The festival screened 32 films from Arab countries, including Palestinian films, none of which had been previously shown. This represented a significant expansion from earlier years, reflecting festival growth.
The opening film was the award-winning Egyptian feature 19B (2022, 95 min.) by Ahmad Abdalla. This film spotlights the changes taking place in Egyptian society by telling the story of a nameless caretaker (“Haj”) guarding an abandoned villa in a once-affluent Cairo neighborhood. The villa is invaded and taken over by a gangster.
The closing film was the narrative feature Under the Fig Trees (Taht al-Shajara, 2022, 92 min.), a Tunisian coming-of-age film by Franco-Tunisian director Erige Sehiri that follows a group of girls who drive laborers to an orchard of fig trees during the summer harvest in a Berber village in northwest Tunisia, at a time in their lives when they are between girlhood and womanhood. The film was announced as the Tunisian submission for the 95th Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film.
The festival also featured numerous other films and two short-film screenings and a screening of documentary shorts.
“This was the first time we screened short documentaries,” Shaheen told Jerusalem Story. “It was also the first time we accepted proposals for short-fiction films.”1
Among the other feature films was the black comedy drama Mediterranean Fever (2022, 108 min.) by Palestinian director Maha Haj (Personal Affairs), which won the best screenplay award at the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival in May 2022. The film, which was dedicated to the late Shireen Abu Akleh, explores a complicated friendship-enmity between two middle-aged neighbors, played by Amer Hlehel and Ashraf Farah.