Female Filmmakers Championed At 5th BBC Arabic Festival

The BBC Arabic Festival returns for its fifth year from March 22-27 where the most exciting talent in Arab filmmaking and journalism will be once again celebrated. The free festival features screenings, q and a’s, talks and other events.

BBC Arabic Festival - Koka The Butcher

This year, we’ll see a new wave of female filmmakers reflect their worlds in the modern Arabic world, their work indicative of the challenges faced by women and the courageous pioneers championing positive change.

Female filmmakers are fighting to have their voices heard in the Arabic world. The festival this year showcases the work of seven women including Amal (Monday March 25), which tells the coming-of-age story of a feisty 14-year-old in post-revolutionary Egypt, and What Walaa Wants (Sunday March 24), which charts the teenage protagonist’s journey to try to become one of the few women in the Palestinian Security Forces.

The festival’s programme, which features 18 films includes four feature documentaries, nine short films and five short documentaries, many of which have already enjoyed international recognition (from Berlin to IDFA, Sundance to Toronto), explore themes including sexuality, the drug trade, conflict, identity and displacement.

BBC Arabic Festival - Amal

Some of the films at this year’s event, from new and established filmmakers from Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Canada, the USA and the UK, feature a satirical and at times surreal edge. In the multi-award-winning The President’s Visit (Saturday March 23), a Lebanese village learns that the president is planning to visit its soap factory as part of his campaign to clean up the nation. Manivelle: Last Days of the Man of Tomorrow (Saturday March 23) is a Lebanese mockumentary about a man-robot whose ups and downs reflect those of the country.

Other highlights include an exclusive preview of the BBC Arabic documentary, Who’s Getting Rich from Moroccan Hash? (Monday March 25), which investigates the murky politics behind the country’s lucrative crop. Also screening is Anthony Chidiac’s Room for a Man (Saturday March 23), an autobiographical account of being gay in Beirut today, and Survivors of Firdos Square (Sunday March 24), about the sculptor who created the iconic metalwork that replaced Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad.

Held in the iconic art-deco Radio Theatre at BBC’s Broadcasting House in central London, the event, which is in its fifth year, complements its screenings with a programme of events, including a presentation and panel discussion on recent ground-breaking research into the role that digital technology can play in cultural preservation.

Historian and broadcaster, Bettany Hughes, and Turner-nominated Forensic Architecture Sarah Nankivell will join the panels for discussion about the screenings.

Sam Farah, Head of BBC Arabic noted delight at how the festival has progressed over the last five years. It is now a “fully-fledged series of events that garners hundreds of submissions per year, engages thousands of live audience members, and is enjoyed as televised events by millions in the Middle East.

“We are very happy to be extending this platform for independent filmmakers focusing on issues in and around the Arab world. It is our mission to get their stories from the streets to our audiences, and to support them along the way.”

The BBC Arabic Festival runs from March 22-27 at Radio Theatre in the BBC’s Broadcasting House in central London and you can book your free tickets via this link.

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Rory Fish has loved movies since he can remember. If he was to put together an "all time" top 10 of absolute favourites it would have to include North By Northwest, 12 Angry Men and Sunset Boulevard.

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