We are all extremely happy to be able to go into a cinema again. But of course, some of us may remain a bit weary and streaming films from home has become part of our new normal.
This year's SAFAR Film Festival, which was founded and run by the Arab British Centre since 2012, will cater to both -- those adventurous and of course, London-based as well as those further afield and still apprehensive to sit in an enclosed space, surrounded by strangers.
Their mission statement is one we love at MIME: "The SAFAR Film Festival is the only festival in the UK dedicated to cinema from the Arab world. SAFAR offers a unique space for audiences to explore and celebrate the diversity of Arab cinema past, present, and future.
SAFAR showcases the broad range of talent from the region by working with curators on themed programmes and inviting filmmakers for live Q&As. SAFAR develops the UK film landscape through industry events and opportunities for early-career Arab British filmmakers. SAFAR aims to increase access to Arab cinema in the UK by working with screening partners across the country, as well as digital programmes."
This year's line-up includes the best of the best in Arab cinema for the year. Films like the UK premiere of Ayten Amin’s Souad, which saw its two young leading ladies Bassant Ahmed and Basmala Elghaiesh walk away with joint Best Actress prizes at this year's Tribeca Festival.
There is also a special "Sami Bouajila Double Bill" featuring the French-Tunisian actor in both Mehdi M. Barsaoui's A Son as well as in Sofia Djama’s The Blessed.
Amjad Abu Alala's You Will Die At Twenty (pictured above) is also part of the programme, as well as documentaries Their Algeria by Lina Soualem and Let's Talk by Marianne Khoury. And most of the films are followed by Q & A sessions led by SAFAR curator Rabih El-Khoury. It doesn't get much better than this.
But if that wasn't enough, there is also an exclusive online Masterclass with Palestinian actor Ali Suliman, conducted by renowned film critic Jay Weissberg. In his 2020 Variety review of Suliman's latest film 200 Meters, directed by Ameen Nayfeh, Weissberg introduced the film by writing: “One of the pleasures of anticipating an Ali Suliman performance is you know he’ll bring depth and complexity to every role.” We asked him to define the actor for MIME and he replied us with the following:
“Ali Suliman has the rare ability to continually surprise us, not just with the projects he chooses but the way he inhabits his characters, conveying inner lives of striking complexity through a palpable physicality." Jay Weissberg
From his work in Hany Abu Assad’s Golden Globe winner Paradise Now (2005) to Ameen Nayfeh’s Venice-awarded debut 200 Meters (2020), Suliman has constantly reinvented himself with every performance, intensely connecting with each character he portrays while shying away from stereotypical roles. In the Masterclass on Monday 5 July at 4pm BST the Palestinian actor will speak about his diverse acting journey. Suliman will also reflect on working with Peter Berg and Ridley Scott in Hollywood as well as established filmmakers in the Arab world such as Elia Suleiman and Ghassan Salhab, while also lending his talents to support the careers of emerging Arab filmmakers including Emirati director Majid Al Ansari and Jordanian director Yahya Al-Abdallah.
Once the in-theatres part of the festival will end, many gems from the MENA region will be streamed online and there will even be a segment titled "Talks and Discussions" featuring everything from Sudanese cinema to a panel on making documentaries in your family home, featuring three of the filmmakers included in this year's programme -- Zeina Alqahwaji, Anthony Chidiac, and Cyril Aris.
'SAFAR Film Festival: Generational Encounters in Arab Cinema' runs from 1-17 July and is presented in partnership with the Shubbak Festival, while supported by Barjeel Art Foundation and by Film Hub London, managed by Film London.
For all info and tickets, visit the festival's website.