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North African Films Set to Make Mark at Toronto Festival

Nearly a decade after the Arab Spring swept across North Africa, the winds of change have also breathed new life into the region’s film industries, the fruits of which will be on display at this year’s Toronto Intl. Contemporary World Cinema lead programmer Kiva Reardon, who also curates the festival’s selections from North Africa, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, has noticed an uptick in diverse voices and stories from the region, with women in particular more widely represented. Offering an intimate portrait of the proprietor and her guests – while training a wider lens on contemporary Algeria – the film both gives rise to “Questions of modernization and the far reaches of capitalism” and provides a “Nuanced” narrative “Driven completely by a female character,” said Reardon. “My English Cousin,” by documentarian Karim Sayad, travels from Algiers to Grimsby, England, to follow the path of the director’s cousin, who contemplates a return to his home country nearly two decades after emigrating to the U.K. “On some level, are exploring this question of Reardon said the film bravely addresses issues “That no one wants to talk about anywhere, [while] framing the entire film around her and her struggles.” First-time female directors will also grab the spotlight in Toronto. Tunisian director Manele Labidi makes her debut with “Arab Blues,” about a woman who returns to Tunis after years abroad with the hopes of opening her own psychotherapy practice. In “Noura’s Dream,” from debut director Hinde Boujemaa, Tunisian star Hind Sabri portrays the wife of an abusive husband whose dream of a new start with her lover is upended as she waits for a divorce. While it’s a film about “Women’s rights and patriarchy in contemporary Tunisian society,” said Reardon, “Noura’s Dream” also confronts “Cultural questions of toxic masculinity that aren’t unique to Tunisia or the Arab world.”

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