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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

New film festival in London celebrates Muslim identity and cinema

London is set to host the inaugural Muslim International Film Festival (MIFF) in Leicester Square, beginning on May 30.

London is set to host the inaugural Muslim International Film Festival (MIFF) in Leicester Square, beginning on May 30 and running through June 2, 2024. The festival aims to explore and celebrate Muslim experiences through a diverse range of films from international Muslim filmmakers, along with productions inspired by Muslim culture and faith.

Platform for Reclaiming Identity

The festival is the brainchild of Sajid Varda, MIFF director, who emphasizes its core mission of reclaiming and celebrating Muslim identity. “For the longest time, being Muslim has felt like something we can’t be proud of,” Varda told Arab News. He pointed out the frustration with the misrepresentation of Muslim identities and the need to reconnect with wider audiences and communities. By showcasing the cinematic brilliance of Muslim creatives, MIFF seeks to offer an authentic glimpse into the lives and experiences of Muslims worldwide.

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Diverse Narratives and Premieres

The four-day event will feature an array of narratives from across the globe. The opening night will see the London premiere of “Hounds” (“Les Meutes”) by Moroccan director Kamal Lazraq. The film, which follows a father and son entangled in petty crime in Casablanca, sets the tone for a festival dedicated to nuanced storytelling.

Among the highlights are critically acclaimed films from the UK, France, Turkey, Tunisia, Jordan, Iran, and Sudan. Notable mentions include works related to British-Pakistani Oscar-winning star Riz Ahmed and Nabhan Rizwan, star of the police series “The Informer.”

Panels, Q&A Sessions, and Networking

MIFF is more than just film screenings. It includes Q&A sessions, panel discussions, and networking events in collaboration with major industry players like the British Film Commission, Netflix, and the BBC. These activities aim to foster dialogue and connections within the creative community, providing a platform for underrepresented voices.

Commitment to Inclusivity and Accessibility

Varda stressed the festival’s commitment to inclusivity, ensuring that all content aligns with the values of the Muslim faith by avoiding gratuitous violence, nudity, and overtly sexual themes. This approach makes the films accessible to people of all faiths and beliefs, catering to those sensitive to such content.

Financial accessibility is also a key priority for MIFF. The festival offers lower ticket prices compared to other festivals, and many tickets have been distributed at no cost to various organizations. Discounts are available for students and individuals facing financial hardship, ensuring that the festival is accessible to a broader audience.

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MIFF also aims to challenge and redefine the often-negative stereotypes associated with Muslims. Varda highlighted the significant changes in global perspectives towards Muslims post-9/11, which unfairly linked the community with terrorism. The festival seeks to dismantle these misrepresentations by showcasing the rich, diverse, and positive contributions of Muslims to global cinema.