This renegade, mythic coming-of-age adventure from director Abu Bakr Shawky is set in the legendary, high-stakes world of Bedouin camel racing.
Abu Bakr Shawky
Following his 2018 Cannes Competition debut, Yomeddine, Egyptian Austrian writer-director Abu Bakr Shawky brings the renegade spirit and mythic rivalry of an American western to the sprawling deserts of Western Asia, staging a coming-of-age adventure within one of the region's oldest and most popular sports.
In the high-energy world of small-circuit camel racing, Ghanim is preparing for the Great Safwa Race — where heroes are made. Here among the dusty stables, saddles, and whips, the revered yet dangerous sport doubles as a struggle over history, with both riders and camel owners conjoined in the pursuit of family legacies. Younger brother and Bedouin tailor Matar (Omar AlAtawi) grew up hearing Ghanim recite poetry about their legendary grandfather, referred to only as “Hajjan,” the Arabic word for jockey. But while following in his grandfather’s footsteps, building a name for himself in a regional qualifying race, foul play cuts Ghanim’s dreams short.
Though young Matar doesn’t share Ghanim’s passion for the track, he does share a rider’s love for his camel, Hofira. The devoted pair, unaware of the sprawling battle ahead of them, set out together to avenge Ghanim and instead commit to an outsized fight against a regional champion in a golden headscarf and his notoriously slimy benefactor, Jasser Al Saqqar (in a brilliant performance from Saudi actor Abdelmohsen Al Nemer). An epic journey in both proportion and scope, Shawky’s rousing second feature boasts a fabled sense of urgency, backed by an evocative score and the awe-inspiring atmosphere of the Arabian desert.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival