London

The past twelve days have been a profound experience attending the 60th edition of the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) and trying to follow as many as possible of the Middle East and North Africa region-inspired productions. With the excellent programming input of the MENA-region strand advisors for the BFI, film producers Elhum Shakerifar and Ali Jaafar, I was touched, moved, inspired, made to laugh, made to cry and made to think by each and every single film that I was able to view, whether it was from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia or Saudi Arabia.

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Celebrating an impressive sixty years, Britain’s leading film event of the year and one of the world’s most established film festivals, the BFI London Film Festival (BFI LFF) launches this week. Over twelve days, altogether 249 feature films and 145 shorts will be screened, including feature films and documentaries, live action and animated works. With 74 countries participating, there will be 39 world, twelve international, 49 European and eight world restoration premieres. Up for grabs also are the prestigious LFF Best Film Award, the Grierson Award for Documentary, the Sutherland Award for First Feature and the Short Film Award.

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Scheduled to launch soon during this month of June, the 'East End Film Festival’ (EEFF) will be bringing an incredibly rich, wide and diverse programme of UK premiering films created by both independent local and international directors. Dedicated especially to first and second time filmmakers, the EEFF mission is to discover, support, and exhibit pioneering works and to introduce viewers to innovative and challenging cinematic experiences. It will also be uniquely held throughout the wonderful arts venues in the heart of London’s East End from 23 June-3 July, 2016.

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The Human Rights Watch Film Festival (HRW FF) has arrived in London for its latest edition and it will be hosting altogether sixteen thought-provoking and eye-opening documentary films and dramas. As always the festival bravely tackles the very difficult subjects behind the international news headlines and offering a closer and more shrewd examination of the human rights issues that are pertinent to the stories that impact on all of us across the globe.

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The Shubbak Festival is far more than just a window looking onto the contemporary Arab cultural scene. This biennial programme – organised for the third time in London and taking place between 11-26 July, 2015 - shows in spectacular fashion how the arts and the featured Arab artists themselves are winning and triumphing over the undeniably difficult atmospheres back home in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as well as the obvious need for a safe environment like London in which they can showcase their work.

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We don’t readily imagine the children of war-torn Gaza Strip, Palestine singing or playing a whole host of musical instruments, let alone taking part in the ‘Arabs Got Talent’ regional competition or having fun with an old mysterious grand piano. However, this has been the reality for some thanks to the efforts of the Gaza branch of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM), an institution that has been developing a musical culture for the children of Palestine for over the past twenty years.

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Support The Arabic Band That Is Overcoming Visa + Borders Restrictions!

 

If all goes to plan and you are online, tomorrow at noontime, you will be hit by an incredible cyber thunderclap to support the efforts of the 47Soul band; with tweets popping up and Facebook as well as Tumblr alerts that will invite you to help launch the new sound of Bilad al-Sham and to create the #Shamstep.

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+ AWAN’s Mastermind Aser El Saqqa

 

I know this much is true, that to be an Arab woman in today’s world has its many challenges no matter what you do, where you live, your country of birth, how old or young, married or single. But there is no need to list the grievances here or dwell on the negatives, when this month brings the opportunity of ‘International Women’s Day’; an annual occasion to create, attend or otherwise engage in the thousands of events organically taking place all around the world, including in the Middle East and North Africa region.

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With hectic lives little attention gets paid to not just the body’s need for better diet, detox and exercise but also for the mind to stop a minute and recharge. Now adapted for Arabic-speaking women in London, a new Yoga class aims to help. Mary Schnorrenberg is a Yoga trainer who wants to encourage especially the more hesitant or shy of Arab women to attend her sessions beginning next month August at the Evolve Wellness Centre, South Kensington.

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Without a script but very eager to be performing and entertaining for the very first time outside their home country, a group of six Libyan actors and a musician arrived in London last week to prepare and take part in the Greenwich-Docklands International Festival (GDIF), which is the biggest and longest established of its kind that celebrates outdoor theatre and performing arts and presently taking place at various venues across the Greenwich-Docklands area.

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