Films and Documentaries from Today’s Arab World
The BBC Arabic Festival is an annual event that presents films about today’s Arab world to a UK and global audience. It is simultaneously a live event and series of special broadcasts that focus on independent films telling bold and relevant stories. The Festival aims to find and foster emerging talent from the Middle East, giving platform to their work and developing further talent and expertise.
The Festival screens short films and documentaries about current social and political changes taking place in the Arab world. It takes place at the iconic art-deco Radio Theatre at BBC's Broadcasting House in central London. The screenings are followed by filmmaker Q&A’s and complimented by a programme of talks and presentations about the art and processes of non-fiction filmmaking in the Arab world. The festival’s closing event is a televised Awards Ceremony, with musical guest and comedy performances by the most sought-after talent from the Arab world.
All the films of the official selection are invited to air on BBC Arabic television as part of Min AlMahrajan, our special TV programme series highlighting all things festival to our remote audience of potentially 49 million. Min AlMahrajan also broadcasts special interviews with filmmakers, producers, performers and comedians who are part of the festival, bringing all the Festival events to living rooms across the Middle East.
The BBC Arabic Festival runs as a competition judged by a panel of journalism and film experts and practitioners. Annually, we receive hundreds of submissions from around the world which our preselection committee cut down to the long-list for the judges. The end programme consists of 20 in-competition films under four categories: short film (fiction under 40 minutes), reportage (journalistic piece under 10 minutes), short documentary (non-fiction under 40 minutes), and feature documentary (non-fiction between 40 and 90 minutes). Besides these four categories, BBC Arabic also offers the Young Journalist Award (YJA) and the BBC Arabic Award for Best in Journalism to a non-fiction submission. This award recognizes the overall best work in non-fiction in the competition exhibiting originality, skill, courage and journalist endeavour. The two latter awards are chosen by BBC Arabic’s editorial team.
The Festival culminates in a televised Awards Ceremony with music and comedy to honour the filmmakers. Awards are presented by our judges and key filmmakers and journalists such as Adam Curtis, Orla Guerin, Fergal Keane, among others. In the past, the event has been hosted by TV and film star, Eddie Izzard; British topical comedienne, Shappi Khorsandi; international TV sensation, Wonho Chung. Annually, the Festival also chooses a musical guest whose works on exile, freedom and equality echo the themes projected through the films.
BBC Arabic Young Journalist Award
The BBC Arabic Young Journalist Award is presented to a non-fiction filmmaker aged 18 to 30.The Award comprises of a programme of bespoke training, mentoring and equipment. There is also the potential for their next project to be aired on BBC Arabic TV and presented by them at the next Festival. For this award, we look for promising filmmaking and journalistic skill coupled with originality in stories conveying urgent, current issues.
The external judging panel have the great task of choosing the short list of films – which make up our programme – as well as the winning piece for their given category. Past judges have included film critic, Jason Solomons; BBC World Reporter Yalda Hakim; Doha Film Institute CEO, Fatma AlRemaihi; The Guardian’s Head of Documentaries, Charlie Phillips; Executive Producer of Storyville, Kate Townsend, among others.