Inaugural Qisah International Film Festival in UK to open with Iranian film 'Leila's Brothers'

The inaugural Qisah International Film Festival (QIFF) is slated to take place between 9th-12th November in London and will bring an assortment of films from across the Muslim world.
Inaugural Qisah International Film Festival in UK to open with Iranian film 'Leila's Brothers'

'Qisah' is a word that means 'stories’ in Arabic. It is an appropriate title for the premiere film festival seeking to promote Muslim stories as told from the Muslim perspective and all the nuance and diversity within.

Holding its inaugural edition this November, from the 9th to the 12th to be exact, QIFF will feature an array of films from the MENASA region and beyond. The festival kicks off on November 9th with the Iranian film Leila's Brothers, a Cannes Palme d'Or contender at the 2022 edition of the French festival. The film is directed, written and co-produced by Saeed Roustayi, and it stars Taraneh Alidoosti, Navid Mohammadzadeh, Saeed Poursamimi and Payman Maadi. At 40 years old, Leila (Alidoosti) has spent her whole life taking care of her parents and her four brothers. The family argues constantly and is crushed by debts, living in a country caught in the grip of international economic sanctions. As her brothers are trying to make ends meet, Leila formulates a plan: to start a family business that could save them from poverty.

Qisah International Film Festival will hold screenings in Kiln Cinema, Lyric Hammersmith & Rio Cinema and will, for the first time, bring cinema from around the Muslim world to a single event across London, a city home to over one million Muslims of course.

QIFF will present 14 feature films that explore themes of family, resilience, patriarchy, secularism and religion, empowerment, anti-colonial politics, love across Muslim cultures as well as questions of aesthetics, politics and censorship. From contemporary, period, to documentary, the festival promises something for all audiences.

Curated by Asad Ali, an academic, and Phillippe Jalladeau who, for over 25 years, ran the Festival du Trois Continent in Nantes, the team have put together an exciting debut program including many UK premieres. Filmmaker Ahmed Jamal is the director of the festival and had these words of praise regarding the impressive line up: “A varied and compelling programme that is entertaining with powerful stories and confident filmmaking that covers a range of genres and subjects –- there is something here for everyone.”

He also added that “as a melting pot, London is the perfect location to expose a wider audience to the variety of Muslim life, society and history through films, giving audiences a greater understanding of the life so many of their neighbours either come from or have roots bedded in. The city acts as a microcosm that reflects the macrocosm of the Muslim World.”

Curator Asad Ali said the focus of the festival is on the internal perspectives of local filmmakers. He quoted a recent comment by Algerian-American filmmaker, Assia Boundaoui, who in her critique of yet another documentary of Muslims as terrorists asked ‘…where is the space for Muslim creatives to make beautifully intricate, nuanced films…films that concern themselves not with war, but with life?’ We at MIME talked about the controversial Sundance doc here.

Ali himself stated: “Mainstream cinema, all too often, depicts Muslims in stereotypical ways: gun toting terrorists, veiled women and the call to prayer.By contrast Qisah showcases cinema that explores the cultural vibrancy, ordinary struggles and diversity of life in Muslim countries. As against the imaginary of Muslims as homogenous the festival shows Muslims in their heterogeneity, diversity and differences. In other words, films that widen our view of the human experience and highlight the similarity of the human condition.”

The selections of films for this inaugural event hail from the Middle East, Central and South Asia, Africa, the Balkans, former USSR, the Far East and the diaspora in Europe and North America. The program includes Rachid Bouchareb's Our Brothers (from France),  the Indonesian period drama Before, Now & Then, directed by Kamila Andini, the anthology of short films by five young female directors Quareer (from Saudi Arabia, and a UK premiere), a film which won two major awards at the Saudi Film Festival in June of 2022 and three at the inaugural Red Sea IFF where it premiered in December of 2021. Also screening in the festival is the documentary Before the Dying of the Light (from Morocco) and the event will wrap with will wrap up with this year’s Tanzanian International feature Oscar entry,Tug of War.

In between, a couple of our personal favorites include Wissam Charaf's Dirty, Difficult Dangerous, and Soudade Kaadan's Nezouh.

For more information and to book tickets, check out the QIFF website.

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