Brave & Bold Programming: BBC Arabic Film Festival


The 4th FREE BBC Arabic Festival returns to London 20 – 26 April 2018 at the BBC Radio Theatre with feature films, short documentaries, fictions and reportage, screen talks and panel discussions about current filmmaking in the Arab world.  Yes, it is FREE!! There’s a new all day Digital journalism strand, a special look back at the history of BBC Arabic television celebrating its 10th anniversary (Monday 23 April 3pm), and ‘The Cultural Frontline’ looking at the current golden age for Arab Film (Wednesday 25 April 7pm). In total there are 20 films in competition 5 films not in competition, 15 events and 2 special opening and closing ceremonies.

This year, the films focus on current political and social situations in the Arab world today and feature stories about occupation, child labour, the right to play music, religious extremism, immigration, and everyday life during war. Made by first time as well as established filmmakers from Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Iran, Mexico, USA and the UK, all the films are in contention for the 2018 awards, including the prestigious Young Journalist Award. The awards ceremony (Thursday 26 April 7.30pm) will be hosted by celebrated Korean/Vietnamese comedian Wonho Chung, who recently had his London debut, and musical guest Lekhfa will be performing live.

The Opening night (Friday 20 April 7.30pm) will show shorts about the refugee experience: Mare Nostrum, about a father’s decision to put his daughter’s life at risk and Fate, Wherever it Takes Us, a self reflective, experimental film about a refugees journey from Syrian minefields to asylum in Jordan, plus clips from 2017 Young Journalist Award Winner Mohamed Jabaly (Dir. Ambulance)’s new film following six fellow asylum seekers living in Tromso, Norway.

If you don’t feel like sitting through a feature film, then there are shorts. We particularly like this year’s focus on shorts about Syria. Really thought provoking, stimulating and sobering:

Syrian Focus Shorts (Saturday 21 April 2pm)One Day in Aleppo – Aleppo, 2017: It’s a city with no food, fuel or water; no place to bury the dead and nowhere to treat the wounded. This observational film brings audiences closer to a quotidian of loss and destruction, exposing the daily life of people trying to live normally.

To Climb the Tree – A short documentary about AbuSaleh and OmSaleh, a married couple in Damascus. They have lost much during the war in Syria but now a chance to recoup some of their losses shows how their priorities have changed. Among the things that have remained the same however, is undaunted optimism towards their future, their love for each other and the humour they carry with them along the way.

The Day We Left Aleppo – Saleh and Marwa are a young couple who love Aleppo, but now, like thousands of others, they are forced to leave. Through this intimate short film, we feel the weight of being stuck on the exodus and waiting in the evacuation route, heart-broken over their homeland.

Why? – Many boys in Jordan must work at an early age to help their families. Ayman, a young Syrian refugee is no exception; he works day in day out at the market as he dreams of going to school and making friends. His access to schooling has already been denied by the state, a situation made more difficult due to his parents’ lack of education, on top of this, the local children refuse to let him join in their football match, leaving us pondering the valid question…

Fears – Sara is 6 years old, the same age as the war in Syria. She has spent her entire life in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. Now, she is about to be a big sister. In this short documentary, Sara tells us of her life and dreams for her and her new sister, innocently optimistic even though the new arrival could risk her mother’s life.

However, if you do fancy a feature then don’t miss the UK premiere of Those Who Remain (2016) directed by Eliane Raheb about a farmer based in Akkar, Northern Lebanon, who struggles to build his family home while grappling with not only the sectarian Lebanese tensions but also those arising from the nearby war in Syria (Monday 23 April, 7.30pm + Dir Q&A)

I know we’re repeating ourselves, but tickets are FREE and will be allocated on a first come first served basis. You can apply for tickets to as many sessions as you like. Admission to these screenings and events is on a first-come, first-served basis.  So if you’ve never been to a film festival, then give this one a try you can watch and then engage with your fellow attendees! What are you waiting for?

To find out more and apply for tickets:

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Ros is as picky about what she watches as what she eats. She watches movies alone and dines solo too (a new trend perhaps?!). As a self confessed scaredy cat, Ros doesn’t watch horror films, even Goosebumps made her jump in parts!


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