Seven Muslim-majority countries are directly affected by last Friday’s executive order. Not all of them — especially Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — have robust film industries, meaning movies both about and made in these nations can be hard to find. Even so, they’re worth seeking out.
Jafar Panahi won the Golden Lion at the 2000 Venice Film Festival for his acclaimed drama, for instance, which remains banned in Iran. One of his country’s most revered auteurs — which is saying a lot — he’s among the standard-bearers of the Iranian New Wave.
Winner of a directing award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, Cutter Hodierne’s film was expanded from his short of the same name and stars nonprofessional Somali actors. Focusing on the plight of pirates from their own point of view — so the opposite of “Captain Philips,” essentially — it endeavors to offer a new perspective on a difficult story.
According to co-directors Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan, this account of the devastating Syrian Civil War was shot by 1,001 Syrians. It premiered in the Special Screenings section at Cannes three years ago — and, as of early March, will be available to stream on Mubi.
Moustapha Akkad’s historical action film tells the story of Omar Mukhtar, who led the Native Resistance against Italy’s colonization of Libya. As a result, it was banned in Italy for decades.
Abbar Kiarostami, who died last year, spent his celebrated career self-reflexively playing with notions of truth and fiction onscreen. Focusing on the trial of a man who became obsessed with, and later impersonated, Kiarostami’s fellow filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, “Close-Up” is now considered one of the best films ever made.
Also known as “Africa Is Burning,” C. Court Treatt’s 1930 film was shot in the Sudan and, per its opening titles, concerns “the adventures of a wandering tribe in the African forests.” According to the Times, “Stampede” is “to be enjoyed and remembered not as a love story or a morality play, but as a film in which animals and not men, however brilliantly and unconsciously they acted, were the real heroes.”
In her highly personal documentary, Sara Ishaq returns to her childhood home in Yemen to explore her roots and gain a better understanding of where she came from and what that place is like now.
Once hailed by no less an author than Jonathan Rosenbaum as one of the 10 greatest films ever made, Forough Farrokhzad’s short documentary takes place in a leper colony and is as heavy as you’d expect. The reveal of the title’s significance is among the most poignant ever.
American movies about the Iraq War are common enough, but those from the Iraqi perspective are much rarer — and indeed, Amer Alwan’s film was one of the first to emerge from his home country in a decade and a half.
Defiantly made by Jafar Panahi after being placed under house arrest and banned from filmmaking by the Iranian government, “This Is Not a Film” — its title both a coy homage and a kind of defense mechanism — had to be smuggled to the Cannes Film Festival inside a cake. Panahi has since gone on to make both “Closed Curtain” and “Taxi.”