we are the stories we tell

hakawati produces, distributes and curates films that hold the art of storytelling at their core.

Hakawati works with storytellers with distinctive vision and enables new talent to take creative risks. Hakawati is committed to the broader visibility of independent film, giving platforms to quieter voices and unique individual – often minority – perspectives in relation to a dominant whole. In making creatively bold films with integrity, representation and reframing narratives are at the heart of what we do. The company’s projects all derive from the central tenet that a good story is in the telling, and that after all, we are the stories we tell. We have three strands of interconnected work: production, impact & distribution and curation – drawing a link between storytelling and which stories get told.

We believe there is a narrative to the films that get wder visibility and work closely with filmmakers to devise distribution strategies within the UK context, using traditional and non-traditional methods and developing outreach and impact plans.


Our team has experience working with distributors, exhibitors and independent venues, public funders and broadcasters, charities and networks across the country. We have worked on audience building for distribution purposes as well as crowd-funding and award campaigns.

by Steven Eastwood;

co-produced with

Paradogs Films

90 mins; 2017



Across the water on the  island, four individuals experience the year in which their lives will end. Illness progresses, relationships gently shift, and we are witness to rarely seen and intensely private moments. One person shares their acceptance of death, whilst another is surrounded by a community in shock. ISLAND observes bedside care and the rhythm of breathing. In a pathology lab, microscopic biopsies in close-up show the interior of bodies, our biology. Filmed over 12 months on the Isle of Wight, ISLAND is a life-affirming  reflection on the phenomena of dying, portraying the transition away from personhood and observing the last days and hours of life and the moment of death. Like the ferries cyclically arriving and departing in this  an enigmatic landscape, the film appears buoyant, afloat. Death is shown to be natural and everyday but also unspeakable and strange.

UK release in September 2018. For bookings please contact info@hakawati.co.uk.


World premiere at the 61st BFI London Film Festival in October 2017; International premiere at Rotterdam International Film Festival 2018, Best Documentary nominee at British Independent Film Awards 2018; Winner of Queen Mary University London’s Public Engagement Award 2018.


★★★★★ “A memento mori in a pretty direct form”  The Sunday Times

★★★★ “Hauntingly evocative” The Guardian


Supported by Arts Council England, National Lottery Big Lottery Fund, FREEFOLK, CODA, Mountbatten Hospice, FABRICA and Queen Mary University London.

by Hikaru Toda

co-produced with Little Stranger Films

95 mins; 2017

Of Love & Law


Fumi and Kazu are partners in love and law; they run the first law firm in Japan set up by an openly gay couple. As lawyers driven by their own experience of being ​outsiders​, they attract a range of clients who reveal the ​hidden diversity of a country that prides itself for collective obedience, politeness and conformity. The lawyers and their misfit clients expose and challenge the archaic status quo that deems them second-class citizens. Against the backdrop of civil liberties under attack, the film asks what it takes to be an individual, what it means to be a minority and what role family plays in our increasingly polarised world.

UK theatrical release 1 March 2019. For bookings please contact info@hakawati.co.uk

For information about the Japanese release visit www.aitohou-movie.com


Winner of Japanese Competition BEST FILM at Tokyo International Film Festival 2017; Winner of Firebird Award for Best Documentary at Hong Kong International Film Festival 2018; Best Documentary nominee at Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2018; Winner of Tokyo Docs pitch 2014.


★★★★ Diva Magazine

“Love will win in the end” The Japan Times

“The Best 14 Queer International Films of 2018” IndieWire

“Impassioned and insightful” Screen


Supported by Chicken & Egg Pictures, The Great British Sasakawa Foundation, Daiwa Foundation, Women Make Movies.

By Sky Neal & Kate McLarnon

Satya Films & Postcode Films

Produced by Elhum Shakerifar

93 mins, 2018

Even When I Fall


In Spring 2018, Hakawati distributed the “remarkable” and “uplifting” Even When I Fall through a 12-city Q&A preview tour starting on International Women’s Day (8th March) and nationwide cinema release from 13th April reaching over 45 cities nationwide. Events included partnerships with CircusFest at The Roundhouse, BFI, Women in Film & TV and V&A Museum. Now available to download or own on DVD


Described as the “feelgood film of the week” by the Financial Times, “gripping” by The Times and “sensitive, intimate, graceful” by Total Film. The film has been nominated for the Discovery Award, British Independent Film Awards 2017 and Best Feature Documentary, One World Media Awards 2018.


Even When I Fall tells the incredible story of Nepal’s first circus, set up by survivors of child trafficking. An intimate, beautiful film that harnesses the visual power of circus to give a unique perspective into the complex world of human trafficking.

Nominated for Screen Awards 2018 Film Campaign of the Year


★★★★ “Gripping occasionally dreamlike and unexpectedly uplifting” The Times

★★★★ “Feelgood film of the week” Financial Times

★★★★ Metro

★★★★ The Observer


Supported by BFI, Sundance, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Fork Films, World View, Bertha Foundation, Doc Society, Women Make Movies.

watch at home:

by Carol Salter; Rocksalt Films

in association with Hakawati

72mins, 2017

watch at home:

Almost Heaven


In 2017, Hakawati distributed Berlinale “stand out” Almost Heaven by Carol Salter through a nationwide Q&A tour in partnership with MUBI, where the film was then showcased throughout the month of September. Now available to download in the UK


Winner of Best Documentary, British Independent Film Awards 2017; winner of Best Documentary Feature, Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2018; double nominee at Berlin International Film Festival 2017.


Almost Heaven follows 17-year-old Ying Ling, who is training to become a mortician in one of China’s largest funeral homes. Far from home and terrified of ghosts, she learns to perform spa and beauty treatments for the dead, speaking to them softly as she is watched closely by family members. Learning to navigate the long, lifeless corridors of the crematorium, she forms a close and unexpected friendship with her colleague Jin Hau. Their playful camaraderie makes work bearable, but when Jin Hau suddenly leaves the funeral home, Ying Ling is left to face the harsh realities of the job alone


A tender and life-affirming portrait of a vibrant young woman approaching adulthood.


“The juxtaposition of vibrant youth and mundane death strikes a chord, touching upon something which borders on the metaphysical, sneaking up upon profundity and finding solace and insight in the most unexpected places” Mark Kermode’s BFI Player Film of the Week - watch here

★★★★ “A poignant study of life and death” The Sunday Times

★★★★ Time Out

Sometimes reality

is too complex,

stories give it form

Jean Luc Godard

by Yasmin Fedda;

co-produced with Banyak Films.

In production


IN Production

Across countries and over years, Noura and Machi search for answers – their loved ones have been forcibly disappeared in Syria. With no information to anchor their limbo, hope is the only thing they can hold on to.


Supported by Doha Film Institute, IMS, SANAD, Cap Kuwait, Amnesty International and BFI Vision Award. Working closely with #FREEBASSEL campaign and Families For Freedom, co-founded by Noura Ghazi.


Power consists to a

 large extent in deciding

what stories will be told

Carolyn G. Heilbrun


Curation and programming are a form of storytelling – three films chosen to sit alongside each other create and project a meta-narrative. We work with festivals, exhibitors and foundations to curate film programmes that reflect our core value – that a good story is all in the telling.

Our most recent curatorial project is Poetry in Motion: Contemporary Iranian Cinema, which will take place at the Barbican in April 2019. Commissioned by the Bagri Foundation; curated by Elhum Shakerifar and Faye Harvey. For more info

Poetry In Motion: Contemporary Iranian Cinema

Poetry In Motion: Contemporary Iranian Cinema takes place between 3-24 April at the Barbican Centre in London and showcases some of the country’s most inventive filmmakers.


Reflecting Iranian culture’s rich, diverse traditions and love of storytelling, Poetry In Motion presents the work of bold contemporary directors whose stories will charm, surprise and enchant, a mix of everyday, universal themes, and the retelling of traditional narratives in new ways.


The season showcases emerging voices in Iranian cinema through the prism of Persian poetry, rather than through its modern day politics and often stereotyped representation. It features seven films – several of which are UK premieres - and ScreenTalks with an array of the country’s leading directors and artists.


Poetry In Motion: Contemporary Iranian Cinema has been commissioned by the Bagri Foundation and curated by Elhum Shakerifar and Faye Harvey have curated in partnership with the Barbican.


"Positioning the cinema as a unique space for discovery and discussion, this season was developed in response – and as a provocation to – the stereotyped ways that modern Iran is predominantly portrayed. Iranian culture is imbued by rich, diverse traditions and by a love of storytelling, which has marked Iranian cinema more distinctly than is ever celebrated. By framing a diverse selection of new voices through the evergreen language poetry, we invite reflection and nuance, as well as a celebration of storytelling in its many guises through the live elements accompanying screenings" Elhum Shakerifar


Book tickets here

Shubbak 2017

Since 2015, Elhum has been film curator for Shubbak – UK’s largest festival of contemporary Arab culture. The 2017 season reflected on questions of ‘image creation of conflict’ and ‘imagined futures’ in an attempt to deconstruct the image and meta-narrative of the region.


Explore the programme through the Little White Lie’s review of the Imagined Futures Shorts Season; Barbican’s podcast with Mohanad Yaqubi regarding his documentary Off Frame; Bidisha’s overview of films made about Syria for Sight & Sound; Elhum’s article for Little White Lies about the women directors of the festival.


Little White Lie’s review of the Imagined Futures Shorts Season

Barbican’s podcast with Mohanad Yaqubi regarding his documentary Off Frame

Bidisha’s overview of films made about Syria for Sight & Sound

Elhum’s article for Little White Lies about the women directors of the festival


See the 2017 festival trailer here, and read more about Shubbak here

Plot is the bone

you throw the dog while you

 go in and rob the house

T. S. Elliot


Whether you’re at the beginning of telling your story, or you’re ready to share it with the world, Hakawati offers one-to-one consultancies with filmmakers and their teams for documentary film, as well as advising on impact and UK distribution strategies.

Recent projects we have consulted on include The Hard Stop (George Amponsah, 2015),  and The Worker’s Cup (Adam Sobel, 2017).

Stories can conquer

fear you know. They can

make the heart larger

Ben Okri

Who We Are


Elhum is a BAFTA nominated producer, winner of the 2017 Women in Film & TV's BBC Factual Award, and one of Screen International’s 2018 #Brit50 Producers on the Rise.


Elhum’s multi-award-winning credits include The Reluctant Revolutionary (Sean McAllister, 2012), The Runner (Saeed Farouky, 2013), multi-award-winning A Syrian Love Story (Sean McAllister, 2015), Even When I Fall (Sky Neal and Kate McLarnon, 2017), BIFA winner for Best Documentary, Almost Heaven (Carol Salter, 2017), ISLAND (Steven Eastwood, 2017) and Of Love & Law (Hikaru Toda, 2017). Working with a range of partners including BFI, BBC, Sundance, Doc Society, The New York Times, Irish Film Board, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Chicken & Egg Pictures and Women Make Movies to name a few, her work has been broadcast internationally and screened at festivals including Berlinale, IDFA, Rotterdam, CPH:DOX and Dubai Film Festivals. Elhum was recipient of the 2016 BFI Vision Award and is part of the 2019 EAVE cohort.


Bridging the gap between UK festival visibility and distribution, she began to work on specialist distribution strategies with titles including Wadjda (Haifaa Al Mansour, 2012) and The Lebanese Rocket Society by (Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, 2013). In 2015, she self-distributed A Syrian Love Story (Sean McAllister, 2015) in the UK to such high visibility that it was named #3 Best Film of 2015 by the Guardian and was nominated for Film Campaign of the year at the Screen Awards 2016.

Formerly programmer of Bird’s Eye View Film Festival (2012-14) and notably of the hugely successful focus on Arab Women Directors in 2013 and three-month curation of Canary Wharf Screen in 2014, Elhum is now MENA and Iran programme advisor for London Film Festival and Film Curator for Shubbak, festival of contemporary Arab culture. In 2017, she was nominated for the Arab British Centre’s Award for Culture.


Alongside her work in film, she produced award-winning photography book The Grey Line (by Jo Metson Scott, published 2013) about US and UK soldiers who have spoken out against the war in Iraq – named one of TIME, Guardian and Telegraph’s top photobooks of 2013. She is also a published translator of Persian poetry, with a new book of poetry by Azita Ghahreman, translated with Maura Dooley published by Bloodaxe Books in October 2018.


Fleur is an Impact Producer and Hakawati’s Project Manager working across all our projects. Fleur’s legal background informs her interest in documentary, understanding that storytelling has the power to create positive change and give new energy to tired issues. She became a BAFTA Guru Film Pro in 2016.


Fleur has previously worked with award winning documentary film teams including Grain Media, Violet Films and Postcode Films. As an impact assistant on the BAFTA/Academy Award® nominated documentary Virunga (2014), she helped to bring the underreported struggles facing Africa’s oldest national park to the world stage, mobilising an international community to help safeguard its future. More recently, she managed outreach for Berlinale Glashütte Original Best Documentary Award nominee Almost Heaven (2017).


With a keen interest in women in film, she has also been directing a film based on women’s representation in society, looking back over the last 70 years, and has written about gender equality for the UNESCO World Heritage Magazine


Emma manages marketing and communication strategy across Hakawati’s films. Emma started out working for documentary distributor Dogwoof, handling online strategy and social media for their complete catalogue of documentary titles. During her time at the company she spearheaded marketing campaigns for films such as Dreams of a Life (2011), The Act of Killing (2012), The Spirit of ’45 (2013) and Blackfish (2013).


Moving to the freelance world, she now delivers digital marketing campaigns across film sales, distribution, exhibition and home entertainment with a rosta of clients including the likes of Curzon, Bertha DocHouse, Rich Mix, Pulse Films, Metrodome and Raindance. Emma also regularly handles social media for several film festivals, working with Cambridge Film Festival, Brighton Cine-City Film Festival and Open City Documentary Festival.


Most recently, she spent two years managing the global marketing and press campaign for Loving Vincent (2017), the world’s first oil-painted animation feature. The film earned BAFTA, Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.




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Shed, Workspace 2

London E8 4DY



Email us at info@hakawati.co.uk

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Please note that Hakawati reviews unsolicited proposals and projects every quarter. Proposals are expected to articulate a clear statement of intent.

Hakawati is a recipient of the BFI Vision Award (2016-18) and was named one of Screen’s Producers on the rise in their 2018 #Brit50 list


Our partners include: BFI, Doc Society, Tribeca, Catapult, SANAD, Cap Kuwait, Arts Council, Lottery Funding, Chicken & Egg, Women Make Movies, Women in Film & Television, The Great British Sasakawa Foundation, Daiwa Foundation, Doha Film Institute, Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, Queen Mary University of London

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