Top 6 highlights not to miss at the Muslim International Film Festival

5 min read
30 May, 2024

The UK Muslim Film charity has launched its inaugural Muslim International Film Festival (MIFF) in London to spotlight this year's most commendable films and filmmakers, showcasing the breadth and depth of Muslims worldwide.

From the UK to Morocco, Jordan, and Palestine, the program features an eclectic mix of features and short films, as well as industry panels and events, for patrons to attend at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square from Thursday, May 30 to Sunday, June 2.

"We are presenting some great films that showcase the creative brilliance of filmmakers from around the world," says festival director Sajid Varda. "But we also aim to respect our faith."

MIFF has arrived to counter the one-note, stereotypical depictions of people of the Islamic faith often seen in Western cinema.

Here are some highlights from this year's festival that shouldn't be missed:

Hounds (2023)

Director: Kamal Lazraq

Opening the festival is Moroccan writer-director Kamal Lazraq's gritty Casablanca-set debut with a comedic undercurrent. The grounded crime noir follows the calamitous misadventures of a father and son caught up in a criminal feud when a kidnapping goes wrong.

Stuck with a dead body, impoverished dogsbody Hassan (Abdellatif Masstouri) and his exasperated son Issam (Ayoub Elaïd) must find a way to get rid of it or risk the wrath of his boss, their rivals, and the police.

With unexpected moments of mirth, Hounds is an evenly-paced cinematic skirmish into the underbelly of Moroccan society with commendable performances keeping it together.

An Orange from Jaffa (2023)

Director: Mohammed Almughanni

Palestinian filmmaker Mohammed Almughanni serves up a tense short film about a young man trying to get through an Israeli checkpoint to visit his mother.

An Orange from Jaffa is another maddening yet heartfelt example of the discrimination faced by Palestinians under the Zionist regime, with Samer Bisharat offering an achingly earnest performance as Mohammed, a Palestinian visiting from Poland but struggling to get past the unjust scrutiny of Israeli military police.

It's the Jewish Sabbath which makes matters more intense; few taxi drivers are on the road and when one Farouk (Kamel El Basha) shows him kindness they are both met with state-sanctioned callousness. Part of the A Reckoning Of Hearts shorts program featuring six films, it's not to be missed.

Inshallah A Boy (2024)

Director: Amjad Al Rasheed

In his Cannes Un Certain Regard-winning drama, Jordanian filmmaker Amjad Al Rasheed contends with Jordan's infuriatingly sexist inheritance laws through the grief-stricken eyes of a Muslim widow on the brink of losing more than just her husband.

Played with gentle determination by Mouna Hawa, Nawal is a caregiver to an elderly woman in a wealthy family and a devoted mother to a sweet daughter. But after the sudden death of her husband, her brother-in-law Rifqi (Haitham Alomari) exploits a patriarchal legal rule to claim half his dead sibling's inheritance.

Co-written by Delphine Agut, Rula Nasser, and Al Rasheed, the film grapples with the archaic inequality of Islamic law as Hawa takes the audience on an emotionally palpable and desperately gripping quest to prevent this injustice.

Sky Peals (2024)

Director: Moin Hussain

Written and directed by British filmmaker Moin Hussain, in his feature debut, Sky Peals uses eerie sci-fi themes to tackle the subject of alienation through the mixed-race perspective of an introverted young man.

Adam (Faraz Ayub) is a nightshift worker at a burger bar in a motorway service station with little human connection. His English mum (Claire Rushbrook) is moving in with a new fella and his estranged Pakistani dad (Jeff Mirza) was found dead in the titular service station car park.

When an uncle suggests to Adam that his dad believed he wasn't from around here (read: earth), he tries to assemble his fractured identity to find answers for his inability to connect with coworkers and family alike while navigating the purgatorial ennui of his isolated existence.

It's a slow burner with some dry humour and otherworldly visuals to accent the mundanity of the sleepy service station setting.

Sky Peals will be released in UK and Irish cinemas on August 9th but see it early throughout the festival.

MIFF Meet the Funders Panel

It's one thing to have an excellent idea for a cinematic story, and another to know how to actually get the funds to make it.

That's why MIFF's Meet The Funders panel is a must-attend for those budding filmmakers, writers, and creatives looking for advice from some of the industry experts who also happen to do the commissioning.

BBC Film's Commissioning Executive Claudia Yusef, BFI's Director of Inclusion Melanie Hoyes, and Film4's Head of Creative Farhana Bhula will discuss ways to have a sustainable career in the industry, especially for Muslim, MENA, and marginalized creatives.

This event takes place on Saturday 1 June 2024. Tickets can be purchased here

In Camera (2023)

Director: Naqqash Khalid

The exquisite feature debut of British filmmaker Naqqash Khalid, In Camera, is a satirical, psychological thriller tackling the film industry, late-stage capitalism, and a generation striving for purpose in an increasingly complicated and overworked world.

Nabhaan Rizwan delivers a career-best performance as Aden, a mostly out-of-work actor brow-beaten by an industry that constantly rejects him because of his ethnic appearance.

Going on a litany of soul-destroying auditions to play brown and Muslim stereotypes, Aden descends into a shape-shifting vortex where performance, imitation, and reality blur together.

Co-starring Amir El-Masry, In Camera, is a sharp, visceral, and blackly humorous read on showbiz culture and society, making it the perfect closing gala film for MIFF.

Check out the full programme to browse films and events and book tickets.

Hanna Flint is a film and TV critic, writer and author of Strong Female Character with bylines at Empire, Time Out, Elle, Town & Country, the Guardian, BBC Culture and IGN

Follow her here: @HannaFlint