Ajyal Film Festival 2023

All Films

Dounia & The Princess of Aleppo (Dounia et la Princesse d'Alep)

Ajyal Competition - Ajyal Film Festival 2020

Marya Zarif, André Kadi / Feature Narrative / Canada, France / 2022 / 72 min / Colour / In French / Arabic, English subtitles
Rated: Parental guidance is advised. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.


Six-year-old Dounia loves to play, learn and discover new recipes. She lives with her grandparents and father in Aleppo and treasures hearing stories of her mother, who tragically passed away when Dounia was too young to remember. One night, a group of uniformed men take her father away, and an uneasy feeling begins to take hold. War has begun, but her grandparents do their best to shelter the young girl from its effects. As bombs drop around them, the family decide to flee in search of a new home with only a few possessions—and a little magic in hand.

Their perilous journey takes them across land and sea. Joined by other fleeing refugees, the motley crew find some solace in each other through shared songs and stories. Dounia’s more traumatic encounters are eased in child-like flights of imagination thanks to her magic 'baraki' seeds. The film deals with quite a heavy subject matter in displacement, war and loss, but the protagonists’ upbeat attitude and grit, along with enchanting musical scenes, make it an optimistic experience full of hope and wonder.

About the Director

After studying directing with Michael Haneke at the Film Academy Vienna, he makes his debut in the world of cinema with “Local Heroes” on 35mm film. Assistant director at the Vienna State Opera from 2013 to 2018, he later works in the sound department of Terrence Malick's “A Hidden Life”.

Carina Ashkar is a Lebanese/Palestinian filmmaker and multimedia artist. She was born in Beirut and raised across the MENA region. She then moved to Los Angeles and attended Santa Monica College for a few years before moving back to Lebanon to graduate with a BA in Filmmaking at the Lebanese American University (LAU). While in university, she worked on several documentaries as well as music videos. 'Light Fingers', awarded Best Capstone Project Award in the Television and Film Department at LAU, is the first fiction film that she has written, directed, and produced.

A multidisciplinary artist, Maria Zarif has developed skills in multiplatform design, screenplay writing and direction and has fifteen years of experience in content for young audiences. In 2015 Marya co-founded ‘Je Veux Jouer’ (I Want to Play), a foundation whose purpose is to transform the lives of Syrian refugee children through games. In 2020, she created, wrote and co-directed her first animated web series, ‘Dounia’. ‘Dounia and The Princess of Aleppo’ is her first feature film.

André Kadi joined Frima animation studios in 2007. As the head of the artistic department, he founded a branch of the studio in Bordeaux. He opened a 2D animation studio in 2012, where he made the series ’MaXi and Agent Jean’, before co-founding Du Coup Animation in 2018 with Marie-MichelleLaflamme, then Du Coup Production in 2021.


Marya Zarif, André Kadi
Marya Zarif
Judith Beauregard
Carina Ashkar
Production Designer
Line Itani
Production Company
Tobo Media, Haut & Court
Sales Company
Be for Films
Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, Johann Sebastian Bach, Henning Backhaus
Pierre Yves Drapeau
Haitham Atme
Pierre Yves Drapeau
Assistant Director
Mada Harb
Be for Films
Rachaf Ataya, Elsa Mardorissian, Manuel Tadros

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