This year the Live Ideas festival in New York, running until May 26, focuses on the MENA region in a series of events including an Emel Mathlouthi Concert on March 15th, and a conversation with Aileen Agopian, Senior International Contemporary Art Specialist at Sotheby’s on March 8. The festival will bring together 45 artists from North Africa and the Middle East.

The full program can be found here.

Exploring cultural transformations in real time in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region through the lens of contemporary performing, musical, film, literary and visual artists, the festival features multiple performances, films, lectures, panels and community dialogues by artists from across the region, addressing a wide range of complex issues pertinent to the region including alternative modernities, colonialism, gender, patriarchy, Arab feminism and non-conformist identities within national narratives.

The festival is screening films by Kamal Aljafari, Maha Maamoun, Larissa Sansour and Tarzan & Arab Abunasser.

Nation Estate is a 9-minute sci-fi short offering a clinically dystopian, yet humorous approach to the deadlock in the Middle East. With its glossy mixture of computer generated imagery, live actors and an arabesque electronica soundtrack, Nation Estate explores a vertical solution to Palestinian statehood. In Sansour’s film, Palestinians have their state in the form of a single skyscraper: the Nation Estate. One colossal high-rise houses the entire Palestinian population – now finally living the high life.

Domestic Tourism II (Excerpt) from Maha Maamoun on Vimeo.


02Mammoun’s interest is in the generic visual representations of Cairo in a broad sense, and where this intersects with, and is negotiated by, personal experiences. These digitally manipulated images present more complicated, less-sellable and slightly uncomfortable images that comment on the Egypt consumed locally. Tourism in this context refers to a mode of navigating a place and consumption of a locale, whether by a foreigner or a local, and the title, Domestic Tourism, refers to both an intimate and distant relationship to one’s environment.


RECOLLECTION Kamal Aljafari Trailer from aljafari films on Vimeo.

The Israeli and American features shot in the town of Jaffa from the 60s to the 90s are the basis for the story of a dream. All protagonists are removed from the original footage, leaving an empty setting formed by the town. He is returning to Jaffa, as he might to any catastrophized place. He knows everything. He is myself, my grandparents who were on their way to Beirut and returned because there was a storm; a photographer, a composite of every figure in the margins. Memory itself, filming; the memory of all the background it rescues from the screen.

Recollection Digital Press Kit-2-9

More on Recollection: “Many of us look at the cities of our childhood and note the changes with varying degrees of disapproval. Mr. Aljafari has been deprived of commenting on the gradual passage of time on place because he is from Jaffa and the Jaffa of his childhood is gone.”


Visit Iraq from aljafari films on Vimeo.

The following shorts will be shown on April 2nd:

Tress of Hair by Doa Aly (2008, 12 minutes, Egypt)
Hysterical Choir of the Frightened by Doa Aly (2014, 4 minutes, Egypt)
Love Dance by Shayma Aziz (2011, 5 minutes, Egypt)
Nuovo Cinema Paradiso by Lana Al Sennawy (2012, 4 minutes, Egypt)
Cocoon by Mey Seifan/Jens Junker (2013, 6 minutes, Lebanon/Syria/Germany)
Face B by Leila Albayaty (2014, 29 minutes, Iraq/Germany)

While there are several film screenings and concerts, the festival’s focus on “live arts” places particular emphasis on dance, and performers featured during the festival include Farah Saleh, Marie Al Fajr, Mona Gamil, Leyya Mona Tawil and Amira Chebli and Radouan Mriziga.

Free Advice – Trailer from Farah Saleh on Vimeo.

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