SAFAR Film Festival digital programme

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’s free digital programme offers 5 online screenings available to view in the UK as well as a programme of online talks accessible globally. Very personal and intimate stories shape the online selection, reflecting on the true meaning of home. Family bonds, belonging and identity are addressed in four recently produced documentaries alongside Maroun Baghdadi’s classic fiction Little Wars.

The Festival will also run in cinemas across London from 1-10 July.

See the full programme



How to watch

All the films in the SAFAR Film Festival digital programme are available to watch on the Festival website.
You will need to book for the talks programme.

A couple with their back to the camera and  their arms around each other facing looking out of a large decorative gate.
Sugar Cage Dir. Zeina Alqahwaji

Sugar Cage

Zeina Alqahwaji

Documentary, SY/LB/EG 2019, 60 minutes
In Arabic with English subtitles

In an attempt to record a standstill life, filmmaker Zeina Alqahwaji trains her camera to examine the intimate life of her ageing parents over the course of 8 years since the beginning of a civil movement followed by a war in Syria. Observing scenes of isolation, fear and stagnancy that overshadow life at home, they are still equated with enough sensibilities and love bonding them together against the heaviness of time and war.


Sun 11 July–Sat 17 July 2021

An image a man waling down
My English Cousin Dir. Karim Sayad

My English Cousin

Karim Sayad

Documentary, CH/QA, 2019, 82 minutes
In English and Arabic with English subtitles

2001, Fahed arrives on UK soil overflowing with aspirations and dreams...

2018, in the thrall of a mid-life crisis, he must now make a decision. Will he continue his humble lifestyle working 50 hour weeks between the take-away and the factory, or will he return to Algeria, a country he fled in the hope of making a better life for himself?


Sun 11 July–Sat 17 July 2021

A man wearing Lacoste underpants and underneath a pair of jeans lifting his t-shirt to reveal his torso
Room for a Man Dir. Anthony Chidiac

Room for a Man

Anthony Chidiac

Feature documentary, LB, 2017, 77 minutes
In Arabic with English subtitles

A young Lebanese filmmaker who shares a Beirut apartment with his mother and pet dog sets about reconstructing his identity by renovating his bedroom. But as the male construction workers come and go in the freshly embattled household, new questions, old arguments and unexpected passions get stirred…

Room for a Man is the first feature documentary by Anthony Chidiac. It received the Grand Prize at Montreal International Documentary Festival.


Sun 11 July–Sat 17 July 2021

An elderly man sitting on a chair on a balcony seen through large, full length windows framed by curtains
The Swing Dir. Cyril aris

The Swing

Cyril Aris

Feature documentary, LB, 2017, 74 minutes
In Arabic, French and Italian with English subtitles

On the eve of his 90th birthday, life hangs by a thread for Antoine as he anticipates the visit of his daughter gone on a journey to South America. His wife of 65 years, Viviane, also suffering from the aches of old age, is hiding a terrible secret from him; their daughter is not abroad, she is dead. Viviane’s grandson Cyril trains his camera on his family as his grandmother endures this excruciating double sentencing: dealing with her daughter’s tragic death and concealing this unbearable truth from her husband - truth that would inevitably end the last beats of his fragile heart. The Swing is an emotionally rich, beautifully shot documentary about family ties, growing elderly, and the cost of not giving expression to grief.


Sun 11 July–Sat 17 July 2021

Two people holding guns standing in front of a rocky outcrop
Little Wars Dir. Maroun Bagdadi

Little Wars

Maroun Bagdadi

Feature film, LB, 1982, 107 minutes
In French with English subtitles

On the eve of the Lebanese civil war in 1974, three characters’ little stories intertwine to make up the plot of Little Wars. Talal is the son of a feudal lord who reluctantly steps into the shoes of a war chief after his father. His pregnant fiancee, Souraya, tries to support him and helps him kidnap a businessman. And finally, Nabil, a photojournalist, who poses as a hero when all he does is use the conflict to trade drugs.

Maroun Bagdadi (1950-1993) ushered in the new wave of Lebanese cinema. His films were the voice of a whole generation torn by civil war and struggling with its identity. They depict the violence and the tragic absurdity of this war while hinting at the hope of reconciliation. His filmography includes eight feature-length movies, thirteen documentaries, a dozen short films, and several video recordings. Little Wars was his first film.


Sun 11 July–Sat 17 July 2021

A portrait of the crew of the Sudanese film Al-Sit
The crew of Al-Sit Dir. Suzannah Mirghani


Focus on Sudanese Cinema

Join Talal Afifi, Amjad Abu Alala and Suzannah Mirghani for a panel discussion about Sudanese cinema. In conversation with SAFAR curator Rabih El-Khoury, they’ll explore how their recent films question traditional versus modern values through their intergenerational stories, and how the Sudan Film Factory is bridging the memory of the past with the hope of the future through supporting this new generation of filmmakers.  

Talal Afifi is a film curator, creative producer, director of Sudan Film Factory and the president of Sudan Independent Film Festival (SIFF) since it was launched in 2014.

Amjad Abu Alala is a Sudanese director and producer currently residing in the UAE. His debut feature You Will Die at Twenty was released in 2020, he is the director of a number of short films, and he now works as Head of the Programming Committee at Sudan Independent Film Festival.
Suzannah Mirghani is a writer, researcher, and independent filmmaker. Being of mixed race Sudanese and Russian backgrounds, she is most interested in stories that examine the complexity of identity, and is the writer, director, and producer of Al-Sit (2020), Grand Prix winner at the 2021 Tampere Film Festival (Academy Award qualifying) and Canal+ Award winner at the 2021 Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.


Sun 11 July 2021

Accessible globally

Anthony Chidiac | Zeina Alqahwaji | Cyril Aris


There's No Place Like Home

A daughter films and rediscovers her parents over eight years as a civil war is raging outside. A son grapples with his sexuality as he shares an apartment with his mother. A grandson witnesses the decline of the family patriarch and the compromises his family deals with to protect him.

SAFAR curator Rabih El-Khoury welcomes three of the directors featured in the online programme - Zeina Alqahwaji, Anthony Chidiac, and Cyril Aris - for a discussion about their films, focussing specifically on their use of the intergenerational family home as a setting for their documentaries. With each director filming and living in such close proximity with their family subjects, how do they negotiate the relationship between the physical space and the people they share it with?


Thurs 15 July 2021

Accessible globally

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