for the premiere screening of the movie Noura reve at the Arab World institute in Paris. (AFP)

“Noura’s Dream” (“Noura Tehlam”) (2019) directed by Hinde Boujemaa will also hit the platform on June 25. Having received the grand prize at Tunisia’s Carthage Film Festival last November, the movie, starring Tunisian actress Hind Sabri, focuses on the life of a woman seeking to escape an abusive relationship.

Sabri announced last month that she has also teamed up with Netflix for a new “female-focused” original series.

“I feel excited and happy,” she wrote on her Instagram account, adding “I share with you the news of joining the Netflix family in a new artwork that carries a new vision centered around Arab women.”

“I am also thrilled about my first experience as an executive producer, and how with Netflix we can create content that features stories from the Arab world to be seen by the world,” she said.

The other Tunisian film to be streamed on Netflix is “A Son” (“Bik Eneich”), directed by Mehdi Barsaoui. The film deals with family relations and the limits of newfound freedoms after Tunisia’s 2011 uprising.

Tunisian director Bouchnak believes “the time has come for Tunisian cinema to be launched towards universality,” while Boujemaa said “I feel proud (…), this cinematic cooperation is an international recognition of Tunisian cinema and its quality”.

UK poster for Abdelhamid Bouchnak’s horror movie “Dachra.” (Courtesy of Abdelhamid Bouchnak)
UK poster for Abdelhamid Bouchnak’s horror movie “Dachra.” (Courtesy of Abdelhamid Bouchnak)

Netflix also hosts several films from other Arab countries, including Egypt. Egyptian director Yousry Nasrallah said that Netflix has given “a new life to my films, which have become accessible to a young audience.”

Netflix announced that its profits grew as it gained an additional 16 million subscribers from around the world during the first three months of the year, about half of them from Europe, the Middle East and Africa.