It’s our favorite time of the year at AFMI as we get ready for the 26th Arab Film Festival!
AFF2022 runs from November 11 through November 20 and this year our Director of Film Programming, Yasmina Tawil, put together a program that has something for every Arab film fan.

To help you navigate a truly exceptional schedule, here are 19 reasons to go to AFF2022 in 3 parts, part 1 of 3 blog posts highlighting some of the films playing at AFF2022. Check out Part 2 and Part 3.

1. You want to feel those warm feelings

This year’s “centerpiece film,” MEMORY BOX spans three generations in an engaging and multi media narrative that transports us between 1983 war-torn Beirut and present-day Montreal.
Lebanon’s official submission to the Academy Awards has garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences alike, and it will screen at the festival twice, plus it will be available online.

Catch it on Saturday Nov 12 at 8:30 pm @ The New Parkway Theater and on Sunday Nov 20 at 5:30 pm @ The Roxie Theater. TICKETS (in person and online)


“An eminently accessible feature film about three generations living through intense trauma and coming out the other side. A film with a deep reservoir of empathy for all its characters. Edited with minute attentiveness. Outstanding performances from the whole ensemble.” – Leslie Felperin, The Guardian

2. You like to be the first (US premieres)

This year we are premiering three movies at the Arab Film Festival: The Alleys, The Desert Rocker (director Sara Nacer will join us in person!), and Perhaps What I Fear Does Not Exist (with online Q&A).

The Alleys
The debut feature of filmmaker Bassel Ghandour, who wrote and produced the 2016 Oscar Nominee and BAFTA winning Theeb, The Alleys tells the story of Ali, a hustler in a claustrophobic East Amman neighborhood. Ali pretends to be a businessman and has a secret relationship with Lana. Their romance is kept hidden until one day Lana’s mother, Aseel, is blackmailed with a video of the young couple.

Playing on Sunday Nov 13 at 8:30 pm @ The New Parkway Theater. TICKETS

The Desert Rocker
Winner of the Best Feature Film Award at the Montreal Vues d’Afrique Film Festival, Sara Nacer’s The Desert Rocker is an intimate, witty and profound portrait of the extraordinary Hasna El Becharia, a pioneer Gnawa artist. The first musician to break through the social barrier of this culture, she empowers and inspires women of all ages by reclaiming a musical tradition reserved for men for centuries.

Join us on Sunday Nov 13th at 4:00 pm @ The New Parkway Theater. TICKETS
This screening with be followed by an in-person Q&A with director Sara Nacer. Or catch the livestream here.


Perhaps What I Fear Does Not Exist
A personal documentary from Lebanese filmmaker Corine Shawi who, when her father becomes suddenly paralyzed, spends four years in between hospitals finding shelter behind her camera away from a family tragedy. Rehabilitation centers, cemeteries, love making, VR experiments, fervent prayers and voice notes are the record of a filmmaker’s journey trying to amend the impossible: finding absolution for a broken family by making her father walk again.

Showing on Tuesday Nov 15th, 8:10 pm @ The New Parkway Theater. TICKETS (in person and online)
After the screening, a conversation between filmmakers Corine Shawi and Raed Rafei will be available online.

3. Music documentaries rock

If you love docs about musicians, The Desert Rocker is for you! See above ↑

4. The  best Opening Night in town

Join us at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco for AFF2022 Opening Night! We will show The Blue Caftan. Director Maryam Touzani will join us in person.

The Blue Caftan is the winner of the prestigious Fipresci Award at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival and Morocco’s official entry to the 2023 Academy Awards. You can read more about it on our blog.

Friday Nov 11th at 7:00 pm @ Castro Theatre
We love this movie so much, we also scheduled a screening on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 4:50 PM @ The Roxie Theater

Don’t miss it! TICKETS 

And that’s not all…on November 11 we are celebrating late into the night at our After Party at Slate in San Francisco!
Bring your comfy shoes and your most Arabesque outfit for some endless dancing, mingling, and catching up with old friends.
The party starts at 9 pm and is sponsored by Baklava, the True Arab Relationship App

Show your best dance moves on Friday November 11, 9:00 pm – November 12, 2:00 am @ Slate Bar SF. TICKETS

5.🌈 This is our queerest Arab film festival yet

Queer Lens is back with a focus on the theme of Diaspora & Displacement, and featuring award-winning short films that highlight the experiences of Queer Arabs around the globe. Check the full list of short films here.

Saturday Nov 12, 6:45 pm @ The New Parkway Theater. TICKETS (in person and online)

Following the screening, catch the panel discussion online, moderated by Raed Rafei, and featuring filmmakers Sarah Kaskas, Naures Sager, Karina Dandashi and Dania Bdeir, whose films are all part of this year’s Queer Lens shorts program.

Queer Lens at the 26th Arab Film Festival

And don’t forget to catch these features:

Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day (screening in person and online) is a contemporary queer musical taking Arab folktales as its formal reference, and Egyptian pop music as its primary sonic material. After the screening, enjoy an online conversation between filmmakers Mohammad Shawky Hassan and Raed Rafei about the film. 

Perhaps What I Fear Does Not Exist, (screening in person and online) is a personal documentary from Lebanese filmmaker Corine Shawi. After the screening, a conversation between Shawi and Raed Rafei will be available online.

Miguel’s War (more about it below ↓)

6. Complexity matters

Miguel’s War won the Teddy Award for Best Feature Film at the Berlin International Film Festival 2021 and Best Documentary at NewFest 2021.

It is the story of a gay man who grew up oppressed and shamed during the Lebanese civil war. Raised by a conservative Catholic father and an authoritarian Syrian mother, teenage Miguel was inhibited by a deep inferiority complex and was incapable of asserting himself. In 1983 the deeply sensitive boy, desperate to prove he “exists” and can act like “a real man” joined the fighting as part of an armed faction. But his experience was a failure. Traumatized he immigrates to Madrid, Spain.

Using intertwining cinematic forms, melding documentary, animation, theater and archive and filmed on location in Lebanon and Spain, this feature film hopes to offer an experience of self-confrontation, awareness and catharsis.

Showing on Saturday Nov 12 at 2:00 pm @ The New Parkway Theater. TICKETS

We will also host a livestream Q&A with filmmaker Eliane Raheb and subject Miguel Jelelaty, in conversation with Raed Rafei. Available online, set a reminder by pre-ordering it here.

7. You want to laugh and cry and fall in love all at once

Salma’s Home is set in Jordan and revolves around three women with distinct personalities. A funeral, family secrets, shocking revelations…what could possibly go wrong?

Catch it on Saturday Nov 19 at 2:45 pm @ The Roxie Theater. TICKETS


Looking for more? Read Part 2 and Part 3 of 19 Reasons To Go To The 26th Arab Film Festival.