Press Release: SAFAR is going digital!

14 August '20

Press Release: SAFAR Film Festival announces digital programme, SAFAR From Home, to mark what would have been its fifth edition this September

London, 12.8.20 

For immediate release 

The Arab British Centre is excited to announce that this year’s SAFAR Film Festival – the only festival in the UK dedicated to pan-Arab cinema – will be taking place virtually from 13 – 20 September.

Following the difficult decision to postpone their usual in-person edition until 2021, this virtual edition, SAFAR From Home, will offer audiences the opportunity to mark what would have been the fifth edition of the festival in London with a free, online programme accessible to all across the UK.

The SAFAR From Home programme will offer 5 screenings for audiences to view online from 13 – 20 September, plus 5 live events over 5 evenings featuring leading filmmaking talent from across the Arab world. The events programme will be accessible across the globe; film access will be restricted to the UK but with some variations.

In keeping with previous editions, the SAFAR Film Festival programme has been curated around a theme. Curated by Rabih El-Khoury, SAFAR From Home will explore Arab cinema through the theme of journeys: physical, emotional, transformational. SAFAR, which means journey in Arabic, has since 2012 invited audiences to journey into popular, contemporary, and literature-inspired Arab cinema – this year, in a time when even taking a physical journey to the cinema is barely possible, the festival wants to bring the journey to the living rooms of audiences across the country.

Featuring films from Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisia, the film programme will be accompanied by live events including director Q&As and discussions; panels exploring topics such as migration and life in the diaspora; and industry talks focused on sound design. The events programme will conclude on the Sunday evening with a celebration of SAFAR Film Festival, where the Arab British Centre team along with a panel of previous festival guests will reflect on the growth of SAFAR since 2012, and discuss how the Arab cinema landscape has changed over the past eight years.

Speaking of his SAFAR From Home film programme, curator Rabih El-Khoury said: “In a year when travels became impossible, we wanted to offer the viewers the chance to travel to the Arab World and beyond through their screens at home. And while this programme is an invitation to imaginary journeys, the truth around the protagonists of these films is far from being a fictitious one. They defy their harsh realities. They question bewildering surroundings. They face unconceivable challenges. They lead quite impossible journeys. Yet through courage, resilience but also a lot of inspiration, they give a sense of meaning to their journeys.”

Amani Hassan, Programme Director and Acting Executive Director of the Arab British Centre, said: “We are very happy to announce the SAFAR From Home initiative today. Following the difficult decision to postpone the in-person festival until 2021, we’re marking what would have been the landmark fifth edition with this alternative, virtual edition as a way to bring our audiences together and support the industry during this unprecedented time. Since quickly pivoting our programmes online in March, we’ve seen the thirst of people to connect with their culture, and with culture in general, and we hope that despite the physical distance, this programme will offer SAFAR’s usual, unique space to appreciate, reflect upon, and celebrate the cinema and filmmakers of the Arab world.”

The film and events programme will be announced in the coming weeks, as will the launch of the new, dedicated SAFAR Film Festival website where the festival will be hosted.

To be the first to know about the film programme and how to register, people can sign up to the new SAFAR Film Festival mailing list on:

The SAFAR From Home programme was made possible thanks to funding from the Council of Arab Ambassadors and the BFI Covid-19 Relief Fund

Notes for Editors 

The SAFAR Film Festival 

Founded and run biennially by the Arab British Centre since 2012, the SAFAR Film Festival is the only festival in the UK dedicated to pan-Arab cinema. SAFAR offers a unique space for audiences to connect with, explore, and celebrate the diversity of Arab cinema past, present, and future.

SAFAR showcases the broad range of talent from the region by working with curators on themed programmes and inviting filmmakers for live Q&As. It develops the UK film landscape through industry events and opportunities for early-career Arab British filmmakers. SAFAR aims to increase access to Arab cinema in the UK by working with screening partners across the country, as well as digital programmes.


Rabih El-Khoury 

Rabih El-Khoury holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the Lebanese American University in Beirut and a Masters of Arts in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship from Goldsmiths University in London. He has been working with the Metropolis Association, which manages Metropolis Art Cinema, the only art house cinema in Lebanon, since its inception in 2006 as administrator and then as Managing Director. He has also worked for the cultural association Beirut DC for the promotion of Arab Cinema as general coordinator for its Arab film festival The Beirut Cinema Days since 2006. He has organized over 20 Arab film weeks in the Arab World and Europe. Since 2014, El-Khoury is the Programme Manager of Talents Beirut and is a member of the administrative board of the Metropolis Association. He is also curator of the Film Prize of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and works as a programmer for the Beirut Cinema Days and Alfilm, the Arab Film Festival of Berlin. He has recently joined the team of DFF – Deutsches Filmmuseum & Filminstitut in Frankfurt as Diversity Manager.


The Arab British Centre 

The Arab British Centre is a cultural organisation which works to further understanding of the Arab world in the United Kingdom. We organise and promote cultural and artistic events, and host a community of like-minded resident organisations at our central London premises.