Saturday 1 July 2023

11th SAFAR Film Festival (29/6/23–9/7/23)

The 2023 edition of SAFAR features over 30 screenings across the UK, including 10 UK premieres, a first-ever SAFAR family screening, new releases and classic films, plus live events with 15 filmmakers and industry practitioners. The opening night was held at Ciné Lumiere, before the festival travelled across London and into the Barbican and the ICA. The Garden Cinema is welcomed for the first time as a host venue alongside new national partners The Ultimate Picture Palace, Oxford, and The Midlands Art Centre, Birmingham. SAFAR Film Festival is screening in nine cities nationwide, including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Plymouth, Oxford and Cardiff.

Throughout the last decade SAFAR has been the only festival in the UK dedicated to promoting cinema from the Arab world and offering a unique space for audiences to explore and celebrate Arab cinema past, present and future. Now, this pioneering festival remains the UK’s largest showcasing of Arab feature films, documentaries and shorts. SAFAR launched on Thursday 29 June with the UK premiere of The Last Queen (2022), which screened at Ciné Lumiere and was followed by a Q&A with the lead actor and co-director Adila Bendimerad, who was nominated for a Director’s Award at Venice last year. On Sunday 9 July SAFAR will close with the documentary Foragers (2022), from the multi-disciplinary artist Jumana Manna, who will appear in conversation at the Barbican.

Additional award-winning titles include acclaimed Belgian co-productions The Blue Caftan (2022, above) and The Damned Don’t Cry (2022, below); the latter, which is the sophomore feature from BAFTA-nominated director Fyzal Boulifa, will be followed by a director Q&A. Also screening will be Raven Song (2023), followed by an interview with the Saudi screenwriter Mohammed Al Salman. Sara Suliman’s documentary Heroic Bodies (2022), which focuses on the rise of the Sudanese women’s movement, receives a UK premiere, as does the radical melodrama Birdland (2023), directed by Leila Kilani. Another highlight in the festival diary will be Cinema of Resistance: An Evening curated by Zineb Zedira, which will shed light on the relationship between cinema and anticolonial activism in Algeria.

Co-directed by Marya Zarif and André Kadi, animated feature Dounia and the Princess of Aleppo (2022) tells of the titular character as she leaves Syria with her grandparents when war breaks out. The film has collected many awards and nominations across festivals globally. The Youssef Chahine Story will be held at BFI Southbank on 3 July in an evening to herald a retrospective of films by the Egyptian director, who was a household name across the Arab world. The theme for this year’s programme is A Journey Through Space and Time, as SAFAR invites audiences to travel through a world of Arab cinema, mapping the region across a new axis and showcasing films which traverse territories and historical periods.

Source: SAFAR

Images: BFI