The new SAFAR program, to be held September 13 to 20, features five live screenings of four full-length films plus a program of three short films. Most of the screenings, with the exception of two short films, will be geo-locked to viewers in the United Kingdom. However, the festival’s five live events will be open to audiences around the world.
Journeys Large and Small
In SAFAR’s featured films, characters trek over long distances: to Mecca, to Canada, and into outer space. But the journeys are personal and metaphorical, too.
The festival launches with Ismaël Ferroukhi’s 2004 film The Great Journey (Le Grande Voyage), a road-trip movie with a twist: Its characters start in the south of France and head to Saudi Arabia in an old Peugeot. As they drive from country to country, young Reda and his father must reach across the generational gap to come to terms with one another. According to the producers, The Great Journey was the first feature film shot on location in Mecca, and it has won several prizes, including the Luigi De Laurentiis Award at the Venice Film Festival.
This is followed by Tamer El Said’s directorial debut, In the Last Days of the City (2016), which follows a fictional Egyptian filmmaker as he tries to record the story of his life. Shot in 2009 and 2010, the story hovers on the cusp of wider changes. El Said will also give a talk on September 16 about the making of the film.
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In the third film, Vatche Boulghourjian’s Tramontane (2016), a blind man discovers that the Lebanese ID card he’s carried his whole life is a forgery. In order to turn up a record of his birth, he must travel around the country. This film won a Grand Rail d’Or Audience Award at Cannes, and Boulghourjian will give a film talk on September 17, along with sound designer Rana Eid and composer Cynthia Zaven, about the film’s sonic journeys.
The final full-length film is Kaouther Ben Hania’s coming-of-age documentary, Zaineb Hates the Snow (2016). This story opens as nine-year-old Zaineb loses her father to a car accident. In the wake of her husband’s death, Zaineb’s mother rediscovers an old love and, eighteen months later, Zaineb is headed to Canada to join her new stepfather and his children. This film offers no easy happily-ever-after.
The short films include Roy Dib’s Mondial 2010 (2014), Rakan Mayasi’s Bonboné (2017), and one of Larissa Sansour’s iconic Palestinian sci-fi shorts: A Space Exodus (2009).
Talking About the Future of Film
In addition to the three film talks, SAFAR will also host an all-woman panel on making documentaries, and a special celebration of the festival’s fifth edition hosted by SAFAR co-founder Saeed Taji Farouky.
In “SAFAR Social: Making Documentaries,” directors Naziha Arebi, Yasmin Fedda and Basma Khalifa will have an informal discussion of what brought them to documentary filmmaking and how they see the future of the form.
Then, on the final day of the festival, Farouky will host a discussion about how Arab cinema has changed since he and Noreen Abu Oun co-launched the festival in 2012.