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BBC Arabic Festival 2017: All you need to know


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Fancy exploring a side of the Arab world you won’t see on the evening news? Get free tickets to the BBC’s Arabic Festival. 

Global politics and the mass media have catapulted the Arab world to the forefront of daily news. We’re bombarded with images of the Syrian Civil War, Daesh operations, or more recently, the battle for Mosul. It paints a pretty one dimensional and dismal scene of the state of the Middle East at the moment.

Cue the BBC Arabic Festival. Now in its third year, and with the backing of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, it looks to be bigger than ever. The festival is set to bring together real stories of real people, with a particular emphasis on lives affected by political violence, displacement and poverty. There’ll also be fictional films on offer, using the platform to explore these topics as well as extremism. 

The festival opens on Friday March 24th with a screening of 2015’s award winning short films. Filmmaker Adam Curtis (Hypernormalisation, Bitter Lake) will kick off proceedings. From 12pm on the same day, the area outside the BBC (just up the road from Oxford Circus) will see a street food market with tastes from the Arab World, as well as musical accompaniments. This is open to all. 

The festival awards filmmakers every year. This year, the winner of 2015’s Young Journalist Award, Jumana Saadeh, will be debuting her new film No Kids Land. It follows the story of unaccompanied children in need of foster care in Jordan and Lebanon. Saadeh managed to make this film using training and equipment she received as part of her prize. 

Films will be screened over the week, with an awards ceremony on 30th March marking the end of the events.

Check out the schedule for the festival below: 

Friday 24th March

Opening Night and Street Market 

Saturday 25th March

12pm. A screening of a series of short films. Included in the repetoire: Mare Nostrum (a Syrian father puts his daughter’s life at risk), Aida (alluding to the myth of Sisyphus) and Searching for Abbas Kiasrostami (eulogy to Syrian filmmakers). 

3pm. Roshmia. The film follows an elderly couple facing displacement in Haifa’s Roshmia Valley, followed by a Q&A with director Salim AbuJabal. 

6pm. The Art of Moving, about a group of Syrian political exiles in their new home of South-East Turkey, along with a director Q&A 

Sunday 26th March 

12pm. Wheels of War. Rami Kodeih’s debut is about a group of ex-militia men reflecting on their war-filled past  in Lebanon.  

3pm. Short documentary screenings including: A Man Returned. This short doc follows Reda, who has found himself back at a refugee camp in Lebanon after three years in Greece as a heroin addict. He finds love, and marries, upon his return. Babor Casanova, Then They Said: Refugees.

6pm. Ambulance. This film by Mohamed Jabaly debuted at Sheffield Doc Fest last year. Jabaly spent time in the front seat of an ambulance in Gaza 2014, and documented what he saw.  

Monday 27th March

12pm. BBC Documentary Premiere. This is the first showing of a documentary which tells the untold story of the seige of Mecca’s Grand Mosque. 

6pm. Houses Without Doors. See this for an exploration of the parallels between the Armenian genocide and Syria’s current state. Followed by Director Q&A.  

Tuesday 28th March 

12pm. A series of short documentaries exploring ISIS, Moroccan smugglers, Mecca, and poverty. 

The festival closes on Thursday 30th March, with an awards ceremony. You can apply for free tickets to the festival here.

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