Sharjah Film Platform (SFP), Sharjah Art Foundation’s annual film festival, opens this week with a diverse line-up of feature-length and short films in three genres: narrative, documentary and experimental. Celebrating its fifth edition this year, SFP focuses on independent cinema, documentary filmmaking and moving image works that demonstrate new approaches to film and art.
Organised by the Foundation, SFP foregrounds recent cinematic achievements by international filmmakers and artists, noteworthy classics from around the region and worldwide, and experimental films that challenge the idea of what film practice is today.
Taking place from 21 to 30 October 2022 in three venues: Mirage City Cinema, Sharjah Institute of Theatrical Arts and Gallery 4 of Al Mureijah Art Spaces, SFP5 will feature more than 25 films that were selected through an international open call. Select films, chosen by a distinguished jury, will receive the Sharjah Film Platform Awards for Best Narrative, Best Documentary and Best Experimental. The awards will be announced on the last day of the festival. This year’s jury includes:
Documentary category: Talal Afifi (Director, Sudan Film Factory); Maryam Kashani (Filmmaker and Assistant Professor in Asian American Studies, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign); Deepika Suseelan (Artistic Director, International Film Festival of Kerala)
Narrative category: Laila Aoudj (Co-founder, Dima Cinema); Hanna Atallah (Founder and Artistic Director, Filmlab Palestine)
Experimental category: Kais Zaied (CineMadart); Darine Hotait (Filmmaker); Hind Mezaina (Film Curator)
The film screening programme for SFP5 will open with Payal Kapadia’s documentary A Night of Knowing Nothing (2021), which won the Golden Eye at the Cannes Film Festival (2021). The festival will conclude with Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria (2021), which won the Cannes Film Festival Jury Award (2021) and stars Tilda Swinton. Weerasethakul co-designed Mirage City Cinema (one of SFP5’s main venues) for Sharjah Biennial 11 in 2013.
This year, the festival’s Director in Focus section will honour the late filmmaker Moufida Tlatli with the screening of three of her films: The Silences of the Palace (1994), The Season of Men (2000) and Nadia et Sarra (2004). Her work is internationally recognised and has received numerous awards, including Cannes Film Festival's Golden Camera and Toronto Film Festival's International Critics' Award.
The programme will also include the world premiere of Mariam Alserkal and Maaria Sayed’s Unveiling Selma (2022), which received the Short Film Production Grant in 2021.
In addition, through a collaborative initiative with the US Mission to the UAE, SFP5 will present Cherien Dabis’ Amreeka (2009) and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Songs of Lahore (2015), as part of the American Film Week.
Aside from regional and international films, SFP5 also includes talks, masterclasses and panel discussions by filmmakers and industry professionals as well as the SFP Industry Hub, an initiative that offers professional development and support to emerging filmmakers.
For the first time, SFP5 will also include a special musical performance and a networking mixer to celebrate the festival and the filmmaking community.
Information on film highlights presented at SFP5 follows below:
Opening and Closing Films
A Night of Knowing Nothing (2021)
Director: Payal Kapadia
L writes letters to her estranged lover, which offer us a glimpse into the drastic changes taking place around her. Merging reality with fiction, dreams, memories, fantasies and anxieties, an amorphous narrative unfolds.
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Ever since she was startled by a loud ‘bang’ at daybreak, Jessica, who is in Bogotá to see her sister, is unable to sleep. She soon befriends Agnes, an archaeologist studying human remains discovered within an under-construction tunnel. During her visit to Agnes, she encounters a fish scaler, Hernan. They share memories by the river. As the day ends, Jessica awakens to a sense of clarity.
Director in Focus Films
The Silences of the Palace (1994)
Director: Moufida Tlatli
Twenty-five-year-old Alia is fed up with singing at weddings. After the humiliation of an umpteenth contract as a professional singer, she expresses her disappointment in life and her unspoken resentment at the fact that Lotfi, her partner of 10 years, refuses to acknowledge the child she is carrying. The announcement of the death of Prince Sid Ali, a former Bey, suddenly plunges her back into the past.
The Season of Men (2000)
Director: Moufida Tlatli
In Djerba, Aïcha is married to Saïd, who works in Tunis for 11 months of the year. She wants to follow him and suggests selling the carpets she weaves. However, Saïd adds a condition that Aïcha must bear him a son. After two girls, Aïcha finally gives birth to the long-awaited son, Aziz, who eventually, tainted by his mother’s neurosis, makes his family’s life unbearable.
Nadia et Sarra (2004)
Director: Moufida Tlatli
Aged 47, Nadia is a professor who is well liked by her students, married to a man who has preserved his good looks, and the mother of a beautiful 18-year-old. Yet, beneath her smiling, sunny exterior, Nadia conceals a deep sense of unhappiness. Her relationship with her daughter Sarra is strained, and the relationship with her husband is even worse. She struggles to accept growing old in a body that no longer provokes desire.
Films Selected through the Open Call
The Dance of Ali and Zin (2021)
Director: Mehmet Ali Konar
Isa lives with his mother, wife, two children and sister in a tiny Kurdish village. Two weeks after the funeral of his younger brother, who was shot in Istanbul, Isa’s mother has a dream in which she hosts a wedding celebration for her dead son. She then does everything in her power to realise the strange dream.
Unveiling Selma (2022)
Directors: Mariam Alserkal and Maaria Sayed
Recipient of Short Film Production Grant (2021)
In the rural UAE, Selma divides her days between her seven-year-old daughter and the daily household chores until she decides to take a stand for herself.
And Then They Burn the Sea (2021)
Director: Majid Al-Remaihi
The director witnesses his mother’s gradual and terminal memory loss. Weaving family archives and reenactments, the film comments on familial memory and its loss and uses cinema as a medium of remembering.
Veins of the Amazon (2021)
Directors: Álvaro Sarmiento, Diego Sarmiento, Terje Toomistu
Cargo boats constitute the sole transport infrastructure within and along the Peruvian edges of the Amazon. Directors Álvaro Sarmiento and Diego Sarmiento, along with anthropologist Terje Toomistu, reflect on the mundane movements of the boats, which serve as a backdrop for the daily lives of the indigenous inhabitants navigating the dilemmas of modernity.
Women Minor Speculations (2021)
Director: Nicole Hewitt
Shot over five years, the cross-genre film depicts a tentative encounter between two female explorers separated by 6,000 years, taking as its starting point the Neolithic figurines found throughout the Danube region.
Director: Yaroslav Bulavin
Made without a film crew, using a range of inventive filmic strategies that do not include computer-generated effects, Yaroslav Bulavin’s film daringly visualises the formation of the earth and the origin of life.
American Film Week Films
Director: Cherien Dabis
Muna, a single mother, leaves the West Bank with her teenage son Fadi in the quest for a better future in the promised land of small-town Illinois. But starting a new life proves harder than imagined. She and her son are forced to face hardships in their bittersweet search for a place to call home.
Songs of Lahore (2015)
Directors: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken
An innovative recording of Dave Brubeck's classic jazz hit Take Five launches Izzat Majeed's Sachal Studios on the international jazz scene, pulling them out of obscurity and leading to an invitation to perform with Wynton Marsalis and his orchestra at Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York. This feature-length documentary follows the classically trained musicians’ dramatic journey and wonders if they will ever find an audience back home.
About Sharjah Film Platform
Sharjah Film Platform (SFP) is an annual festival of independent cinema, documentary filmmaking and moving image where audiences can discover new approaches to film and art. The 10-day event—which includes a range of regional and international films, talks by filmmakers and industry professionals, musical concerts and mixers—is centred around Mirage City Cinema, the open-air theatre in Sharjah’s historical quarter.
Organised by Sharjah Art Foundation, SFP foregrounds recent cinematic achievements by international filmmakers and artists, noteworthy classics from around the region as well as experimental films that challenge the idea of what film practice is today.
Tickets can be booked online at sfp5.eventive.org or at the festival venues before the screenings as well as at Box Office.
Festival Pass (120 AED): Provides access to all screenings
Festival Pass – Students (80 AED): Provides access to all screenings
Tickets (30 AED): Provides access to individual screenings
Tickets – Student (20 AED): Provides access to individual screenings
Box Office hours:
Sharjah Art Foundation Information Centre,
Al Mureijah Art Spaces
Saturday to Thursday, from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm
Friday, from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm
About Sharjah Art Foundation
Sharjah Art Foundation is an advocate, catalyst and producer of contemporary art within the Emirate of Sharjah and the surrounding region, in dialogue with the international arts community. The Foundation advances an experimental and wide-ranging programmatic model that supports the production and presentation of contemporary art, preserves and celebrates the distinct culture of the region and encourages a shared understanding of the transformational role of art. The Foundation’s core initiatives include the long-running Sharjah Biennial, featuring contemporary artists from around the world; the annual March Meeting, a convening of international arts professionals and artists; grants and residencies for artists, curators and cultural producers; ambitious and experimental commissions and a range of travelling exhibitions and scholarly publications.
Sharjah is the third largest of the seven United Arab Emirates, and the only one bridging the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Reflecting the deep commitment to the arts, architectural preservation and cultural education embraced by its ruler, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Sharjah is home to more than 20 museums and has long been known as the cultural hub of the United Arab Emirates. It was named UNESCO's Arab Capital of Culture for 1998 and the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2019.
Alyazeyah Al Marri
Sharjah Art Foundation