Opening Ceremony

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The MENA Film Festival Opening Ceremony is the celebrated kickoff of MENA 5! Join us on Saturday, January beginning at 3 PM to celebrate the community we’ve built together in the last 5 years.


3PM – MENA 5 Opening reception – Take in the sights and sounds as we inaugurate MENA 5:

  • Regional dishes by MENA 5’s official caterer Tayybeh.
  • Persian tea and nabat on us.
  • Displays from the official MENA 5 art and merch table to snag some swag.
  • Azure carpet to get your professional photos by MENA’s photographers.

4:15PM – Theatre doors open – Please take your seats and get ready for the show to begin!

4:30 – MENA 5 Opening Ceremony – Join us as we inaugurate this year’s festival:

  • Land greeting.
  • Word from the MENA team and our community,
  • Music performance.
  • Introduction and screening of the 2023 MENA SWANA Filmmaking Grant winner Hair!

6PM – Closing – make your way to the exits and prepare for the screenings later this afternoon and throughout the week!


MENA Canada Grant winner HAIR! with introductory words by Writer-Director Sara Jade Alfaro-Dehghani and Producer Rebeca Ortiz.


Farah, Miriam and Layla, three middle aged witchy sisters with years of baggage and inches of stubborn body hair, gather for their monthly hair removal and chai session.

Sara Jade Alfaro-Dehghani

Sara Jade Alfaro-Dehghani is filmmaker and writer hailing from Oshawa, Ontario. She began making films in Montreal while studying at McGill University, developing her short-form work with commercial and music video projects after moving to Toronto in 2017. She directs short form commercial and music videos on the director roster at MERCHANT. Sara’s films explore unique experiences within multi-cultural families - often stemming from her upbringing with an Iranian mother and Mexican father. She frequently writes about language, gender and domestic family dynamics, within a whimsical and dramatic lens.

In addition to filmmaking, Sara is also devoted to outreach and education, and develops workshops and programming for underrepresented filmmaking communities. When she’s not filmmaking, Sara is amateur metal detecting and raising bees at the family farm.

Land Greetings

χʷəy̓χʷiq̓tən / Audrey Siegl


χʷəy̓χʷiq̓tən / Audrey Siegl (she/her) is an inspiring warrior, leader, activist, artist, cultural worker, and engaged community member of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking, Musqueam people, working with teachings & medicines passed on to her from her Musqueam family and ancestors

She has been active on grassroots, environmental and social justice-political frontline movements, advocating for the protection of Indigenous women, land and water and all those who inhabit those spaces, invited or not.

Though she is rooted in West Coast and Musqueam medicines, she has worked extensively across Turtle Island with many teachings and medicines. She is proud & honoured to carry on the work of her grandparents and ancestors.

Audrey has a wide portfolio of work that includes the MMIWG2S Inquiry, Greenpeace campaigns, the housing crisis, the toxic supply and overdose crisis, advising on the City of Vancouver Climate Justice Charter, forced displacement, and the connection between extractive industry and violations of First Nations Land and human rights.  



Anaïs Elboujdaïni

Anaïs Elboujdaïni is a Montréal-based reporter, documentary filmmaker and poet. She is one of the original MENA co-founders and served as the MENA Director of Progamming between 2019 – 2022. Anaïs has been instrumental in shaping the festival’s vision as part of the programming collective, and we’re honoured to work with her again as the official MENA 5 Opening Ceremony emcee!

Meet our Jury



Dina Al-Kassim

Dina Al-Kassim is a critical theorist and comparative literature scholar, who writes on contemporary political subjectivation, sexuality, gender, psychoanalysis and aesthetics in modernist, anti/post/decolonial and contemporary forms with reference to the Middle East and Africa, Europe and the USA. She is the author of On Pain of Speech: Fantasies of the First Order and the Literary Rant (University of California Press, 2010), which investigates a foundational fantasy of modernity: speaking in one’s own voice.  Working between Arabic, English, and French, Al-Kassim has published in many journals and essay collections. Her work on Indigenous poetry, water and endangered ecologies in Mahmoud Darwish, Lee Maracle and Rita Wong appears in Land/Relations: Possibilities of Justice in Canadian Literatures, ed. Smaro Kamboureli and Larissa Lai (WLU Press 2023); she presented this work in October at the Dar al-Kalima University Conference, “Land, People and Culture” in Bethlehem, Palestine. For a decade a professor of Comparative Literature and a member of the Critical Theory Institute at UC Irvine, Al-Kassim now teaches at UBC. Al-Kassim has been a Mellon Postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, a Senior Seminar Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute, and a Sawyer Seminar, Residency Fellow at the University of California, Humanities Research Institute. Recipient of a 2019 SSHRC grant for the 2020 conference Critical Nationalisms, Counterpublics, Al-Kassim’s work today centres paradoxes of exposure in the political and aesthetic practices of those who inherit resistance and protest as inescapable realities.


Emad Armoush

Emad Armoush is a Syrian/Canadian multi-instrumentalist musician and singer, active in the Arabic, flamenco, world and creative improv music scene of Vancouver since 2000. Inspired to bring his roots from Arabic traditions into his current musical life and influences, and awarded grants from the BC and Canada Arts Councils, Emad released his debut album in 2021 with the members of his group Rayhan, some of Canada’s finest creative musicians. In November of 2023, he released his sophomore album of 5 duos highlighting original compositions. Motivated, he is now busy composing and arranging new music for the second album with his group Rayhan. Emad has performed in many music festivals across Canada and Europe in a multitude of collaborations.

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Saturday, January 27, 2024
3:00 pm
Online Only
VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Online Only