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

watch at home:


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.


To book festival and educations screenings of ISLAND worldwide, 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; Winner of Belfast Film Festival’s Maysles Brother’s Award for Observational Documentary.


★★★★★ “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.

watch at home:

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

To book an educational screening in the US complete this form


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.


★★★★★ "One of the loveliest documentaries of the year"  The Evening Standard

★★★★ "Adroitly weaves together the personal and the political"  The Guardian

★★★★★ "A heartwarming portrait of a relationship thriving against the odds"  Total Film

“Alternately touching and amusing, uplifting and heartbreaking"  Mark Kermode, BFI Player ‘Film of the Week’


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

'38 classics directed by women’ - BFI view here

by Yasmin Fedda;

co-produced with Banyak Films.

In production



Noura and Machi search for answers about their loved ones – Bassel Safadi and Paolo Dall’Oglio, who are among the over 100,000 forcibly disappeared in Syria. Faced with the limbo of an overwhelming absence of information, hope is the only thing they have to hold on to. ‘Ayouni’ is a deeply resonant Arabic term of endearment – meaning ‘my eyes’ and understood as ‘my love’. Filmed over 6 years and across multiple countries in search of answers, Ayouni is an attempt to give numbers faces, to give silence a voice, and to make the invisible undeniably visible.


Supported by Doha Film Institute, IMS, SANAD, Cap Kuwait, Amnesty International, BFI Vision Award and Beirut DC Impact Lab 2019. Working closely with #FREEBASSEL campaign and Families For Freedom, co-founded by Noura Ghazi.


Ayouni had its World Premiere in F:ACT Competition at CPH:DOX 2020

See further screenings on the film website

Sometimes reality

is too complex,

stories give it form.

Jean Luc Godard


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 projects are Shubbak Festival 2019 - a window in contemporary Arab culture - and Poetry in Motion: Contemporary Iranian Cinema, both of which took place at the Barbican Centre between April and July 2019. Elhum Shakerifar is also BFI London Film Festival’s programmer for films from the MENA region and Iran - a position she’s held since 2015. For more info

Poetry In Motion:

Contemporary Iranian Cinema

Poetry In Motion: Contemporary Iranian Cinema took place between 3-24 April at the Barbican Centre in London to showcase 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 was commissioned by the Bagri Foundation and curated by Elhum Shakerifar and Faye Harvey in partnership with the Barbican. Reflecting Iranian culture’s rich, diverse traditions and love of storytelling, Poetry In Motion presented the work of bold contemporary directors whose stories charmed, surprised and enchanted, through a mix of everyday, universal themes, and the retelling of traditional narratives in new ways.


"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


See the full programme here

Read Elhum's introductory note on MUBI Notebook here


London's Festival of Contemporary Arab Culture



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

Based on the themes of legacies and generations, Shubbak Festival 2019’s programme of films + ScreenTalks began on July 3, with the London premieres of SOFIA by Meryem Benm Barek Aloïsi (winner of Best Screenplay at Cannes 2018), Rana Eid’s “audio visual feast” Panoptic and Ghassan Halwani’s powerful debut feature Erased, Ascent of the Invisible; followed by the UK premieres of Karim Sayyad’s “majestic, mysterious and hypnotic” Of Sheep And Men, Sofia Djama’s “warm, intimately-hewn drama” The Blessed; festival favourite The Man Behind The Microphone by Claire Belhassine; and last but not least, a screening of Arab British Shorts followed by a timely panel discussion with Arab British Filmmakers, chaired by Elhum. For an additional touch of Arab culture, filmmaker and sound designer Rana Eid took over the Barbican Cinema’s foyer sound system with a playlist curated to compliment the season’s themes.


See the full programme here

Listen to Rana Eid’s playlists on Spotify here or Soundcloud 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).


Email info@hakawati.co.uk for terms and prices.

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), Of Love & Law (Hikaru Toda, 2017), Doc/Fest 2018 opening film A Northern Soul (Sean McAllister, 2018) and Ayouni (Yasmin Fedda, 2020). 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, and nomimated for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2019.


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.




8 Lee Street

Shed, Workspace 2

London E8 4DY



Email us at info@hakawati.co.uk

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We’re a small team and so not able to respond to all unsolicited pitches, but we do offer consultancy on production, distribution and impact work if you need advice

Hakawati was named a Screen International Producer on the Rise in their 2018 #Brit50 list, and was a BFI Vision Award 3 Awardee (2016-18)


Our widely broadcast work has been screened at festivals including Berlinale, Rotterdam, CPH:DOX, Doc/Fest and IDFA. We’re currently developing new work with a range of partners including BFI, Doc Society, BBC Films, Wellcome Trust, Film London and Arab Fund for Arts and Culture amongst others.