Barakah Meets Barakah, the debut feature of writer/director Mahmoud Sabbagh, has been selected to represent Saudi Arabia in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race. The movie, which debuted in Berlin, thus becomes the second-ever entry from the kingdom. It follows Haifaa Al Mansour’s 2013 charmer Wadjda, which was Saudi Arabia’s first official entry. Though roundly-lauded, that film failed to make the Oscars shortlist.
The crowd-pleasing Barakah Meets Barakah debuted to largely positive reviews at the Berlin Film Festival in February (check out the trailer above). A candid love story, it was shot in Jeddah and stars Hisham Fageeh and Fatima Al Banawi as the young would-be couple Barakah and Bibi.
In a society where meeting in public unchaperoned is prohibited and physical contact is forbidden, Barakah and Bibi find themselves in a near-impossible situation just trying to have a first date. The pic explores the clashes between traditional values and the modern world.
Sultan Al Bazie, head of the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts and chairman of the nominating committee, said of the film, “Mahmoud Sabbagh is a representative of a new generation who will soon be pioneers in the history of filmmaking in Saudi Arabia. This generation, who submitted more than 70 films in the third Saudi Film Festival organized by SASCA last March, are showing a lot of creativity and determination to express themselves and their culture through cinema. We feel proud to nominate Barakah Meets Barakah as our country’s second entry to the Oscars and we are optimistic that the next years will have more entries from Saudi Arabia.”
Sabbagh said, “This movie is about hope and making change. Even in the most challenging filmmaking conditions, there should be a voice that represents the normal stories of the people in Saudi Arabia.”
The film will be released in select territories in the Middle East this fall and will make its North American debut in Toronto next month. MPM Films is handling worldwide sales on the pic that does not yet have U.S. distribution. Sony Pictures Classics previously released Wadjda.