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Welcome note from the Arab British Centre

The Arab British Centre is a charity based in London that works to further understanding of the Arab world in the UK. SAFAR Film Festival is today the largest and widest reaching of our programmes. The months between editions usually fly by in a similar fashion year on year. This year, however, has felt very different. 

We have felt sickened and paralysed by the ongoing genocide in Gaza and the escalation of violence in the West Bank. We have witnessed with horror the onslaught of tragedies, manmade and consequential, that have had devastating impacts across the region—in Sudan, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, and beyond—and on the diaspora communities all over the world. 

It has led us to question: what is the role of an organisation like the Arab British Centre and a festival like SAFAR in these turbulent times? So much of what we do is rooted in celebrating Arab cultures, but celebrating anything at this time has felt wrong. 

This year’s festival theme, presented to us by Rabih El-Khoury, artfully addresses our feelings. The theme enables us to reflect on how hopes and dreams can coexist with harsh realities and how, by expanding our understanding and experiencing film together, we can show solidarity, resist, grieve, and connect. 

We are honoured to present the work of so many filmmakers, artists, and curators who, through bringing stories to the big screen, create space for audiences all over the world to gain insight into the region—not just the history and the politics, but crucially also the universal human experiences that make up all our realities: from generational divides and young love to societal pressures and dreams of brighter futures. We look forward to welcoming a selection of this incredible talent for Q&As, workshops, and discussions as part of the festival. 

In the midst of these dark times, we have found comfort through collaboration, joining forces with so many people who are passionate about film as a tool for building solidarity, understanding, and creativity. We can’t wait to welcome you, our community, to SAFAR this year to bring these collaborations to life. Thank you for supporting the festival and for supporting Arab cinema.

A Note on Palestinian Cultural Censorship 

Never has it been more important for people to come together and listen to Palestinian voices. As a champion for Arab culture in the UK, our goal is to take up space in institutions, cinemas and arts centres and, through collaboration and dialogue, empower them to seek out, host and support more artists and culture from the Arab world. We continue to do this in the face of an unprecedented number of reports of censorship, silencing and event cancellations affecting the cultural industries in the UK.  

Over the past few months we have been in regular conversation with our partners about how we can all honour our commitments to freedom of expression, be held accountable to our values and support one another where we can. As an organisation rooted in cultural diplomacy and dialogue, we believe that in the face of challenges, by remaining at the table and continuing to hold space, we can best achieve our goals to bring Arab film to the widest audience possible.  


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