Land in Focus presented A Day of Contemporary Arab Culture as part of Shubbak, London’s first ever celebration of contemporary culture from across the Arab world, presented by the Mayor of London and sponsored by HSBC. As a multimedia festival-within-a-festival, our 12-hour event encompassed a series of film screenings, talks, workshops, arts exhibition and live music inspired by contemporary Arab culture at Rich Mix on Saturday 16 July 2011.
A Day of Contemporary Arab Culture presented over twenty top quality films from the Arab world – many of which had never been screened before in the UK. This was the most extensive showcase of young Middle Eastern and North African film talents to date in the UK. We were delighted to introduce a number of special guests, including award-winning filmmakers Mahmoud Kaabour and Riad Makdessi, highly-acclaimed film producer Eva Star Sayre and internationally- recognised musician Khyam Allami.
The programme for the day included a diverse range of activities for both adults and children:
- Films: Six separately themed film sessions took place throughout the day and featured a wide variety of films from both up-and-coming and world-renowned directors from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arabic Emirates.
- Music: virtuoso British-Iraqi oud player Khyam Allami presented his debut album Resonance/Dissonance, accompanied by percussionist Vasilis Sarikis.
- Art: ‘Beyond Traditions’- an exhibition of contemporary Islamic art in partnership with MICA Gallery- was on display throughout the day and featured works by talented emerging and international artists and photographers.
- Workshops: Introduction to Middle Eastern Percussion workshops. Tutor Chas Whitaker from Arabicdrum brought traditional Arabic rhythms to Rich Mix and run two free drumming workshops for children.
- Food: a range of Arabic food was served throughout the day.
The Films of Mahmoud Kaabour
The highlight of the day took place after 19.00 with the very special screening The Films of Mahmoud Kaabour. The director was undoubtedly one of the hottest Arab filmmakers of 2011. His second film Grandma, A Thousand Times (Teta, Alf Marra, 2010) has been awarded top prizes at several international film festivals. This was the first time his two multi award-winning films were screened together in the UK and we were delighted to have Mahmoud Kaabour in attendance to present them and give a Q&A.
Programme for A Day of Contemporary Arab Culture
12.00-13.30 Film Schools
Introducing the filmmakers of tomorrow this session embraced fresh and imaginative stories by the most talented film students.
Masho Matook. Dir: Khalil El-Muzayen / Palestinian Territory / 2010 / 25′ / Laama Art, Gaza Strip
Look Inside (Juste Un Moment). Dir: Carl Salame / Lebanon / 2010 / 12′ / Institut d’études scéniques, audiovisuelles et cinématographiques de l’Université Saint-Joseph (IESAV – USJ), Beirut.
Land of Pearls. Dir: Mohammed Al-Ibrahim / Qatar / 2010 / 11′ / Doha Film Institute
Sinistro. Dir: Ivana Hindi / Lebanon / 2010 / 10′ / Notre Damme University, Louaize.
Goldfish (Poisson Rouge). Dir: Ala’ Abu Ghoush / Palestinian Territory, France / 2010 / 10′ / Ecole Superieure d’Audiovisuel. Universite de Toulouse II – Le Mirail.
Chez Aziz, Le Fils. Dir: Cedric Kayem / Lebanon / 2010 / 22′ / Institut d’études scéniques, audiovisuelles et cinématographiques de l’Université Saint-Joseph (IESAV – USJ), Beirut.
12.15-13.15 Introduction to Middle Eastern Percussion workshops
1 hr free workshop for primary school children (max. 20 children)
13.30-15.00 Crossing Borders
This session contained both the films of European and American directors shooting in the Arab world, addressing topical issues as they see them, as well as the work of directors from Arab countries shooting in Europe, informed by and a product of the myriad cultures of a globalised society.
Checkpoint. Dir: Ruben Amar / France, USA, Palestinian Territory / 2010 / 19′
The Philosopher. Dir: Abdulla Al Kaabi / France, United Arab Emirates / 2011 / 16′
Zineb’s Journey. Dir: Adam Watson / USA, Morocco / 2010 / 13′
Wednesday Afternoons. Dir: Nora Alsharif / United Kingdom, Jordan / 2010 / 15′
3 Hours. Dir: Regan Hall / United Kingdom, Jordan / 2010 / 14′
13.30-15.00 Introduction to Middle Eastern Percussion workshops
1 hr 30 free workshop for secondary school children (max. 20 children)
15.00-16.15 Egyptian Women (including an introduction by a special guest speaker)
An hour of films told from the point of view of Egyptian women addressing a diverse range of burning subject matter portrayed through different film styles.
Rise and Shine. Dir: Sherif Elbendary / Egypt / 2006 / 9′
Spring 89. Dir: Ayten Amin / Egypt / 2009 / 25′
Solo. Dir: Laila Samy / Egypt / 2009 / 6′
Pale Red. Dir: Mohammed Hammad / Egypt / 2009 / 15′
A Man’s Shadow. Dir: Tamer Mahdy / Egypt / 2010 / 5′
16.15-17.30 Moroccan Tales (including an introduction by a special guest speaker)
Filmed with delightful virtuosity, Halima Ouardiri and Kamal Lazraq’s stories take place in opposite worlds in Morocco – a remote village and the residential Casablanca – but both films address strong social and cultural messages.
Mokhtar. Dir: Halima Ouardiri / Morocco, Canada / 2010 / 16′
Drari. Dir: Kamal Lazraq / Morocco, France / 2010 / 39′ (2nd Prize at Cinéfondation, Cannes 2011)
17.30-19.00 Special Selection
including an introduction and Q&A with award-winning filmmaker Riad Makdessi, winner of the Best Arab Short Film award at Jordan Short Film Festival 2010 with his short film Flu.
A dreamlike allegory of love and death (The Last Passenger); an hilarious film about the marital problems of a grotesque marriage (Dirty Linen); a breathtaking thriller about the Tunisian underworld and the human traffic business (Heading North); and a highly original parody about global health disorders and the search for happiness (Flu), were the top quality productions chosen by Land in Focus to draw to a close the first section of the festival in style.
The Last Passenger (Le Dernier Passager). Dir: Mounes Khammar / Algeria / 2010 / 5′
Dirty Linen (Linge Sale). Dir: Malik Amara / Tunisia / 2010 / 20′
Heading North (Vers le Nord). Dir: Youssef Chebbi / Tunisia / 2010 / 15′
Flu. Dir: Riad Makdessi / Syria, Qatar / 2010 / 34′
19.30-21.50 The Films of Mahmoud Kaabour
We were honoured to present Mahmoud Kaabour in his first visit to the UK following the premiere of his feature-length documentary Grandma, a Thousand Times (Teta, Alf Marra). In April 2011 Mahmoud was a panelist at the Tribeca Film Festival, New York and joined us fresh from winning the Best Film Award at the London International Documentary Festival 2011. Mahmoud is also the founder and managing director of Veritas Films, a leading non-fiction film production company in Abu Dhabi. He was joined by his wife, business director of Veritas Films and executive producer of Grandma, a Thousand Times, Eva Star Sayre. The pair introduced the session which featured Grandma, a Thousand Times and his 2004 hit Being Osama. The screening of the films were followed by Q&A.
Being Osama. Dir: Mahmoud Kaabour & Tim Schwab / Canada / 2004 / 45′
Intimate exploration of six people with highly diverse backgrounds, interests, and personalities, united by their first name ‘Osama’ and by their experience as Arabs living in Canada in the post-9/11 world.
Grandma, a Thousand Times (Teta, Alf Marra). Dir: Mahmoud Kaabour / UAE, Qatar, Lebanon / 2010 / 48′
This is a poetic documentary that puts a feisty Beiruti grandmother at the center of brave film exercises concocted by her grandson to capture and commemorate her many worlds before they are erased by the passage of time and her eventual death.
We were delighted to present virtuoso oud player Khyam Allami who performed pieces from his debut album Resonance/Dissonance accompanied by percussionist Vasilis Sarikis. In 2010 he was the first recipient of BBC Radio 3’s World Routes Academy scholarship and performed at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.
Mystical in its lucidity and abstract in its poetry, Resonance/Dissonance is unique, soulful, beautiful, dark, heavy and hopeful all at once. A truly boundary crossing musical work for fans of Middle Eastern, Classical, Progressive, Jazz, Improvised, World and Avant-garde.