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SAFAR Film Festival: On Dreams, Hopes and Realities

18 – 30 JUNE 2024

How can bearing witness to a reality enable us to challenge it? Are we allowed to hope beyond it?  And can we achieve our dreams individually, or do we need to dream together, collectively, to ensure they come true?

Within this very challenging year for the region, our festival theme aims to highlight a multitude of daily realities being faced across the Arab world and reflect on how slight hopes and bigger dreams co-exist within such contexts.

How is it to be barred entry to your home, Gaza, while you watch war unfold through your phone (LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, 2023)? How is it to face racism as a migrant in Beirut, dreaming of running away from it all with your lover (DIRTY DIFFICULT DANGEROUS, Lebanon, 2022)? How is it to fight for independence as a woman within a maze of patriarchal laws (INSHALLAH A BOY, JORDAN 2023)? How does a family adapt when war is looming and an economic crisis is hitting hard (THE BURDENED, Yemen 2022)? The filmmakers featured in this year’s edition articulately pose such questions and provide timely and personal insights into these everyday battles which often remain unseen.

Palestine is at the heart of SAFAR this edition and we’re proud to present our broadest spectrum of filmmaking on its history, its people and their relentless fight for liberation. In the opening documentary, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (2023), filmmaker Mohamed Jabaly addresses European solidarity when he finds himself stranded in Norway after the Southern border of his hometown Gaza shuts down indefinitely. Lina Soualem speaks about the power of transmission in her second feature documentary, BYE BYE TIBERIAS (2023), as she goes on a journey with her mother, Hiam Abbas, to retrace the story of four generation of women in Palestine.  A programme of fiction shorts from the last two years addresses the day-to-day realities of Palestinians at home and in exile, from a child hoping to find a safe place to play to a young man who dares to dream about living his identity without fear. Animation THE TOWER (2018) presents a history of Palestine from the Nakba to the present day through the eyes of a young girl, collecting memories of her homeland from around the refugee camp where she was born.

Heritage films have always held a crucial place in the festival and this year we offer the chance to rediscover three landmark films rendered even more powerful through the eyes of today. The documentary SORAIDA, A WOMAN OF PALESTINE (2004), transports us back to Ramallah at the turn of the century. The lyrical WEDDING IN GALILEE (1987) by Michel Khleifi, presented in its restored version, was the first feature fiction made in Palestine by a Palestinian director. The newly restored edition of FATMA 75 (1976) by Selma Baccar presents an innovative docu-fiction which embarks on a historical feminist journey to meet ancient and contemporary revolutionaries involved in the struggle for Tunisian independence.

In these challenging times, to further connect SAFAR with our local and Arab surroundings, we are pleased to feature a constellation of established and emerging guest curators who we have invited to respond to our festival theme. Sharing their expertise in the cinema of their homelands, Butheina Kazim (Cinema Akil, Dubai) dives into poetic, experimental and artistic film from Gulf region; Talal Afifi (Sudan Film Factory, Khartoum) delves into the cinematic techniques, practices and visual experimentation that Sudanese filmmakers have employed over nearly four decades. Filmmaker and SAFAR co-founder Saeed Taji Farouky explores Palestine through militant works and archival material. Finally, supported by mentoring from Curate It, this year’s SAFAR Futures Young Programmers, Amel Moyersoen, Loulwah Kutbi and Sally Zarzour, question migration and belonging and their effects on one’s identity.

In the end, this edition is about bringing people together, to exchange, to share, to reflect, to stand up stronger, to show solidarity.

But also to dare to dream, and to make our hopes a reality.

Welcome to SAFAR 2024
Rabih El-Khoury

Programme Curator



SAFAR Film Festival Curator, Rabih El-Khoury

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