2024 SAFAR Film Festival Explores Dreams, Hopes, and Realities through Arab Cinema

  •        UK’s largest and longest-running Arab film festival, SAFAR Film Festival, returns for its ninth edition from 18 – 30 June across the UK.  
  •        On Dreams, Hopes & Realities features work from pioneers like Michel Khleifi and Tahani Rached, to feature debuts by the likes of Amjad Al Rasheed and Sofia Alaoui across a compelling programme with Palestine at its heart.  
  •        The programme shares films spanning 15 Arab countries and is accompanied by a range of events, Q&As and talks. 
  •        60 screenings and events across four London venues, plus eight cinemas in Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Hull, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and Plymouth.
  •        Supported by the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery, The British Council and the Bagri Foundation. 
  •        Watch the SAFAR 2024 Trailer: https://youtu.be/-8KX9eOpLB0

The Arab British Centre announces this year’s SAFAR FILM FESTIVAL programme – On Dreams, Hopes & Realities curated by Rabih El-Khoury.

SAFAR, now in its ninth edition, is the foremost platform for showcasing Arab cinema in the UK. By centring stories from the Arab world and its diaspora, the festival challenges preconceptions, fosters discourse, solidarity, and enhances cross-cultural understanding. 

In a time of war in Gaza, Palestine sits at the programme’s heart while stories from Sudan, the Gulf and the wider region bring varied dimensions to this year’s theme. On Dreams, Hopes & Realities centres on the daily realities faced across the region and reflects on how small hopes and bigger dreams can exist within such contexts. The programme, featuring new releases, classics, archive film, family friendly screenings and more hailing from 15 Arab countries, invites viewers to dare to dream and to reflect on how film can be used as a tool to come together, connect and challenge current realities.  

Programme highlights: 

Opening the festival on 18 June at Ciné Lumière is documentary LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL by Mohamed Jabaly, which examines European solidarity and the rigidity of borders – both physical and bureaucratic - amid the Gaza war in 2014. Stranded in Norway as the borders to Gaza closed indefinitely, the film is about overcoming a life put on hold by global politics, told from the inside. Filmmaker Mohamed will join the festival for a Q&A following the showing and will be touring as part of the UK-wide festival.

Other Q&A highlights include BYE BYE TIBERIAS by Lina Soualem, a poignant exploration of four generations of Palestinian women centred around the life of Lina’s mother, prominent actress Hiam Abbas (Succession), which is released by T A P E on 28 June, following the UK-wide preview tour with the French-Palestinian-Algerian director as part of SAFAR. BYE BYE TIBERIAS will screen across multiple UK venues including the Barbican Cinema and Ciné Lumière in London. 

As well as stories from Palestine, Sudan, the Gulf and the wider region, this year’s SAFAR programme shares a range of stories in particular exploring love and relationships, family roles and autonomy.  

In its UK premiere, THE BURDENED (Yemen 2023) by Yemini film and theatre director, Amr Gamal, follows Isra’a and Ahmed who pour their hearts into providing a sense of normalcy for their three young children. When they discover that Isra'a is expecting another child, they are faced with tough choices. The Burdened was nominated for the Panorama Audience Award and won the Amnesty International Award at Berlinale in 2023. 

In INSHALLAH A BOY (Jordan 2023), Amjad Al Rasheed brings a moving story of survival, hope and strength in the face of oppressive patriarchal structures. After the sudden death of her husband, working mother Nawal must fight for her inheritance in order to save her daughter in a society where having a son would be a game changer. In a shorts programme dedicated to female coming of age stories, NOBODY WANTS THE NIGHT (Remi Itani, Lebanon 2023) takes viewers to present day Beirut and pregnant Layal who, accompanied by her best friend, drives through the night to a clandestine abortion clinic in this thought-provoking short. 

From Tunisia, MACHTAT (Sonia Ben Slama, 2023), receiving its UK premiere at the festival, spotlights wedding musicians, Najeh and Waffeh, and their mother Fatma. Filmed over several years, the documentary captures these women’s existence and their contradictions: torn between their duties as women and their desires as musicians. 

GOODBYE JULIA (Sudan, 2023) by award-winning Sudanese filmmaker, Mohamed Kordofani, interrogates the day-to-day experience of facing racism as a local from the South living in Khartoum. The film delves into the ordinary lives of two women, intertwined by extraordinary social and political circumstances that leave indelible marks on their existence. Lead actress, Siran Riak (Julia) joins the programme for Q&As. 

New curator platforms

SAFAR this year joins forces with international as well as established and emerging curators from the UK. Butheina Kazim (Cinema Akil, Dubai) proposes a fresher perspective on Cinema of the Gulf region. Saeed Taji Farouky explores Palestinian resistance and solidarity through radical works and archival material.

Talal Afifi, founder of Sudan Film Factory and Sudan Film Festival in Khartoum, presents two evenings under the theme Sudanese Cinema: Unfinished Journeys - Endless Dreams, - envisioning an evening dedicated to showcasing Sudanese films spanning from the 1970s and 1980s to contemporary works reflecting the aftermath of the 2019 revolution. The selection tries not only to explore the socio-political developments depicted in these films but also delves into the cinematic techniques, practices and visual experimentation that Sudanese filmmakers have employed over nearly four decades.

Modern classic & Heritage highlights

SAFAR also offers audiences the chance to rediscover classics from across the region. The lyrical WEDDING IN GALILEE (1987) by Michel Khleifi, presented in its restored version, is the first feature fiction made in Palestine by a Palestinian director. SORAIDA, A WOMAN OF PALESTINE (2004), produced exactly twenty years ago by the acclaimed Egyptian-born director Tahani Rached, introduces us to the singular life of Soraida in Ramallah and presents a rarely seen portrait of life in Palestine in the early 2000s.

And FATMA 75 by Selma Baccar - the first non-fiction film directed by a Tunisian woman, in the mid 70s - embarks on a historical feminist journey to meet ancient and contemporary revolutionaries involved in the struggle for Tunisian independence.  

Nadia El-Sebai, Executive Director of the Arab British Centre said: “Cinema has the remarkable ability to capture the essence of human experience from challenge and adversity to love and joy. The Festival forms a key part of our work to further understanding of the Arab world in the UK. Every year we share compelling stories from across region, from the everyday to the extraordinary, highlighting relatable and distinct societal issues and building cross-cultural understanding and solidarity.

“This year we are honoured to work once more with Rabih El-Khoury and our guest curators and partners across the UK, to present our biggest festival to date. Despite the shadows cast by the difficult realities faced across the region, SAFAR invites us to come together and find solace, hopes and dreams, in the universal language of cinema.”

Rabih El-Khoury, Curator, SAFAR 2024 says: "How does bearing witness to the realities of the Arab region empower us to confront them? Are we allowed to envision hope beyond these realities? And can we achieve our dreams individually, or must we collectively dream to ensure their realisation? By sharing stories and narratives from 15 Arab countries, including focuses on Sudanese and Palestinian cinema, audiences will encounter themes spanning family dynamics, loss, love, migration, and the harsh truths of war and politics. Within these stories, and through challenging and captivating cinema, we aim to facilitate exchange, reflection and share strength in solidarity.”

For regular updates subscribe to the SAFAR newsletter and prepare to immerse yourself in this exciting and unique programme from 18-30 June 2024.  

Watch the SAFAR 2024 Trailerhttps://youtu.be/-8KX9eOpLB0

Follow the festival on Instagram

Tickets on sale from Friday 17 Maywww.safarfilmfestival.co.uk


For further media information, interviews or assets please contact safar@kallaway.com

About SAFAR Film Festival  

SAFAR Film Festival screens from 18-30 June at Barbican Cinema (London) Ciné Lumière (London), Garden Cinema (London), ICA (London), Midlands Art Centre (Birmingham), HOME Manchester, Hull Independent Cinema, Chapter Arts Centre (Cardiff), Ultimate Picture Palace (Oxford), Plymouth Arts Cinema, FACT (Liverpool) and Glasgow Film Theatre. 

The SAFAR Film Festival is the largest festival in the UK dedicated to cinema from the Arab world. Founded and run by the Arab British Centre since 2012, the festival 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.

The Arab British Centre is a charity and cultural organisation which works to further understanding of the Arab world in the United Kingdom. It organises and promotes cultural and artistic events and hosts a community of like-minded resident organisations at its central London premises.  

About the BFI National Lottery Audience Projects Fund 

The BFI Audience Projects Fund will invest £15m of National Lottery funding over three years to support ambitious, audience-facing activity of national scale that celebrates and showcases independent UK and international film and XR work. It will support projects that seek to expand access and encourage greater enjoyment of cinema by connecting audiences that are representative of the UK population with great films - in venues, at events and online. 


About the BFI  

The BFI is a cultural charity, a National Lottery distributor, and the UK's lead organisation for film and the moving image.  

Our mission is: 

To support creativity and actively seek out the next generation of UK storytellers 

To grow and care for the BFI National Archive, the world's largest film and television archive 

To offer the widest range of UK and international moving image culture through our programmes and festivals - delivered online and in venue 

To use our knowledge to educate and deepen public appreciation and understanding 

To work with Government and industry to ensure the continued growth of the UK's screen industries 

Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter.  The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Jay Hunt. 

About the British Council 

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We do this through our work in arts and culture, education and the English language. We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2021–22 we reached 650 million people.

About Bagri Foundation

The Bagri Foundation, established in 1990, is a family foundation driven by curiosity. Through grants and strategic partnerships, the Foundation gives artists and experts from across Asia, or those inspired by the continent, wider visibility on the global stage. Recent projects include Artes Mundi 10, the UK’s largest art award; Asia Forum for the Contemporary Art of Global Asias, presented at the Venice Biennale, and Write Afghanistan a literature development programme by Untold Narratives. The Foundation has also been a long-term partner of the London Indian Film Festival. www.bagrifoundation.org

About T A P E

Founded by Isra Al Kassi and Angela Moneke T A P E works in production, distribution and film exhibition with the mission to collaborate closely with new audiences and filmmakers in creating conversations across the creative sector.  Through theatrical distribution they support titles with a focus on the mixed-heritage and dual-identity storytelling.