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9th Edition Of SAFAR Film Festival Confirms 2024 Prorgramme



2024 SAFAR Film Festival Explores Dreams, Hopes, and Realities through Arab Cinema

  • UK’s largest and longest-running Arab film festival, SAFAR Film Festival, returns for its ninth edition from 18 – 30 June across the UK.
  • On Dreams, Hopes & Realities features work from pioneers like Michel Khleifi and Tahani Rached, to feature debuts by the likes of Amjad Al Rasheed and Sofia Alaoui across a compelling programme with Palestine at its heart.
  • The programme shares films spanning 15 Arab countries and is accompanied by a range of events, Q&As and talks.
  • 60 screenings and events across four London venues, plus eight cinemas in Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Hull, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and Plymouth.
  • Supported by the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery, The British Council and the Bagri Foundation.

The Arab British Centre announces this year’s SAFAR FILM FESTIVAL programme – On Dreams, Hopes & Realities curated by Rabih El-Khoury. SAFAR, now in its ninth edition, is the foremost platform for showcasing Arab cinema in the UK. By centring stories from the Arab world and its diaspora, the festival challenges preconceptions, fosters discourse, solidarity, and enhances cross-cultural understanding.

In a time of war in Gaza, Palestine sits at the programme’s heart while stories from Sudan, the Gulf and the wider region bring varied dimensions to this year’s theme. On Dreams, Hopes & Realities centres on the daily realities faced across the region and reflects on how small hopes and bigger dreams can exist within such contexts.

The programme, featuring new releases, classics, archive film, family friendly screenings and more hailing from 15 Arab countries, invites viewers to dare to dream and to reflect on how film can be used as a tool to come together, connect and challenge current realities.

Programme highlights:

Opening the festival on 18 June at Ciné Lumière is documentary LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL by Mohamed Jabaly, which examines European solidarity and the rigidity of borders – both physical and bureaucratic – amid the Gaza war in 2014. Stranded in Norway as the borders to Gaza closed indefinitely, the film is about overcoming a life put on hold by global politics, told from the inside. Filmmaker Mohamed will join the festival for a Q&A following the showing and will be touring as part of the UK-wide festival.

Other Q&A highlights include BYE BYE TIBERIAS by Lina Soualem, a poignant exploration of four generations of Palestinian women centred around the life of Lina’s mother, prominent actress Hiam Abbas (Succession), which is released by T A P E on 28 June, following the UK-wide preview tour with the French Palestinian-Algerian director as part of SAFAR. BYE BYE TIBERIAS will screen across multiple UK venues including the Barbican Cinema and Ciné Lumière in London. As well as stories from Palestine, Sudan, the Gulf and the wider region, this year’s SAFAR programme shares a range of stories in particular exploring love and relationships, family roles and autonomy.

In its UK premiere, THE BURDENED (Yemen 2023) by Yemini film and theatre director, Amr Gamal, follows Isra’a and Ahmed who pour their hearts into providing a sense of normalcy for their three young children. When they discover that Isra’a is expecting another child, they are faced with tough choices. The Burdened was nominated for the Panorama Audience Award and won the Amnesty International Award at Berlinale in 2023.

In INSHALLAH A BOY (Jordan 2023), Amjad Al Rasheed brings a moving story of survival, hope and strength in the face of oppressive patriarchal structures. After the sudden death of her husband, working mother Nawal must fight for her inheritance in order to save her daughter in a society where having a son would be a game changer.

In a shorts programme dedicated to female coming of age stories, NOBODY WANTS THE NIGHT (Remi Itani, Lebanon 2023) takes viewers to present day Beirut and pregnant Layal who, accompanied by her best friend, drives through the night to a clandestine abortion clinic in this thought-provoking short.

From Tunisia, MACHTAT (Sonia Ben Slama, 2023), receiving its UK premiere at the festival, spotlights wedding musicians, Najeh and Waffeh, and their mother Fatma. Filmed over several years, the documentary captures these women’s existence and their contradictions: torn between their duties as women and their desires as musicians.

GOODBYE JULIA (Sudan, 2023) by award-winning Sudanese filmmaker, Mohamed Kordofani, interrogates the day-to-day experience of facing racism as a local from the South living in Khartoum. The film delves into the ordinary lives of two women, intertwined by extraordinary social and political circumstances that leave indelible marks on their existence. Lead actress, Siran Riak (Julia) joins the programme for Q&As.

New curator platforms:

SAFAR this year joins forces with international as well as established and emerging curators from the UK. Butheina Kazim (Cinema Akil, Dubai) proposes a fresher perspective on Cinema of the Gulf region. Saeed Taji Farouky explores Palestinian resistance and solidarity through radical works and archival material. Talal Afifi, founder of Sudan Film Factory and Sudan Film Festival in Khartoum, presents two evenings under the theme Sudanese Cinema: Unfinished Journeys – Endless Dreams, – envisioning an evening dedicated to showcasing Sudanese films spanning from the 1970s and 1980s to contemporary works reflecting the aftermath of the 2019 revolution. The selection tries not only to explore the socio-political developments depicted in these films but also delves into the cinematic techniques, practices and visual experimentation that Sudanese filmmakers have employed over nearly four decades.

Modern classic & Heritage highlights SAFAR also offers audiences the chance to rediscover classics from across the region. The lyrical WEDDING IN GALILEE (1987) by Michel Khleifi, presented in its restored version, is the first feature fiction made in Palestine by a Palestinian director. SORAIDA, A WOMAN OF PALESTINE (2004), produced exactly twenty years ago by the acclaimed Egyptian-born director Tahani Rached, introduces us to the singular life of Soraida in Ramallah and presents a rarely seen portrait of life in Palestine in the early 2000s.

And FATMA 75 by Selma Baccar – the first non-fiction film directed by a Tunisian woman, in the mid 70s – embarks on a historical feminist journey to meet ancient and contemporary revolutionaries involved in the struggle for Tunisian independence.

Nadia El-Sebai, Executive Director of the Arab British Centre said: “Cinema has the remarkable ability to capture the essence of human experience from challenge and adversity to love and joy. The Festival forms a key part of our work to further understanding of the Arab world in the UK. Every year we share compelling stories from across region, from the everyday to the extraordinary, highlighting relatable and distinct societal issues and building cross-cultural understanding and solidarity. “This year we are honoured to work once more with Rabih El-Khoury and our guest curators and partners across the UK, to present our biggest festival to date. Despite the shadows cast by the difficult realities faced across the region, SAFAR invites us to come together and find solace, hopes and dreams, in the universal language of cinema.”

Rabih El-Khoury, Curator, SAFAR 2024 says: “How does bearing witness to the realities of the Arab region empower us to confront them? Are we allowed to envision hope beyond these realities? And can we achieve our dreams individually, or must we collectively dream to ensure their realisation? By sharing stories and narratives from 15 Arab countries, including focuses on Sudanese and Palestinian cinema, audiences will encounter themes spanning family dynamics, loss, love, migration, and the harsh truths of war and politics. Within these stories, and through challenging and captivating cinema, we aim to facilitate exchange, reflection and share strength in solidarity.”

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