EXCLUSIVE: Paris-based Nour Films has acquired French rights to Saudi director Tawfik Alzaidi’s first feature Norah ahead of its world premiere in the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard.

The film will make history as the first ever Saudi feature to play in Cannes’ Official Selection just six years after Saudi Arabia announced the end of its 35-year cinema ban.

Norah is an elegant film that combines age-old traditions with a desire for emancipation.  This emancipation is achieved through art, learning and a desire greater than oneself. Tawfik Akzaidi has beautifully crafted a film that is both powerful and delicate,” said Nour Films’s co-founding director Patrick Sibourd.

The deal was brokered by Sebastien Chesneau under his Cercamon banner which clinched the international sales mandate for the film last week.

Cercamon and Nour previously collaborated on Vietnamese drama Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell which premiered in Directors’ Fortnight last year and went on to win Cannes’ Camera d’Or for best first film across all the sections. Cercamon handled international sales and Nour Films took French rights.

“We’re thrilled to once again team up with Nour Films and we’re eagerly awaiting for Cannes to experience Norah, a story that is poised to deeply connect with audiences,” said Chesneau.

Set in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s when artistic expression was banned, the feature follows rookie teacher and clandestine artist Nader, who is sent to a remote village for his first post where he connects with a young woman, whose life has been stifled by the era of conservatism.

The Norah cast features rising Saudi star Yaqoub Alfarhan (Rashash), newcomer Maria Bahrawi and acclaimed veteran actor Abdullah Alsadhan (Tash ma Tash).

Nour Films has a track record of distributing emerging international talents as well as renowned directors such as directors such as Alejandro Jodorowsky, Rolf de Heer, Fernando Solanas and Werner Herzog.

It upcoming distribution slate also includes a second Un Certain Regard title Viêt and Nam by Vietnamese director Tru’o’ng Minh Quy with other recent acquisitions including Berlinale 2024 Competition title Gloria! and Encounters film A Family.

It plans to release Norah in France in the first quarter of 2025.

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