It’s Show Time

By Sylvia Smith.

The Arab world seems to be popping up everywhere these days – from contemporary art exhibitions to music festivals and from poetry competitions to circus performances. In each case audiences in the West are lapping up the opportunity to get to know aspects of a still little explored culture.

Bringing cinema lovers stories from around this extraordinary part of the world, the BBC Arabic Festival gets underway today, using documentaries and feature films to look at subjects ranging from activism, anarchy and anger to ambulances, with human feelings as the lens through which to examine each situation.

Creating a conversation between news headlines and peoples’ individual aims and struggles the series of films  shows too that connections of language and religion can be as disruptive as force as any. With 20 films in languages ranging from Armenian to Spanish and Nubian, the week-long event also includes a discussion on the difficulties of telling stories through film – not as straightforward as we would think.

For the third time in as many years  the BBC Arabic Festival gets up close to characters who are courageous, compelling and charismatic. Various sections (short feature films, long format etc) showcase the diversity and complexity of lives affected by globalisation – or local calamities.

Prominent film maker Adam Curtis picks apart the West’s fake news approach which has provided us with distorted images of the Arab world whether it be organised violence, displacement, social taboos or religious extremism. The event offers a chance to create a balanced view by selecting films that alternating between gritty reality and the uplifting and life-affirming.

It is a red carpet pomp and swagger-free event. Amid the lands of faith and folly you’ll discover gems such as the gender-defying Sisa, Iron Lady a forthright tale of tough woman who worked as a man in order to bring up her child – as well as laugh– minute Saudi-resident comedian Hisham Fagee hosting the closing night ceremony.

Scene from the film Babor Casanova directed by Karim Sayad

The BBC Arabic Festival runs from 24th – 30th March.

Tickets are free and available on line Visit To register for free tickets to opening and closing nights only, email

The festival takes place at:
BBC Radio Theatre
Broadcasting House
Portland Place
London W1A 1AA
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