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Inaugural Qisah International Film Festival Launches!

The launch of the inaugural Qisah International Film Festival in London, UK, will celebrate cinema and Qisah – ‘stories’ – from across the Muslim World!

The launch of the inaugural Qisah International Film Festival in London, UK, will celebrate cinema and Qisah – ‘stories’ – from across the Muslim World!

The inaugural Qisah International Film Festival will take place this autumn between 9th-12th November in London, UK. Qisah (‘stories’ in Arabic) seeks to provide a platform for films from across the Muslim world enabling filmmakers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, who are producing new and exciting films exploring social changes in Muslim life.

Qisah will showcase these local worlds in all their cultural diversity, nuance and depth in order to connect with audiences looking for films that represent these societies in their diversity and complexity.

With 14 feature films that explore themes of family, resilience, patriarchy, secularism and religion, empowerment, anti-colonial politics, love across Muslim cultures as well as questions of aesthetics, politics and censorship. From contemporary, period, to documentary, this festival has something for all audiences.

QIFF will, for the first time, bring cinema from around the Muslim World to a single event across three prestigious cinema venues in London, home to over a million Muslims, with screenings at Kiln Cinema, Lyric Hammersmith and Rio Cinema.

Curated by Asad Ali, an academic, and Phillippe Jalladeau who, for over 25 years, ran the Festival du Trois Continent in Nantes, the team have put together an exciting debut programme including many UK premieres.

Director of the festival, filmmaker Ahmed Jamal, has praised the line-up as:

A varied and compelling programme that is entertaining with powerful stories and confident filmmaking that covers a range of genres and subjects – there is something here for everyone.”

He adds that

As a melting pot, London is the perfect location to expose a wider audience to the variety of Muslim life, society and history through films, giving audiences a greater understanding of the life so many of their neighbours either come from or have roots bedded in. The city acts as a microcosm that reflects the macrocosm of the Muslim World.”

Curator Ali says the focus of the festival is on the internal perspectives of local filmmakers. He quotes a recent comment by Algerian-American filmmaker, Assia Boundaoui, who in her critique of yet another documentary of Muslims as terrorists asked ‘…where is the space for Muslim creatives to make beautifully intricate, nuanced films…films that concern themselves not with war, but with life?’

Ali has stated that:

Mainstream cinema, all too often, depicts Muslims in stereotypical ways: gun toting terrorists, veiled women and the call to prayer. By contrast Qisah showcases cinema that explores the cultural vibrancy, ordinary struggles and diversity of life in Muslim countries. As against the imaginary of Muslims as homogenous the festival shows Muslims in their heterogeneity, diversity and differences. In other words, films that widen our view of the human experience and highlight the similarity of the human condition.”

The selections of films hail from the Middle East, Central and South Asia, Africa, the Balkans, former USSR, the Far East and the diaspora in Europe and North America. The programme includes Our Brothers (from France – a UK premiere), Before, Now & Then (from Indonesia), the anthology of short films by five young female directors Quareer (from Saudi Arabia – a UK premiere) whose screening will be followed by a Q&A, and documentary Before the Dying of the Light (from Morocco) showing the variety on offer throughout the festival.

The Opening Night Film will mark the UK premiere of Iranian film Leila’s Brothers, from director Saeed Roustayi, in which The Salesman actress, Taraneh Alidoosti, gives a tour-de-force performance exemplifying how Muslim women negotiate and challenge patriarchy – a theme which runs through many films in the line-up. As the titular Leila she strives to keep her family afloat amid constant undermining from her male relatives’ obsession with prestige and status.

The festival will wrap up its first outing with this year’s Tanzanian International feature Oscar entry, Tug of War – the second in the country’s history after more than 21 years. This coming-of-age political romance from director Amil Shivji is set during the final years of British colonialism in Zanzibar as a young freedom fighter becomes involved with a young Indian-Zanzibari girl escaping an oppressive arranged marriage.

Tickets are now on sale for all films and a full screening schedule can be found by visiting the festivals website.

Qisah International Film Festival runs from 9th-12th November in London, UK with screenings at Kiln Cinema, Lyric Hammersmith and Rio Cinema. QIFF is supported by the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery.

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