SAFAR Film Festival @ Barbican

The SAFAR Film Festival is the only festival in the UK dedicated to cinema from the Arab world. Founded in 2012 and run by The Arab British Centre, SAFAR offers a unique space for audiences to explore and celebrate the diversity of Arab cinema past, present, and future.

Co-presented with Shubbak Festival, the 2021 edition of SAFAR is curated by Rabih El-Khoury around the theme of Generational Encounters in Arab Cinema, showcasing contemporary and classic films with emergent youth, familial disparities and societal tensions at their centre. 

SAFAR will run at the Barbican from 1–6 July with screenings including two UK premieres and a talk marking the 40th year anniversary of Mohamad Malas’ The Dream.

See the full programme


£12 adults, £11, £6 concessions
Members £9
Young Barbican £5

Barbican Cinema 1

Barbican Centre
Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS

Barbican Cinema 2 & 3

Beech Street,
London EC2Y 8DS
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Two young women taking a selfie
Souad Dir. Ayten Amin


Ayten Amin

Feature fiction, EG/DE/TN, 2021, 96 minutes
In Arabic with English subtitles
UK premiere

Join the SAFAR Film Festival at their opening screening, the UK premiere of Ayten Amin’s Souad.

Souad, a 19 year old on the brink of adulthood, leads a double life from her home in Zagazig, a small city on the Nile Delta in Egypt. Pulled between the pressures of conservative society and the freedoms she can find online, she is obsessed with her image on social media, lying about her dull and dutiful reality as she dreams of a very different lifestyle with her ‘boyfriend’ Ahmed.

But when Souad’s ambitions are slowly crushed by the invasion of reality, it is Rabab, her 13-year-old little sister, who embarks on a journey into her sister’s virtual world looking for answers. 

Ayten Amin’s bold second feature offers a “razor-sharp, nonjudgmental insight” (Variety) into the lives of young women today. Souad has received the Cannes 2020 label and premiered at the 2021 Berlinale, in the Panorama section. 

Live post film Q&A
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Ayten Amin, led by SAFAR curator Rabih El-Khoury.


Barbican Cinema 1

Thur 1 July 2021


Two women wearing headscarves in conversation in a darkened room
Adam Dir. Maryam Touzani


Maryam Touzani

Feature fiction, MA/FR 2019, 98 minutes
In Arabic with English subtitles

Inspired by a real-life encounter and the debut feature of Moroccan actor and filmmaker Maryam Touzani, Adam is the story of two lonely souls: two women each trapped by their own destiny, who seek refuge in flight and denial.

Abla runs a modest local bakery from her home in Casablanca where she lives alone with her 8 year-old daughter Warda. Their routine of housework and homework is interrupted one day by a knock on the door. It is Samia, a young woman looking for a job and a roof over her head. The little girl is immediately taken with the newcomer but her mother initially refuses to allow a pregnant stranger into their home. Gradually, however, Abla’s resolve softens and Samia’s arrival begins to offer all of them the prospect of a new life.

Live post film Q&A
The screening will be followed by a Q&A led by SAFAR curator Rabih El-Khoury with Maryam Touzani.


Barbican Cinema 1

Fri 2 July 2021


A portrait of a young man lying on sandbags with a machine gun behind him
The Dream Dir. Mohamad Malas

The Dream

Mohamad Malas

Documentary, SY, 1987, 45 minutes
In Arabic with English subtitles

Forty years after it was shot, the SAFAR Film Festival revisits Mohamad Malas’ documentary in a special screening followed by a talk on the making of the film.

Filmed in 1980-81, The Dream is composed of interviews with different Palestinian refugees including children, women, elderly people, and militants from refugee camps in Lebanon, including Sabra and Shatila. In the interviews Malas questions them about their dreams at night: a woman recounts her dreams about winning the war; a fedai of bombardment and martyrdom; and one man tells of a dream where he meets and is ignored by Gulf emirs. During filming Malas lived in the camps and conducted interviews with more than 400 people. In 1982 the Sabra and Shatila massacres occurred, taking the lives of several people he interviewed, and he stopped working on the project. He returned to it in 1986 and edited the many hours of footage gathered into this 45 minute film, released in 1987.

Live post film Q&A
The screening will be followed by a Q&A led by SAFAR curator Rabih El-Khoury.


Barbican Cinema 1

Sat 3 July 2021


An image of a smiling man on a boat with the sea in the background
We Are From There Dir. Wissam Tanios

We Are From There

Wissam Tanios

Documentary, LB/FR, 2020, 82 minutes
In Arabic with English subtitles
UK premiere

Two Syrian brothers in their mid 20s take a leap of faith and decide to start their lives from scratch in new cities. They leave everything behind except their passion for life, determination,  sense  of  humor  and  hope  for  a  better  future.  Their  closest  cousin, Wissam,  films  their  odysseys  for  over  five  years,  questioning  the  true meaning  of  home,  bringing  back childhood  memories,  and  exploring  the human ability to cope with change as radical as it may be.

Live post film Q&A
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Wissam Tanios, led by SAFAR curator Rabih El-Khoury.


Barbican Cinema 2

Tue 6 July 2021


SAFAR Film Festival: Generational Encounters in Arab Cinema is presented in partnership with the Shubbak Festival and is supported by Barjeel Art Foundation and by Film Hub London, managed by Film London. Proud to be a partner of the BFI Film Audience Network, funded by the National Lottery.  

Logos for SAFAR film festival