“A truly original programme of Arab cinema for British cinema-goers, this week-long series of classic and contemporary popular cinema takes audiences on a journey of gripping dramas, subversive comedies and exaggerated melodramas, taking in an array of re-mastered cinematic masterpieces and new releases.”
The Arab British Centre has been doing some amazing work on popular Arab cinema, a subject not discussed often enough. They had an event called Safar: A Journey through Popular Arab Cinema which took place back in September but I had not seen the videos before. So, if you like me haven’t seen them, go watch them.
Here’s a snippet from a preview at Little White Lies:
These films are not meant to study the Arab through his art via the politically pumped lens that audiences have seen so much of lately. Rather, this programme promises to bring to the UK a taste of films that is quintessentially vernacular: melodramatic, epic, even silly, yet reflective of changing times in a more social sense. Spanning 50 years, the films go between classics dating from 1960 to more contemporary dramas and musicals.
Egyptian-born, Liverpool-based curator Omar Kholeif explained the need to look at films from a more human perspective, rather than one that sees Arabs as the characters within a greater political pandemic. “The reason popular films are so important right now is because the only images of the Arab world now are ones that are overly politicised, intended to ‘humanise’ an alien situation or audience,” he says. “I think that cinema is an art form and one of the mass medium par excellences of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and as such offers a guise by which new readings of localized Arab culture can be related to.”
Reviews of films featured in Safar
(there are more, but these are the ones with Q&A videos up):
One Zero: Variety
The Yaqubian Building: BBC
And while we’re on the subject of Arab Cinema, recent/upcoming festivals (yes, despite the justified griping about festivals and their relevance in the Arab context) and some useful links:
“ANA which means “I” in Arabic is a new films series showcasing the best Arab directors working today. It is about exciting personal visions, unique talent and great stories. It’s about Arabs re-embracing their heritage as Hakawatis, Storytellers.”
(See also the twitter feed: @AnaArabCinema)
“Mapping Subjectivity, organized around the theme “Transgressions,” explores how filmmakers and artists from the Arab world have dealt with shifting attitudes towards sexuality and gender roles in the Middle East, and presents personal interpretations of the very real social transformations presently taking place throughout the region.
As in the preceding editions, Mapping Subjectivity looks into the region’s largely unknown heritage of auteur, personal, and sometimes experimental film, highlighting kinships in sensibilities, approaches, and poetics across generations and countries. Works selected hail from Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, and Tunisia, and include film and video, shorts and features, documentary and fiction that reflect a diversity and richness of voices and visual languages.”