UK’s only pan-Arab film festival to be screened online

Amid coronavirus challenges, this year’s virtual version of the Safar festival will feature films from Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian territories and Tunisia

Sir Derek Plumbly, chairman of the Arab British Centre. Images by James Westlake, courtesy of the Arab British Centre
Powered by automated translation

The UK’s only festival dedicated to pan-Arab cinema will take place virtually this year from September 13-20 and will focus on the theme of journeys – physical, emotional and transformational.

Organised by the Arab-British Centre, the Safar film festival will feature work from Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian territories and Tunisia. The regular in-person event has been postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It will be curated by Rabih El Khoury as a free, online programme with director Q&As and panels exploring topics such as migration, life in the diaspora and sound design in the industry.

Mr El Khoury said organisers wanted to give viewers the chance to travel to the Arab world through their screens despite being at home.

“And while this programme is an invitation to imaginary journeys, the truth around the protagonists of these films is far from being a fictitious one. They defy their harsh realities,” he said.

“They question bewildering surroundings. They face inconceivable challenges. They lead quite impossible journeys. Yet through courage, resilience but also a lot of inspiration they give a sense of meaning to their journeys,” Mr El Khoury added.

Amani Hassan, the acting executive director of the Arab British Centre, said the virtual festival could bring people together and support the film industry at a difficult time.

“Since quickly pivoting our programmes online in March, we’ve seen the thirst of people to connect with their culture, and with culture in general, and we hope that despite the physical distance this programme will offer Safar’s usual, unique space to appreciate, reflect upon and celebrate the cinema and film-makers of the Arab world,” she said.