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Qisah International Film Festival starts tomorrow – introducing films from Muslim world, several UK premieres, director Ahmed Jamal speaks…(video)

Stories from the Muslim world and range in countries of origin and diversity…

PRESENTING the Muslim world in a fresh and different way is the new Qisah International Film Festival which opens in London on Wednesday (November 9).

Founded by much respected British veteran filmmaker Ahmed Jamal, the festival is a four-day programme showcasing films from and about the Muslim world.

Jamal spoke to www.asianculturevulture .com at the UK Asian Film Festival/ BFI London Film Festival reception for South Asian filmmakers (see the video) and stressed that the films Qisah are screening are very much about ordinary and everyday lives and about subjects that challenge us all – love, death, employment, friendship and family.

Leila’s Brothers pic by Amirhossain Shojaei – It is the opening film at The Kiln 0n November 9

He is keen – as he says in our interview – to get away from the Eurocentric perspective on Islam which focuses too much on terrorism, religious ideology and political strife – that isn’t to say the festival won’t show films with these subjects, but its central purpose is to illustrate the rich variety of Muslim lives and connect with global and diverse audiences. Qisah is the Arabic word for ‘stories’.

Jamal says: “These stories show the complexity and beauty of this world in a way that contests the stereotypical ways Muslims are represented.

“The Muslim world is a broad spectrum and this festival aims to widen audiences’ engagement with that world.”

There are 14 films in all and they are being screened across several venues in London – The Kiln (Kilburn). The Lyric (Hammersmith), and Rio (Dalston, East London).

Jamal and his curatorial team have looked out especially for women’s stories. He said that his team did not set out to find films with female leads but it became apparent that there were films with strong female characters.

Quareer – a series of short films made by women directors looking at life in Saudi Arabia – screens first on Friday, November 11 at The Lyric in Hammersmith – see listings link below

“The role of women and their struggles for equality, as the current protests in Iran exemplify is one being discussed and contested.”

There are two Iranian films in the line-up: ‘Leila’s Brothers’ by Saeed Roustayi is an award-winning Cannes title that will get a general release in the UK on May 22 only next year.

Ahmed says Taraneh Alidoosti’s performance as Leila is a “tour de force” and “exemplifies how Muslim women negotiate and challenge patriarchy”.

Jamal said Firouzeh Khosrovani’s ‘Radiograph of a Family’ shows how the 1979 revolution transformed gender roles and family relations in unexpected ways.

There are films from Tanzania, Indonesia, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Somalia, Iran, as well as from North Africa, the Middle East and the diaspora.

The Tanzanian film, ‘Tug of War’ is set in the final years of British colonial rule in Zanzibar and is about a young revolutionary, Denge who meets Yasmin, a woman of Indian ancestry, about to be married off, but is deeply unhappy with the arrangement.

Ahmed Jamal

It is the country’s official entry into the Oscars and only the second time in more than 20 years that Tanzania has submitted a film for Oscar consideration.

“These are confident, compelling films that will leave traces in the memories of all those who see them. Perhaps no other city in the world is as suited as a venue for this festival as London, with its multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious populations who, fighting the trend of others parts of the world, are curious about on another.”

As Jamal says in our video interview, he has been ably assisted in curating films by Harvard University academic Asad Ali and well-known French film curator Phillippe Jalladeau who ran the popular and much respected Festival du Trois Continent in Nantes for 25 years.

Jamal is well-known figure in the broadcasting world and ran an all Asian filmmaking outfit called Retake Film and Video Collective, and was a regular programme contributor to Channel 4 in its early days.

He is also a film consultant and helped with the production of the the Angelina Jolie starring film, ‘A Mighty Heart’ and more recently directed ‘Rahm’, a film in Urdu, set in Pakistan and based on Shakespeare’s ‘Measure to Measure‘. The film was adapted for the screen by his late brother, poet and writer Mahmood Jamal . The film which premiered in at the UK Asian Film Festival, won an award and features British-Pakistani star Sanam Saaed in the lead role.

Osiah International Film Festival – opening gala film, ‘Leila’s Brothers‘ by Saeed Roustayi at The Kiln (see address below) 7pm tickets –

For full listings November 9-12: please see


The Kiln 269 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 7JR

The Lyric, Lyric Square, King Street, London W6 0QL

Rio Cinema, 107 Kingsland High Street, London E8 2PB

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture