Dubai-based Middle East distributor and producer Front Row Filmed Entertainment, which scored a major hit earlier this year with its local remake of Perfect Strangers for Netflix, has acquired the regional rights to two Sundance-bowing and gender-defying Arab films.

Sirens, exec produced by Maya Rudolph and Natasha Lyonne and directed by Moroccan-American filmmaker Rita Baghdadi, follows the story of Lilas and Shery, the co-founders and guitarists of the Middle-East’s first all-female metal band as they wrestle with friendship, sexuality and destruction in their pursuit of becoming Thrash metal rock stars.

The feature doc has played in over 40 festivals internationally so far in addition to Sundance, winning several awards along the way including the one in a million documentary award at the Sun Valley Film Festival, the special jury award for courage in filmmaking at the Florida Film Festival and the mermaid award special mention at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival. The documentary was also nominated for the grand jury prize (world cinema – documentary) at the Sundance Film Festival, and currently boasts a 97 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.  

Meanwhile, Front Row has also picked up the short film Warsha from Lebanese-Syrian filmmaker Dania Bdeir, which follows Mohammad (Khansa), a migrant working as a crane operator in Beirut. One morning he volunteers to take on one of the tallest and notoriously most dangerous cranes in Lebanon. Away from everyone’s eyes, he is able to live out his secret passion and find freedom. 

The film won the short film jury award at the Sundance Film Festival and has played in over 82 festivals, landing 28 awards since, including the george lucas grand prix at Tokyo’s Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia and the jury prize for best fiction at the Tampere Film Festival in Finland, as well as the grand jury prize for outstanding international narrative short at the Outfest Film Festival in LA. It was also nominated for the grand jury award at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

“Rita and Dania’s works are brave and groundbreaking for the region. We couldn’t be more delighted to represent their titles,” said Front Row CEO Gianluca Chakra. “If we want a change in the filmmaking scene, these are the kind of voices we should listen to particularly from this part of the world.”

Both Warsha and Sirens will be released later this year following their Middle East festival runs. International sales for Warsha are being handled by Polish outfit New Europe Film Sales with Autlook Film Sales looking after Sirens

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