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Muslim International Film Festival to launch in London aiming to ‘change perspectives’

May 22, 2024 at 3:52 pm

Pigeons graze in Leicester Square in London, England, on March 28, 2020 [David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images]

The inaugural Muslim International Film Festival (MIFF) will be launched in London’s Leicester Square on 30 May, with the stated aim of “Discovering Worlds, Changing Perspectives”. The festival will be championing the narratives of international Muslim filmmakers and highlighting their compelling stories. MIFF is also a platform for productions inspired by Muslim culture and faith, embracing filmmakers of all backgrounds.

At a time of polarised public opinion and a prevalence of negative portrayals of Muslims in the mainstream media, the first edition of MIFF showcases the breadth of Muslim storytelling with premieres of acclaimed new features set around the world, including the UK, Morocco, Turkiye, Tunisia, Jordan, Iran and Sudan.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to bring this festival to London, where we’re on a mission to weave together cultures through the magic of cinema,” said Sajid Varda, the Festival Director. “MIFF is not just a festival; it’s a vibrant celebration of cultures and stories from across the Muslim world, providing a spotlight on talented emerging and seasoned filmmakers from all corners of the globe.”

Bringing together the film industry and filmmakers alike, the festival line-up features some of the most courageous and creative minds. “Each one brings their A-game to the big screen,” added Varda. “These are stories that pack a punch, that resonate deep within, and remind us that there’s more that unites us than divides us.”

Films will screen in competition, with awards presented to Best Feature and Best Short. The jury includes Claudia Yusef (Head of Development at BBC Films); Neila Butt (Creative Diversity Lead, nations and Regions at Channel 4); Leon Oteng (Production Inclusion Manager at BFI Filmmaking Fund); Tas Brooker (filmmaker, When We Speak); and Youssef Kerkour (Actor known for C4 drama Home).

As well as championing new and upcoming filmmakers and talent, MIFF wants to celebrate and honour individuals who have already made innovative contributions to the film industry. The festival’s inaugural Trailblazer Award will be presented to Academy Award-, BAFTA- and Grammy-winning British director Asif Kapadia.

London-born Kapadia is known for his emotionally engaging, visually striking, genre-breaking films exploring “outsiders” in extreme circumstances. Working in drama and documentaries, Kapadia is perhaps best known for his trilogy of narratively driven, archive constructed documentaries Senna, Diego Maradona and Amy. The latter, about the late singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, overtook Senna to become the most successful British documentary of all time, winning numerous awards.

“Becoming a film director, a writer, producer or indeed working on the crew in the film industry, isn’t an obvious or simple choice for someone born in Hackney to working class British Indian Muslim parents during the 70s,” said Kapadia. “But I feel lucky that I found filmmaking. It changed my life, and it’s a great honour to receive the Trailblazer Award from the Muslim International Film Festival. It is important to show that people from all faiths and backgrounds can be successful and there should never be any boundaries or limits for what we are able to say, create or express through our art.”

According to Sajid Varda, in honouring Kapadia it’s not just his exceptional talent that is being celebrated by MIFF, but also his resilience as a visionary filmmaker from a minority community. “Through his remarkable body of work, marked by cinematic excellence and profound storytelling, Kapadia has conquered industry challenges and garnered international acclaim. His journey showcases that with steely determination, any filmmaker irrespective of background can defy odds and redefine possibilities in the world of cinema.”

MIFF is supported by UK Muslim Film (UKMF), a charity working to change perspectives by championing underrepresented talent and voices, both onscreen and behind the camera. UKMF recently worked as cultural consultants with C4’s comedy drama Screw, ITV’s Good Karma Hospital, C4’s Hollyoaks, and Columbia Pictures’ Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, ensuring that cultural and faith-based aspects of storylines are portrayed accurately.

The festival will run from 30 May to 2 June in Leicester Square, London. The full programme can be found here.

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