This season of Arab cinema offerings at the BFI Southbank, which borrows its title from the book There: In the Light and the Darkness of the Self and of the Other by Etel Adnan, highlights recent films made by Arab filmmakers between 2019 and 2021. Bringing together a selection of fiction, documentary, shorts and genre-defying films, we highlight new currents within Arab cinema that challenge the stereotypical, weave personal narratives into broader questions and celebrate the potential of imagination as a path to a politics of freedom. Arab cinema has gained significant visibility on the international festival circuit in recent years, yet there are continuing efforts to create spaces for screening critically-acclaimed Arab films for audiences in the region. Many of the titles here have been screened at the Cairo-based Zawya Cinema, and so this season is a coming together of two exhibition spaces with two very different histories, audiences and infrastructures. It is is programmed by Youssef Shazli and Alia Ayman, co-founders of Cairo-based Zawya, Egypt’s leading arthouse cinema and distributor.
Titles in the line-up include recent SAFAR favourites including Ameen Nayfeh's 200 Meters and Amjad Abu Alala's You Will Die at Twenty, which enjoyed sold-out screening during the festival earlier in July. Also featured in the programme is the Oscar-nominated The Man Who Sold His Skin by Kaouther Ben Hania, Elia Suleiman's It Must Be Heaven, and Let's Talk by Marianne Khoury. Quite a few of the films will have screenings followed by pre-recorded Q&A sessions with the filmmakers. There are also a plethora of titles available from the BFI online library and throughout September and October the library will explore the breadth and depth of Arab cinema, from state-sponsored production to the work of revolutionary mavericks. Their online exhibition will look at the early days of silent film, established voices, and the new faces making their mark on the industry today. Plus, they will display a selection of Arab Film Festival catalogues, held by the BFI, that celebrate Arab creativity and identity.
Across fiction, documentary, shorts and genre-defying films, "The Time is New" will bring emerging and important Arab filmmaker voices to the UK, including a number of female directors. One of these is Egyptian filmmaker Ayten Amin, whose award-winning second feature Souad will launch the season when it is released by the BFI in cinemas UK-wide on 27 August. An engrossing portrait of Middle Eastern ‘Generation Z’, which was selected for Cannes 2020 and the Berlin and Tribeca film festivals this year, it looks at conflicting identities and the devastating power of social media. There will be a pre-recorded Q&A with director Ayten Amin as part of Woman With a Movie Camera powered by Jaguar on 24 August. The Man Who Sold His Skin will also be followed by a pre-recorded Q&A with director Ben Hania when it screens on 4 September.
"The Time is New: Selections from Contemporary Arab Cinema" will run at BFI Southbank in London from 27 August – 5 October, with selected titles also available digitally on BFI Player Subscription. For all info and to purchase tickets, check out their website.