The World Premiere of Polarized from the critically acclaimed British film director Shamim Sarif will take place at BFI Flare on London’s South Bank on Saturday 18th March followed by a second screening on Sunday 19th March.
Shamim Sarif’s visually arresting fifth film Polarized is a tale of queer love in a small town that unfolds against a backdrop of sweeping Canadian prairies. Wild Rose meets Brokeback Mountain, this slow-burn tale follows a struggling singer/songwriter from a poor farming community coming to terms with her queer identity and the barriers thrown up by family, religion, race and community.
Portraying a culture clash between bible belt White Canada and progressive Muslim Palestinians, Polarized offers a groundbreaking portrayal of contemporary Palestinians beyond the shoebox of conflict. Sarif uses the film to explore the conflict between the American Dream and the division sown by Trump and Brexit against a heady soundtrack of Arabic rap and American country.
The film’s Palestinian producer, Hanan Kattan, says: “Polarized reminds me of Lee Isaac Chung’s film Minari, in the way it shows a rarely seen side of the immigrant experience. It’s one of the few times in cinema that we see Palestinian immigrants onscreen who are successful, driving scientific innovation, and in the case of Dalia, also queer.”
One of the UK’s leading independent filmmakers, Shamim Sarif’s four previous films include Despite the Falling Snow (Rebecca Ferguson, Charles Dance) and have notched up a total of 47 awards. Her series directing credits include the new Season 4 of YOU staring Penn Badgley for Netflix/Warner, as well as series for Paramount Plus, eOne and HBO Max.
Shamim Sarif’s nuanced film explores the polarized world we currently live in; how it can take an act of bravery to step outside our familiar ways of thinking, and to choose inclusion over exclusion. The film unfolds beautifully as it contrasts two lives lived in the same town, but vastly different world.
Queer love happens in the most unexpected places
As an unavoidable attraction develops between two women in a small conservative farming community, they must navigate the barriers of race, religion and class that keep them apart.
In a fading small town deep in the Canadian prairie, singer/songwriter Lisa goes to work at a ‘vertical farm’ – the kind of new science that has pushed traditional farms, including her cherished family farm, out of business. Lisa’s boss Dalia is part of the successful Muslim Palestinian family that own this new ‘agri-tech’ farm, and they struggle to find a welcoming place in the local community.
Weeks before Dalia’s wedding to her childhood friend, a heated encounter between the two women at work exposes racism from Lisa; in response, Dalia fires her. That could have been the end of their story – but instead, it ignites an unexpected connection.
As friendship and attraction grows between the pair, they will have to question the unspoken rules that keep them apart, or risk settling for the lives their families have laid out for them.
Screenings will take place at 8.40pm on Saturday 19th March and 3pm on Sunday 19th March at the BFI on London’s South Bank. Ticket information here.
The political backdrop of Polarized is contemporary North America but, to me, it feels relevant all over the world. At its heart, it is a love story between two people who appear wrong for each other in every way – as defined in a cultural moment when neither side much cares to know the other. Separated by race, religion and economics, Polarized is also about two families – and it is the ties of blood that both Lisa and Dalia must learn to loosen if they are to find their true selves, alone or together.
I wanted to explore what it might take for two young women, one evangelical Christian, one Palestinian Muslim, both ingrained with certain beliefs about the ‘other’, to step outside the unspoken barriers between them to fall in love. It’s an emotional journey I experienced myself when I fell in love with another woman, someone who was ‘wrong’ from all the traditional perspectives.
Back then, twenty-seven years ago, it was the jolt of love that opened me up to seeing the world in new ways and it’s the same for Lisa and Dalia – at a moment when those around them are more keen than ever to hold onto what they believe.