SAFAR Film Festival @ the ICA

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. 

This year, screenings take place there from 8–10 July, with a programme featuring films from Egypt, Sudan and Palestine as well as our annual selection of shorts fitting the festival theme.

See the full programme


£13 adults
£11 concessions
ICA members £0–£11


The Mall, London
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Two people looking at the camera, one with short brown hair and glasses, the other with long mid brown hair
Let's Talk Dir. Marianne Khoury

Let's Talk

Marianne Khoury

Documentary, EG, 2019, 95 minutes
In Arabic and French with English subtitles

A mother and her daughter explore together four generations of women from the same family -  an Egyptian family, originally from the Levant, where life and cinema have always been intrinsically linked.

This is an intimate story told between family archives where reality and fiction interplay, and the autobiographical films of Youssef Chahine. From Alexandria to Cairo, passing by Paris and Havana, a mother and daughter take us on a personal journey, both visceral and visual, as they question their emotions and destinies.

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


Cinema 1

Thur 8 July 2021


A black woman dressed in black surrounding by people in white robe and red fezes
You Will Die at 20 Dir. Amjad Abu Alaia

You Will Die at 20

Amjad Abu Alaia

Feature fiction, SD/FR/EG/DE/NO/QA, 2019, 105 minutes
In Arabic with English subtitles

When Muzamil was born, a prophecy by the holy man of the village predicted that he will die when he is 20 years old. Muzamil’s father cannot stand the doom and travels away from home, leaving his mother, Sakina, to raise him alone. One day, Muzamil turns 19...

You Will Die at 20 is the debut feature of Amjad Abu Alala, a coming of age tale that made waves this year in the industry as the first ever Sudanese film to be submitted to the Academy Awards. It was selected as a New York Times Critics Pick and has so far had limited screening in the UK due to the pandemic - don’t miss this daring, visually captivating film on the big screen.


Cinema 1

Thur 8 July 2021


A female weight lifter wearing a chalk covered red top and black knee length leggins
Lift Like a Girl Dir. Mayye Zayed

Lift Like a Girl

Mayye Zayed

Documentary, EG/DE/TN, 2020, 92 minutes
In Arabic with English subtitles

On a busy, noisy, high-traffic street corner in Alexandria, Egypt, a seemingly vacant corner lot surrounded by chain link fencing is the training site of Egypt’s most elite champions – female weightlifters.

Zebiba (Arabic for “raisin”) has been training at the site for five years, since she was 9, following in the footsteps of Egypt’s most famous athletes of all time – including the first Arab, female, two-time Olympic medalist, Abeer Abdel Rahman, and World champion and Olympic athlete, Nahla Ramadan. Nahla’s father, the visionary Captain Ramadan, has bred champions, female champions, from his makeshift corner–lot training site for over two decades – 4 Olympic, 9 World and 17 Pan African champions.   

Now it is Zebiba’s turn. But can Zebiba put aside her youthful instincts, and direct her focus to be the weightlifting champion the Captain is sure she is?

Lift Like a Girl was part of the Official Selections at Toronto International and Doc NYC Film Festivals 2020.


Cinema 1

Fri 9 July 2021


I man standing in a darkened room looking back over his shoulder at the camera
I am afraid to forget your face. Dir. Sameh Alaa.

Shorts Programme

I am Afraid to Forget Your Face

Sameh Alaa

Fiction, EG/FR/QA/BE, 2020, 14 minutes
In Arabic with English subtitles

After being separated for 82 days, Adam travels down a rough road to be reunited with the one he loves, whatever it takes.

Shorts Programme


Cinema 1

Sat 10 July 2021


Maradona's Legs. Dir. Firas Khoury.

Maradona's Legs (Ijrain Maradona)

Firas Khoury

Fiction, PS/DE, 2019, 23 minutes
In Arabic with English subtitles

During the 1990 World Cup, two young Palestinian boys are looking for “Maradona’s legs”, the last missing sticker that they need in order to complete their world cup album and win a free Atari.

A man standing in front of a donkey
So What If the Goats Die? Dir. Sofia Alaoui.

So What if the Goats Die?

Sofia Alaoui

Fiction, FR, 2019, 23 minutes
In Berber with English subtitles

High in the Atlas Mountains, the young shepherd Abdellah and his father are hemmed in by snow at their goat pen. Their animals are wasting away. Abdellah must go to find supplies at a market village more than a day's walk away. When he arrives with his mule, he finds the village abandoned due to a strange event that has wreaked havoc on the lives of all believers.

Two women sitting spinning by candlelight
Al-Sit. Dir. Suzannah Mirghani.


Suzannah Mirghani

Fiction, SU/QA, 2020, 20 minutes
In Arabic with English subtitles

In a cotton-farming village in Sudan, 15-year-old Nafisa has a crush on Babiker, but her parents have arranged her marriage to Nadir, a young Sudanese businessman living abroad. Nafisa’s grandmother Al-Sit, the powerful village matriarch, has her own plans for Nafisa’s future. But can Nafisa choose for herself?

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

A man with brown hair and a beard wearing a white t-shirt with his back to the camera looking at the dividing wall in Jerusalem
200 Meters Dir. Ameen Nayfeh

200 Meters

Ameen Nayfeh

Feature fiction, PS/JO/QA/IT/SE, 2019, 96 minutes
In Arabic, Hebrew and English with English subtitles

Mustafa and his wife Salwa live 200 meters apart in villages separated by the wall. One day he gets a call every parent dreads: his son has had an accident. Rushing to cross the Israeli checkpoint, Mustafa is denied on a technicality. But a father’s love won't give up and he will do anything to reach his son. A 200 meter distance becomes a 200 kilometer odyssey, as Mustafa, left with no choice, attempts to smuggle himself to the other side of the wall.

Live post-film Q&A
The screening will be followed by a discussion on Palestine and its cinema with director Ameen Nayfeh.


Cinema 1

Sat 10 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