The Nation’s Oldest and Largest Festival of Arab Films

The flagship event of the Arab Film and Media Institute, the Arab Film Festival is the longest running independent festival of its kind in North America. Launched in 1996, the festival’s mission is to present the best of contemporary films that illuminate the richness of Arab culture through authentic narratives and images, providing insight into the beauty and complexity of the Arab world.

The festival also offers special programming to local audiences, and unprecedented access to the diversity and range of authentic Arab experiences. The festival has gained an international reputation for excellence and offers its audiences access to media that reflects the lives of under-represented and provocative themes and groups on a cultural and societal level.

AFF2024 opens on Thursday October 24th at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

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The biggest annual celebration of the best of Arab Cinema – since 1996

Arab Film Festival highlights

Some of our past festival editions

AFF2022 Arab Film Festival 2022

The 26th Arab Film Festival opened with The Blue Caftan. Writer/director Maryam Touzani joined us in person in San Francisco.
Rita Baghadadi (Sirens) chaired the jury.

  • Best Narrative Feature: The Blue Caftan
  • Best Documentary Feature: The Desert Rocker
  • Best Narrative Short: The Window
  • Best Documentary Short: Faraway
  • Best Debut Feature: The Stranger
  • Ruya Visionary Award: Shall I Compare You to a Summer’s Day?
  • Audience Award: Memory Box
AFF2019 Arab Film Festival 2020

In 2020, as the pandemic forced us to isolate away from movie theaters, we partnered with The Arab American National Museum (AANM), ArteEast, and Mizna to collectively present the Arab Film Fest Collab.

With programs highlighting Afro-Arab and Black SWANA voices and narratives, AFFC aimed to capture the diverse narratives and complexity of the Arab world. Genres included drama, science-fiction, comedy and documentary, in both short-form and feature lengths.

The entire program was available online, expanding our reach nationwide in a new and innovative way.

AFF2019 Arab Film Festival 2019

2019 was a record-breaking year for the Arab Film Festival, starting with a historic turnout on opening night Elia Sulieman’s It Must Be Heaven – Palestine’s entry to the 2020 Academy Awards.

Our inaugural Queer Lens program sold out and started what is now a yearly celebration of our LGBTQ+ community.

And two documentary screenings sold out as well: for Gaza – Ireland’s submission to the 2020 Academy Awards, and For Sama from filmmakers Waad al-Kateab and Edwards Watts.