Recent years have seen Arab societies turn into hotbeds of debate, with questions surrounding identity, religion, and gender being bought in to the forefront of the conversation. And considering the symbiotic relationship between socio-politics and film, Arab cinema has managed to hold up a mirror against both the region and its diaspora’s cultural and social narratives as they play out, no matter how controversial.
Next month, London cultural institution the Barbican will bring together the work of Arab directors doing exactly that, with a screening of Arab short films by Arab-British directors exploring various pockets of society, from exile to queerness.
Set to take places on July 6, the exhibition is part of Shubbak Festival, London’s contemporary Arab cultural festival that’s also behind the highly-anticipated Raw Queens exhibition at the Mosaic Rooms.
The showcase aims to explore “Identity, notions of nationality and of borders” by bringing together “an eclectic selection of short films by Arab-British directors, looking to explore questions of identity, faith, gender and everything in between”.
The line-up includes Strange Cities Are Familiar, a 21-minute short directed by Saeed Taji Farouky, which trails the story of a Palestinian political refugee on a mission to get to his native country from London to see his dying son.
Abdullah and Leilah, directed by Ashtar Al Khirsan, explores notions of identity and migration as it navigates through the story of an Iraqi man named Abduallah, and his daughter, Leila who struggle to communicate due to his dementia that led him to forget the English language.
Run(a)away Arab, a short film about Arab queerness, written and directed by Amrou Al-Kadhi, is inspired by Al-Kadhi’s own relationship with his Iraqi-Egyptian mother. The film tells the story of an Arab drag queen who uses the artform to hold on to a connection he held with his mother.
Also part of the exhibition is Lebanese director Lara Zeidan’s film Three Centimetres, which explores the nuances of dating in the Arab world, and Basil Khalil’s Academy Award-nominated comedy Ave Maria, about a group of Israeli settlers who look to the help of Palestinian nuns after crashing their car into the covenant’s walls.
Arab-British Shorts Programme, Shubbak Festival, July 6, Barbican, London