Ahmed Lesi – Nahla Ink Artist of the Month (November)

 

November month on Nahla Ink features the works of the Egyptian artist Ahmed Lesi, to coincide with his first sole exhibition at the Mashrabia Gallery of Contemporary Art in Cairo, Egypt.

A visual artist, Lesi is interested in pop art and describing daily Egyptian life in his paintings from a satirical viewpoint. About his solo show titled ‘Please Enter My Inner Space’, Lesi has provided the following statement, published with kind permission from the gallery.

 

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“The place is not the place where I live, but it is the soul of the people I meet, as if it were a real reservoir of thoughts, emotions, and intuition, and I interacted with them to leave a mark or to make them affect me. Gaston Bachelard says: ‘The place that attracts imagination cannot be an apathetic place with its geometrical dimensions, but a place where people have lived not only objectively but with all their personal imagination, which is what attracts us to it’.

 

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“In this project I took up this concept to create a space that connects me with where I work and the events that affect me during my work.  The scenes that I produced are based upon photographs of social events, which are part of a personal archive of photos that I collected myself, and which directly affected me visually. I worked to reproduce them anew in the form of commemorative paintings, all linked to each other as they are pictures of friends, families, and quasi-familiar spaces of this kind, which occurred in Ard El Lewa. By doing this, I was able to tell my experience or impressions of the place, whose dimensions I deal with the most, in the attempt of highlighting the visual point of view of this place”.

 

 

The Mashrabia Gallery is a contemporary art space that was established in Cairo in the mid-1970s. Since the 1990s and under the management of Stefania Angarano, the gallery has played a pioneering role in the diffusion of Plastic Arts through the presentation of non-Egyptian artists in Egypt and the promotion of young Egyptian talents on both the local and the foreign scene.

Breaking with the dominant artistic tradition, the preference for innovative languages free from any decorative components as well as originality and power of the art pieces have always been the criteria for the rigorous selection of the artists and their works. The continuous promotion of established artists and the search for new talents has enabled the creation of a rich and diversified permanent collection.

The gallery organises temporary exhibitions on a monthly basis, both at the gallery and in other venues in Egypt and abroad. Acting as a vibrant cultural incubator, the gallery also regularly hosts various artistic performances, lectures and discussions.

For more on Mashrabia: http://www.mashrabiagallery.com/

To follow Ahmed Lesi on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ahmed.lesi95/

ARAB CINEMA SHINES BRIGHT

Viewing MENA Films at the 63rd BFI London Film Festival (LFF)

Guest Post: Dr Khalid Ali

Once again London succeeded in hosting a vibrant celebration of world cinema. From around the globe, filmmakers from 75 countries presented their works at this year’s BFI London Film Festival that took place 2-13 October. Bringing new voices beside auteur talent, the festival engaged as always with pressing universal themes. Tricia Tuttle, Director of the Festival commented: ‘’Like all good art, cinema helps us make sense of the world we live in’’.

The diversity of Arab cinema this year was utterly remarkable with seven films showing in the Debate, Laugh, Dare and Create sections of the festival, in addition to two Saudi films in competition. Most of the films came lauded with praise and accolades from previous film festivals; and, it was a great opportunity for Londoners to treat themselves to one, two or more films from the best of what is coming out of the MENA region.

It was heart-warming to see that from the nine films that two were Saudi productions made by women directors at the top of their game. The first was Haifa Al Mansour’s ‘The Perfect Candidate’ in the official competition, and Shahad Ameen’s debut film ‘Scales’ in the first feature competition. Both films featured strong female protagonists fighting entrenched prejudices in their society.

The Perfect Candidate (Haifaa Al Mansour)

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Maryam in the former is the strong-willed doctor practising in a local hospital who faces blatant gender-discrimination from an older male patient who prefers to see a male doctor. Stopped at the airport from travelling when her permit expired, starts a series of unusual events that lead to Maryam putting her name down as a candidate for the local council elections.

One fact however that Maryam tries to hide is that her deceased mother was a wedding singer; and, here, lovers of classic Egyptian cinema will spot a connection between Dr Maryam and Zuzu, the bright University student fighting off stigma and discrimination because of her mother’s profession as an entertainer in 1970s Cairo in Hassan Al Imam’s ‘Take Care of Zuzu’.

In ‘Scales’ Hayat is a 12-year old girl born in a mystical fishing village where families have to sacrifice one girl to the sea to appease the ‘sea monsters’. Shot in luminous monochrome as a magical fable, Ameen challenges established beliefs and practises treating women as second-class citizens. Winning the ‘Verona Award’ for films with innovative vision, Ameen is an emerging talent to look out for.

Scales (Shahad Ameen)

Tunisia led with no less than three films. Hinde Boujemaa’s debut feature ‘Noura’s Dream’ stars Hend Sabri as a mother standing up to her husband’s oppression. Noura is neither presented as a victim nor as an angel; she is a human being struggling with raising three children as a single mother, and a woman with a desire for love and kindness. Sabri won the best actress award for her performance at El Gouna Film Festival.

Addressing women’s status in Tunisian law and social standing, Boujemaa skilfully analyses through Noura’s dilemma the choice between life as an obedient wife or as an independent but tarnished woman. She touches upon double standards, the moral decline of those in public office and prevalent corruption with a clear vision. Bearing in mind that Tunisian law treats women and men equally when it comes to sentencing in crimes of passion.

Noura’s Dream (Hinde Boujemaa)

‘Tlamess’ by Ala Eddine Slim offers an enigmatic story that is described by the director as a tale of “a man and a woman living in symbiosis with nature”. ‘S’ is a soldier running away from the army when he meets a mysterious woman called ‘F’ in a woodland. They come to bond through unspoken language and fight off forces of nature including a baby dinosaur. Perplexing as it seems, this film is a visually rewarding extravaganza pulsating to the beat of a haunting musical score from Oiseaux Tempete.

The third Tunisian offering was ‘A Son’ by Mehdi M Barsaoui that won its lead actor Sami Bouajila the best actor award at the Venice Film Festival. It follows a family’s worst nightmare after their son is shot and left seriously ill in hospital in desperate need for an urgent liver transplant. Finding a liver donor with a matching blood group becomes a fateful event as it unravels long hidden secrets about the son’s identity.

A Son (Mehdi M Barsaoui)

The victory of the recent Sudanese revolution and overturning of the military regime is echoed in Suhaib Gasemelbari’s documentary film ‘Talking About Trees’ which won the Berlin Film Festival Best Documentary and Audience Awards. Gasemelbari follows four veteran Sudanese filmmakers (Manar Al Hiloo, Ibrahim Shaddad, El Tayeb Mahdi, and Suleiman El Nour) in their attempts to reopen a cinema and restore film-viewing culture in a hostile political environment. All four are cinephiles bound by long-term friendship and hope that one day Sudan will pack cinemas as was the case in the 1960s and 1970s.

Talking About Trees (Suhaib Gasmelbari)

‘The Cave’ by Feras Fayyad was Syria’s entry this year. It is a follow up to his 2017 award winning film ‘Last Men In Aleppo’. Set in a secret hospital in Ghouta, the film champions defiant doctors led by Dr Amani and hospital staff in saving the lives of wounded civilians while surviving the most dangerous of chemical attacks and bombings. Set in a claustrophobic underground setting, the film compels the viewer to denounce the humanitarian crisis facing the country.

Elia Suleiman returns to his favourite subject of exploring Palestinian refugees’ plight in his latest film ‘It Must Be Heaven’. In this follow up to ‘The Time That Remains’ (2009), Suleiman sets the scene in Paris and New York analysing themes of displacement and alienation.

Last but not least, ‘The Unknown Saint’ by Alaa Eddine Aljem represented Moroccan cinema; a black comedy where a criminal is trying to recover a hidden loot now buried under a holy temple. The village people seek ‘cure, happiness and wish-fulfilment’ by offering money and prayers to the holy saint. While the village doctor – who is infuriated by the people’s ignorance and simplistic belief in the power of an unknown’ person – soon despairs and becomes one of the believers.

The Unknown Saint (Alaa Eddine Aljem)

Watching the diversity of Arab cinema at the LFF, I was reassured that Arab voices and stories are no longer marginalised or forgotten. From women fighting against oppression, to film veterans trying to revive a nation’s love for film, to ordinary people affected by violent extremist practices, Arabs are well and truly represented when it comes to the big silver screen in 2019.

Dr Khalid Ali is a Senior Lecturer in Geriatrics and Stroke Medicine at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, a Film and Media correspondent for Medical Humanities Journal, author of ‘The Cinema Clinic: Reflections on Film and Medicine’ and Co-Founder of Egypt Medfest, an artistic, cultural, humanitarian and medically themed educational film forum.

BFI London Film Festival 2019 – The List of MENA-Inspired Films!

Get your popcorn ready! It is that time of year again, when one happily turns to the big silver screen for the celebration of the newest and most exciting films sourced from across the globe, and presented to a London audience. It is of course the BFI London Film Festival 2019!

Taking place 2-13 October in cinema venues across the capital, this year there will be in total 345 films (including features, shorts and documentaries), with much to explore, discover and to simply enjoy. Categorised as always under Strands, I searched the comprehensive programme to identify the films relevant to the MENA region.

Of this year’s selection, BFI Curator for MENA Elhum Shakerifar said to Nahla Ink:

“I am delighted that this year sees a notable number of Arab films in the LFF programme, particularly because two thirds of these are are by first and second time filmmakers – directors whose bold, distinctive and boundary pushing cinema are set to make significant waves.

“I look forward to seeing London audiences meeting such brilliant talents, on screen and for many in person through the many Q+As that will run throughout the festival”.

Without further ado, here they are listed, with the BFI blurbs provided.

For the link to the BFI website and tickets, just tap or click on the images provided for each film.

The Cave (Syria-Denmark) 

Oscar-nominated Feras Fayyad’s (Last Men in Aleppo) essential film tells the harrowing story of an underground Syrian hospital and its extraordinary staff.

Showing: Monday 07 October 2019 18:00

BFI Southbank, NFT1

Showing: Tuesday 08 October 2019 17:50

Vue West End, Screen 6

More information and tickets:

The Perfect Candidate (Saudi Arabia-Germany)

Celebrated Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour (Wadjda, LFF 2012) returns to the Festival with an inspiring drama about a young doctor unexpectedly becoming an electoral candidate.

Showing: Monday 07 October 2019 20:30

Vue West End, Screen 7

Showing: Monday 07 October 2019 21:00

Vue West End, Screen 5

Showing; Tuesday 08 October 2019 12:30

Vue West End, Screen 7

Showing; Tuesday 08 October 2019 13:00

Vue West End, Screen 5

Scales (Saudi Arabia-UAE- Iraq)

The story of a fishing village in thrall to mysterious sea creatures makes for a spellbinding feature debut from Shahad Ameen.

Showing: Wednesday 09 October 2019 18:30

Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1

Showing: Thursday 10 October 2019 13:00

ICA Cinema, Screen 1

Showing: Saturday 12 October 2019 18:45

Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs ScreenBottom of Form

Noura’s Dream (Tunisia-Belgium-France-Qatar) 

Directed by Hinde Boujemaa: Noura and Lassad’s delicate love story turns into a nightmare when Noura’s husband Sofiane is unexpectedly released from prison, days before their divorce is finalised.

Showing: Friday 04 October 2019 20:45

ICA Cinema, Screen 1

Showing: Monday 07 October 2019 18:15

Vue West End, Screen 4

A Son (Tunisia-France-Lebanon-Qatar)

Challenging your emotions at every turn, Mehdi M Barsaoui’s debut is a riveting ride in which the euphoria of a family trip quickly turns into a nightmare.

Showing; Saturday 05 October 2019 15:30

Empire Haymarket, Screen 1

Showing: Sunday 06 October 2019 18:00

Cine Lumiere

Arab Blues (France):

Directed by Manele Labidi Labbé. In this provocative culture clash comedy, Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly, Paterson) plays a Parisian psychoanalyst attempting to set up a practice in a post-Arab Spring Tunis.

Showing: Sunday 06 October 2019 12:30

Vue West End, Screen 4

It Must Be Heaven (Palestine-France-Qatar-Germany-Canada-Turkey)

 

Acclaimed Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman returns with another deadpan take on life in exile, typically assured and moving.

Showing:  Wednesday 09 October 2019 18:15

Curzon Mayfair Cinema, Screen 1

Showing: Thursday 10 October 2019 18:00

Curzon Soho Cinema, Screen 1

The Unknown Saint (Morocco-France)

Alaa Eddine Aljem’s darkly comic feature debut is smart, refreshing, original and an astute reflection on the human need to believe in something.

Showing: Friday 04 October 2019 15:20

BFI Southbank, NFT2

Tlamess (Tunisia)

Ala Eddine Slim’s mesmerising second feature is as bold in its audio-visual wonder as it is audacious in its challenge to conventional narratives.

Showing: Wednesday 09 October 2019 20:35

BFI Southbank, NFT3

Showing: Friday 11 October 2019 15:00

ICA Cinema, Screen 1

Talking About Trees (Sudan)

Directed by Suhaib Gasmelbari. A beautifully shot feature debut, winner of the Berlinale Best Documentary Award, that couldn’t be timelier for Sudan.

Showing: Tuesday 08 October 2019 20:45

ICA Cinema, Screen 1

Showing; Wednesday 09 October 2019 15:40

BFI Southbank, NFT2

White Girl (Palestine)

Directed by British-Palestinian Omar El-Khairy, this short film will be screened as part of the ‘When You Think You Know How It Ends’ segment.

Sold Out!

Mother of Fire (UAE)

Directed by Farah Al Qasimi, this short film will be screened as part of the ‘New World Order’ segment. A confessional TV documentary, it follows an ancient Jinn called ‘Mother of Fire’ and her ruminations on the history of the UAE, colonial meddling and contemporary Eurocentric museum display practice.

In Vitro (Palestine-UK-Denmark)

Another short film, directed by Larissa Sansour. Decades after an eco-disaster engulfs the biblical city of Bethlehem, two scientists from different generations discuss memory, exile and nostalgia in this symbolic speculative fiction. This will be screened as part of the ‘New World Order’ shorts programme.

Sold Out!

September Note: Arab About London Events Highlights | Laila Shawa Is Nahla Ink Artist of the Month

Dear Readers

September has arrived with the Autumnal chill already in the air.

Of course, it is also the restart to the arts and culture season with plenty on offer that one is seriously spoilt for choice.

I can refer you as always to my ‘Arab About London’ events’ listing with some of the highlights below.

For the full listing that is regularly updated, all you need is to visit the Nahla Ink home page. If you wish to be in the super know, you can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

A Magic Realist Afrabia

Looking at exhibitions, one can head over to the P21 Gallery for the latest ‘A Magic Realist Afrabia’, a solo show for the British-Sudanese artist Rayan Elnayal. Curated by Mishelle Brito, it presents a series of digital prints to explore ideas on multicultural identities, hybridity, and the third space. Looking at Sudanese author Tayeb Salih’s ‘Season of Migration to the North’ for inspiration, Elnayal follows main character Mustafa’s journey from Sudan to London and his struggle with his contradicting, convoluted and evolving ethnic identity in her work.

For more: http://p21.gallery/react/a-magic-realist-afrabia/

Marcel Khalifé

In terms of music, one of the bigger occasions will be the Lebanese composer, singer and Oud master Marcel Khalifé, as he makes a welcome return to the Barbican. Stripped back from his Al Mayadeen Ensemble that he usually performs with, he will be joined only by his son Rami Khalifé on piano and French jazz drummer Aymeric Westrich, reinterpreting his familiar music in a new way as a trio.

For more: https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2019/event/marcel-rami-khalife

Maya Youssef & Craig Ogden

One of my favourite instrumentalist Maya Youssef will also be performing this month. After her sold-out Kings Place concert in 2018, ‘Women of the World’ bring the award-winning Syrian Qanun composer and virtuoso guitarist Craig Ogden together in a concert exploring links with European, Middle-Eastern and South Asian music on plucked strings.

For more: https://www.kingsplace.co.uk/whats-on/world/maya-youssef-and-craig-ogden/

The Paradox of Creative Constraints

If you are cinematically minded, there is an all day public symposium ‘The Paradox of Creative Constraints’ to be held at the Mosaic Rooms. Reflecting on the paradox of creative constraints in contemporary cinema from the Middle East, it will host a day of film screenings and panel discussions with filmmakers, funders and programmers, features innovative rising talents as well as established experts looking at freedom of cinematic expression.

For more: https://mosaicrooms.org/event/the-paradox-of-creative-constraints/

The Stances Festival

Now in its 2nd edition, the ‘Stances’ multimedia and performance festival dedicated to contemporary artists from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria will be taking place at Rich Mix. As they take daring and critical stances towards their ever-changing social and political landscape, either amongst their respective diasporas or across North Africa, this year’s edition showcases the latest urban endeavours that young and upcoming creatives have embarked on to disentangle complexities of perception, identity, belonging and self-worth.

For more: https://richmix.org.uk/events/stances-%D9%85%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%82%D9%81-north-african-multimedia-performance-festival

Memory of Embers

If perhaps you are more into literature or poetry, Seagull Books and Exiled Writers Ink will be presenting ‘Memory of Embers’, an evening of poetry and discussion that platforms Iraqi voices and delves into themes of memory and exile, war and dictatorship, resistance and return. Featuring Salah Al Hamdani, Adnan al-Sayegh and Reem Kais Kubba – three remarkable Iraqi poets – the themes of displacement, loss and longing, as well as the spirit of revolt stirred up by their words have an increasingly universal resonance at a time where vast numbers of people are rendered placeless and precarious, seeking and being denied asylum by a North increasingly hostile to the ‘others’ that haunt its borders.

For more: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/memory-of-embers-iraqi-poets-on-exile-war-and-resistance-tickets-69361848155

Nahla Ink Artist of the Month – Laila Shawa

The Nahla Ink Artist of the Month is the incredible Palestinian Laila Shawa, whose powerful artworks over the years have garnered great attention and worldwide appreciation. One of the most prominent and prolific artists in terms of revolutionary and contemporary Arabic art, many of her pieces have become iconic and unmistakably Shawa. She has been exhibited internationally with paintings, silkscreen printing, sculptures and installations, as well as having works displayed in many public and private collections, including the British Museum. Living in London, she has given kind permission to feature her artworks on Nahla Ink with five of her most popular series.

Hands of Fatima (Acrylic on paper 2004)
Walk In The Park (Acrylic on paper 1987)
The Impossible Dream II (1989)
The Zar (Acrylic on Canvas 1992)
Trapped (Mixed medium on canvas 2011)

For more: http://www.octobergallery.co.uk/artists/shawa/index.shtml

Best wishes to all!

Nahla Al-Ageli
Freelance Journalist + Blogger
London, September 2019

August Note: Exhibition Picks | Music Picks | ‘Obliterated’ Play That Never Was | Dema One Is Nahla Ink Artist Of The Month

Dear Readers

August has arrived with Londoners taking their holidays abroad for some guaranteed sunshine.

As in town we don’t know with the weather, this still ought not to discourage or dampen the spirit to go out and enjoy some the wonderful MENA-inspired arts and culture events available.

Below are some picks of the exhibitions and music on offer as well as mention of the ‘Obliterated’ play that never was – with a message from the award-winning British-Palestinian Ahmed Masoud – and more on Dema One, the Nahla Ink Artist of the Month.

Exhibition Picks – If You Haven’t Already Been To View

Michael Rakowitz at The Whitechapel Gallery (Ends 25 August): https://www.whitechapelgallery.org/exhibitions/michael-rakowitz/

Seeing Through Babel (Kevork Mourad) at The Ismaili Centre (Ends 15 August): https://the.ismaili/united-kingdom/seeing-through-babel

Amma Baad (Nasser El Salem) at The Delfina Foundation (Ends 10 August): https://www.shubbak.co.uk/amma-baad/

Hicham Berrada Dreamscapes at the Hayward Gallery (Ends 18 August): https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/hayward-gallery-art/hicham-berrada

Raw Queens at the Mosaic Rooms (Ends 14 September): https://mosaicrooms.org/event/raw-queens/

Resilience Exile Mutation (REM) at the P21 Gallery (Ends 24 August):

http://p21.gallery/exhibitions/resilience-exile-mutation/

Music Picks – You Can Still Book

Silk Moth (Bushra El-Turk) at The Arcola Theatre (9-11 August): https://www.arcolatheatre.com/whats-on/silk-moth/

Habibi Funk + Ladies on Records at The Jazz Cafe (9 August): https://www.residentadvisor.net/events/1265163

Freedom Sounds (Presented by Humanity for Palestine) at Brixton Electric (16 August): https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/humanity-for-palestine-presents-freedom-electric-brixton-tickets/9676625

SAMA’ (DJ and Techno Instigator) at Electowerkz (16 August): https://www.residentadvisor.net/events/1293597

Flamingods + The Turbans at The Jazz Cafe (23 August): https://www.residentadvisor.net/events/1265155

Theatre News: ‘Obliterated’ Play That Never Was

This month saw an unusual act pulled by the award-winning British-Palestinian writer Ahmed Masoud. There was supposed to be a new theatrical drama titled ‘Obliterated’ to be performed by the actress Maxine Peake and to be held on 9 August 2019 at the Amnesty International UK venue in Hackney. It was said the play would explore the complexity of Palestinian society that has lived under siege for over a decade, and delving deep into humanity’s most urgent social and political challenges with darkly satirical humour.

However, days in advance of the scheduled event, all the people who had booked to attend the free performance (2529 in total) received an email from Masoud that read:

My dear friends,
Obliterated is Cancelled. There was never a play or a show, I didn’t write it and Maxine never rehearsed it.
I am not sure whether I will be able to write or do theatre again. They took our theatre, and with it our play.
Not even a year ago, on 09 August 2018, Gaza’s only theatre the Saeed Almishal Cultural Centre was bombed by Israeli warplanes and ripped to the ground in seconds.
A theatre turned to fire, rubble and dust. Expression lost to hate, for nothing sane.
I want to ask questions. Why is art so threatening? Who would find a theatre a danger enough for missiles? What’s going to become of the creatives, actors, writers, directors and audiences now?

I cannot write, but I still want to protest, to make my voice heard, to highlight what happens when art and theatre are stolen away. Maxine and I want to invite you, the audience, the 2529 people who booked, to be part of this experience, to be angry at this injustice.”

I was one of those who booked and wish to support Masoud by sharing his message!

For more:  https://www.ahmedmasoud.co.uk/

Dema One: Nahla Ink Artist of the Month

This month Nahla Ink features the work of the Moroccan-Belgian artist Dema One, whose incredible visual pieces are currently on show at the P21 Gallery in a solo exhibition titled ‘REM’ which stands for ‘Resilience, Exile and Mutation’. I recently met with the tireless 47 year-old Dema – who specialises in graffiti with elements of Arabic calligraphy mixed with Latin letters to create the hybrid ‘Calligraffiti’ – and he explained how he has been painting murals throughout the world for the past 30 years, alongside live painting at festivals and organising youth workshops to spread a powerful message to youngsters that promotes the positive values of the hip hop movement and philosophy.

     

Another strong and recurrent theme that comes up in his projects – be they murals on walls, paintings on canvas, paper or even work on cling film – is the dilemma of living with mixed Eastern-Western identities and utilising poetry and storytelling to depict and further explore the notions of belonging, internal and external exile, resilience and idea of mutation.

Do watch this space for the full interview-feature article to be published on Nahla Ink.

For more information on Dema One: https://demaone.org/

For more on the REM exhibition: http://p21.gallery/exhibitions/resilience-exile-mutation/

Last But Not Least: Arab About London Events

As always, I end by referring you to the full ‘Arab About London’ listing that is regularly updated with MENA-inspired arts and culture events in London.

Do check on a weekly basis for the latest; and, if you wish to be in the super know, you can also follow me on Twitter @NahlaInk or on Facebook.

Best wishes to all!

Nahla Al-Ageli
Freelance Journalist + Blogger
London, July 2019

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The Trace Of The Butterfly: A Tribute To Rim Banna & Concert To Celebrate Her Musical Legacy At The Barbican

Guest Post: MARSM*

A pivotal and influential figure in the contemporary Palestinian music scene, Rim Banna’s life was tragically cut short on 24 March 2018 after a ten-year struggle with breast cancer. She left behind a rich legacy of twelve albums, combining her own compositions and the careful assembling of traditional songs, children’s lullabies and works of Palestinian poets.

Brave and courageous to the end, her last work was materialised as a tapestry of voices and music over visual materials from her x-ray scans. Now a unique commemoration concert debuts at the Barbican in London by some of her closest musical peers: Tania Saleh (Lebanon) Faraj Suleiman (Palestine), Bu Kolthoum (Syria) and Sabrine Janhani (Tunis).

Born in December 1966 and raised in Nazareth, Banna studied music in Moscow and returned to Palestine to immerse herself in the events unfolding on the ground. She became a key performer in numerous local, regional and international festivals and an adamant artist within the Palestinian struggle. She was one of the first Palestinian musicians to document children’s music and lullabies, taking them from the confines of family homes to the outside world with three albums.

She also wove the poetry of giants such as Mahmoud Darwish, Tawfiq Zayyad and Samih El-Qasem into her songs, blending pop, poetry and traditional Arabic sounds. Significantly, Banna became a voice for peace and equality, collaborating with the likes of jazz pianist Bugge Wesseltoft, Norwegian choir Skruk and Arabic electronica collective Checkpoint 303. Her last album ‘Voices of Resistance’ was a conceptual piece of art uniting her spirit of resistance, poetry and medical scans with Checkpoint 303’s electronic beats and Bugge Wesseltoft’s edgy piano improvisations.

The collaboration between MARSM, Shubbak Festival and the Barbican will bring together the exceptional group of musicians who were Banna’s contemporaries to pay tribute to her life and work as well as creating a repertoire of music composed by Palestinian pianist Faraj Suleiman. Suleiman is one of the most promising musicians of the Arab world, whose music is strongly influenced by Arabic and Eastern melodies and rhythms as well as Tango and Jazz traditions, incorporating their unique scales and modalities in his compositions.

Accompanying him on the night will be the stellar contemporary alternative Lebanese singer, songwriter and visual artist Tania Saleh, whose lyrics mirror the reality of the Lebanese-Arab social and political turmoil. Since her early debut in 1990, she has experimented with various genres and is always challenging herself to explore new styles. Her collaborations have been eclectic: Ziad Rahbany, Toufic Farroukh, Issam Hajali, Charbel Rouhana, Ibrahim Maalouf, Rayess Bek, Khaled Mouzannar, RZA, Nile Rodgers, Charlotte Caffey, Tarek El Nasser, Natacha Atlas and more.

Additional features come from two artists from Syria and Tunis. The infamous rapper, music producer and film director who has been revolutionizing political rap in the Middle East is Bu Kolthoum. He will be making his much anticipated London appearance. Born in Damascus to a family of Sufi background, his 2017 album Bo’Bo’ was completely produced, mixed and mastered by him. His sound can easily be distinguished amongst other Middle Eastern rappers given old-school sound accompanied by prominent bass-lines.

The group is made complete with the gentle voice of former Yüma duo Sabrine Jenhani. Originally a fine artist and painter, Jenhani graduated from the School of Fine Arts in Tunis, but discovered her passion for singing and writing, moving into jazz singing at famous clubs in Tunis. She imbibed her inspiration from her work in the Tunisian capital while exploring the underground scene. She went on to become an icon of music through her first project in the group Yüma. Jenhani today composes her own music and writes her lyrics, releasing her latest project ’ZAY’ in January 2019.

The four musicians have been working, creating and arranging for months under the lead of composer Faraj Suleiman to bring this project together and to raise awareness to the life of one of Palestine’s most prominent musical figures. Banna was always a lighthouse in the turbulent seas of political uncertainties in Palestine and still inspires generations of artists and activists to resist oppression and fight for what is close to the heart. This night calls for the attendance of every soul that stands for justice, equality and the right to live.

‘The Trace of the Butterfly’ concert takes place on 9 July at the Barbican.

For more information to book tickets: https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2019/event/the-trace-of-the-butterfly-a-tribute-to-rim-banna

* MARSM UK: Since its founding, Marsm has dedicated itself to producing events that promote the rich and diverse arts and culture of the Arab world across the UK. From hosting some of the biggest names in the Middle East to emboldening burgeoning underground music scenes, it strives to support the exceptional creativity and talent of artists across the region.

SAFAR 2016: Film Festival Solely Dedicated to Contemporary Arab Cinema

If you love independent films with the power to take you on a visual tour of faraway places, then a cinematic festival that carefully selects its titles to represent the best of what is coming out of a particular region is a must see. More of a reason also when that region, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, is experiencing unprecedented turbulence that has been laid out for the world to see and when the dearth of good news has meant a lack of an adequate reflection of what really is going on in the Arab world.

It has been a privilege to preview six of the nine films that will be screened as part of the SAFAR 2016 Film Festival. Now in its third edition and hosted biennially by the Arab British Centre in partnership with the Institute of Contemporary Arts, SAFAR offers everyone – Arab and non-Arab alike – the chance to see some excellent contemporary MENA films recently produced despite the some logistical obstacles faced.

Curated by writer, independent film and visual arts curator Rasha Salti, she has selected a range of productions from Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Kuwait and Syria. Each offers an artistic take on some real and others imagined tales, inspired by true or fictionalised events and played by actors deserving of Oscars. The themes tackled in the selection range from love to war, music, history, religion, politics, philosophy and homosexuality, with the open invite to enter both private lives as well as to learn of public concerns.

Insight From Curator Rasha Salti

I asked Salti to describe the challenges faced by directors and production teams who are working from inside the volatile region. She said: “Filmmakers working in the Arab world face very different kinds of challenges, the ‘volatile’ political context is part of them, but I would not say it is the most inhibitive or problematic. The most serious challenges pertain to the structure of the so-called industry, its near total absence in some cases (in Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Algeria) or its fledgling state in other cases (in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia).

“In spite of the absence of an industry in the conventional sense, there are professionals, a notable number of which are very talented and very skilled. The films included in this programme are all low-budget and independent productions, also made in spite of the absence of a structure. They are also auteur, art-house films… The most urgent challenge for art-house cinema is exhibition or distribution locally, regionally and internationally. The more serious challenges that are a consequence of the socio-political contexts are censorship and self-censorship.”

I also wanted to know if she had employed a selection criterion in choosing the films. Salti replied: “In the past five or more years, I have observed a change in Arab cinema, not only are filmmakers more resolute in forging their own voice, but also they are fearless about challenging taboos and exploring different cinematic genres, risking a confrontation with authorities but also provoking the more conservative audiences.

“The Safar Film Festival includes two subjective non-fiction films (‘House without Doors’ and ‘This Little Father Obsession’), an absurdist comedy (‘Love, Theft and Other Entanglements’), two psychological dramas (‘Borders of Heaven’ and ‘Before the Summer Crowds’), two socio-political dramas (‘As I Open My Eyes’ and ‘Let Them Come’), a raucous satire (‘Starve your Dog’) and the work of Monira Al-Qadiri, an amazing video artist, that straddles the realms of film and contemporary art and film.”

The SAFAR Parallel Programme

Alongside the screenings at the ICA, there will be an additional programme of Q+As with the directors, actors and scriptwriters featured in the films. Significantly, these events have been made possible due to the success of the ABC’s recent crowd-funding campaign that has enabled them to bring everyone together as well as the the possibly of extending SAFAR to other regional UK cities.

Nadia El-Sebai, Executive Director at the ABC, said: “As the news and the media continues to depict the region through protest politics and conflict, Salti’s selection for SAFAR enables us to look beyond the headlines and provide a more meaningful insight into the emergent trends and social issues affecting communities across the Arab world. The fact that people from around the world came together to support this vision, is testament to the festival’s significance to audiences in the UK at this time.”

Nahla Ink on SAFAR Films

As I Open My Eyes (Tunisia-France, 2015)

Screening at the ICA: 17 September, 2016 at 6pm

Beautifully directed by Leyla Bouzi as a first feature film, it carries a wonderful soundtrack with songs composed by the Iraqi musicologist Khyam Allami. Set sometime before the Jasmine Revolution, young and carefree Farah (played by Baya Medhaffar) is passionate and excited to be singing with her grungy band and wants to hang out with the bohemian crowd to pursue an innocent dream of becoming a rock star.

Naïve, Farah doesn’t see how her fearless and reckless attitude can put her life in danger. In a country where an oppressive government keeps tabs on everyone, events turn for the worse when her boyfriend writes the lyrics to a politically inspired tune. In peril, Farah embodies the contradictions between the needs and desires of a certain youth who are yearning to live and be free versus a culture that wants to stifle their right to self-expression.

With the popular Tunisian singer Ghalia Ben Ali performing in the strong role of the mother, she brings a sweet and tender dimension to the tale. For good reasons, this film was a winner at the Venice International Film Festival (2015) and the Dubai International Film Festival (2015). I highly recommend viewing!

Before the Summer Crowds (Egypt, 2015)

Screening at the ICA: 14 September, 2016 at 8.30pm

Directed by the late Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Khan, this will be a UK premiere to be screened on the opening night of the festival as a tribute to Khan’s legacy and cinematic achievements over the years. ‘Before the Summer Crowds’ is a colourful fiction that exposes Egypt’s troublesome socio-economic dynamics and reveals the clear difference between the haves and have-nots with a seductive female lead.

Unhappy and frustrated with her life, rich and pretty Hala (played by Hana Sheha) wants to get away from her daily life and plans an intimate holiday with a secret lover. Hiring out a chalet at the Blue Beach resort not far from Alexandria before the high season, she doesn’t factor in the unwelcome interest nor the intrusive curiosity from her neighbour as well as the resort’s handy boy.

Obsessed, Dr Yehia (played by Maged El Kedwany) unashamedly snoops on her with his binoculars and flirts with her at every chance to the chagrin of his wife, whilst the resort caretaker Goma (played by Ahmed Dawood) gets a perverse pleasure from following her around and touching her intimate garments that she has put outside to dry in the sun. Her big plan for private time with her amour seriously backfires.

Khan sheds light on the injustices in an Egypt where the rich and the poor live in physical proximity but reside on two different planets. It is a world where the elite are outwardly spoilt, demanding and corrupt but always beyond reproach as their positions of power and money will get them out of any trouble or even scandal. It makes for an interesting viewing.

Love, Theft and Other Entanglements (Palestine, 2015)

Screening at the ICA: 15 September, 2016 at 6.15pm

Shot in dramatic black and white and directed by the Palestinian Muayad Alaya, this is an unexpected Palestinian story that is an amazing psychological thriller, drama and fairytale all rolled into one. Set in Jerusalem sometime circa the Oslo Accords, we follow Mousa (played by Sami Metwasi) who is a desperate car thief with a precarious plan to get out of the country and escape to Europe.

When he thinks he’s struck gold by stealing a valuable car – to sell its parts to fund his trip to Italy – too late he finds out that there is an Israeli soldier (played by Riyad Sliman) in the trunk who is part of a huge political exchange plot between a Palestinian militia group and the Israeli government.

When all the other characters are seriously concerned with the explosive politics and the high emotions of the Palestine-Israeli conflict, Mousa’s only concern is to put the money together to be able to leave as well as to help solve the love triangle that he is also a key part in.

Describing his film, Alayan has said: “Love, Theft and Other Entanglements is a universal story of an anti-hero and his journey towards redemption. The lead character Mousa is neither the Palestinian national ideal typically found in many Palestinian films nor the pure victim of the occupation who is otherwise a perfect manifestation of good…

“Whilst the setting of the film is Palestine, the goal is to tell a universal story about human beings and how they act under circumstances that are heavy to bear. Do we act morally under pressure or is morality a luxury when so much is at stake? Are we able to connect with others or not? Do we trust or mistrust? Do we act responsibly or selfishly? And, ultimately, how do we redeem ourselves from our own mistakes and actions?”

This one for me is another must see! Produced by the PalCine collective of filmmakers based in the Jerusalem-Bethlehem area, its goal is to make organic cinema by and about Palestinians as a community. This film was first screened in the Panorama section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.

This Little Father Obsession (Lebanon, 2015)

Screening at the ICA: 18 September, 2016 at 4pm

This is a warm-hearted family documentary drama that utilises auto-fiction film techniques with great humour. Captured over two years, Selim Mourad presents an intimate insight into his life as a young gay Lebanese male and his relationship dynamics with his parents, with an emphasis on the ‘obsession’ with his father. When the family have to leave their old house for redevelopment and must move elsewhere temporary, Selim is worried about the future.

Without siblings, he knows he cannot provide a grandchild and is concerned with what that would mean for the Mourad surname. So son goads father on a quest to explore their family tree and en route to various appointments, they engage in many philosophic conversations that openly discuss his homosexuality and contemplate whether there is perhaps a 70-year curse on them for past karmic mistakes. When eventually Selim’s earnest search discovers missing relatives, he has to confront his father.

Improvising with unusual props and getting his parents and friends to do all sorts of crazy impromptu scenes for his big documentary, Mourad employs actors and actresses in the background who surreally run around the ‘set’ as if they are real characters in a film; or, perhaps, it was his aim to creatively blend and blur the boundaries between reality and fiction. If you wish to laugh or to philosophise about family, this is the one film to book for!

Borders of Heaven (Tunisia-UAE, 2015)

Screening at the ICA: 17 September, 2016 at 4pm

Directed by Fares Naanaa, this poignant family drama will make you cry and sing. Sarah (played by Anissa Daoud) and Samy (played by Lotfi Abdel) are a young Tunisian couple in their thirties who have to endure the greatest loss possible, that of their young child. The stressful event of little Yasmine’s death comes to challenge their marriage and manifests more than just some of the already underlying cracks in their relationship.

Played powerfully by Daoud and Abdel, the pain of the couple’s predicament leads each on a different path. Whilst Sarah who is a teacher tries to find solace in work, prayer and taking part in a singing group, Samy who is an architect blames himself and is unable to turn to his wife for comfort, choosing instead to lose himself in alcohol.

With immense suspense throughout this love story, the viewer is drawn into Naanaa’s expert handling of the psychology of grief and its many complex layers of human emotion. It also beautifully portrays the possibilities for closure and when there are reasons for hope to live once again. Another must see, this film premiered at the Dubai International Film Festival (2015), where Abdel won the ‘Muhr Feature’ award for best actor.

Starve Your Dog (Morocco, 2015)

Screening at the ICA: 18 September, 2016 at 6pm

Part of a trilogy with a ‘Dog’ theme directed by the Moroccan Hicham Lasri, this film cleverly deploys an imaginary journalistic scoop that revisits the real ‘Years of Lead’ in Morocco. The film reflects on the country’s current socio-political and economic scene and one is made visually aware of the frustrations of the millions who are still illiterate, poor, desperate and afraid.

Set in Casablanca, an incredible interview is just about to take place and be nationally broadcast. Pretending that the real but dead ex-Minister of Interior Driss Basri (played by Jirari Ben Aissa) is still alive circa 2012 and ready to confess for his political crimes, a desperate female journalist quickly puts together a production team to capture the historical moment. But things don’t’ work out as planned when their sound system and video equipment fail to capture Basri’s dramatic performance.

For the Moroccans, Basri was the notorious right-hand man working for King Hassan II who had complete control of the police, security and intelligence services in the time between 1979-1999. He was therefore complicit in many of the horrors that took place then, from killings to ‘disappearances’ of dissidents as well as the torture and imprisonment of many who opposed the regime.

As a Libyan observer, I was conscious of the irrational political rhetoric spewed by Basri to justify his past evil acts and Lasri’s referencing via archival political material is a very powerful reminder of the fear and paranoia associated with that time. In a frightening sense, also, the metaphor of the ‘dog’ wasn’t lost on me. Gaddafi used that term to insult the people he was planning to execute or assassinate; and, ironically, he was referred to as the ‘mad dog’ himself by others.

For the full SAFAR 2016 programme, details of the Q+As as well as a promotional code when booking: https://www.arabbritishcentre.org.uk/projects/safar-film-festival-series/safar-2016/full-programme-listing/

Note: This article was first published circa September 2016

AWAN Returns: Niche Festival Strengthening Arab Female Creatives in London, in Style and Now!

Awarded pioneers in ‘stirring the arts, breaking down borders and telling unheard stories’ in connection with the Arab world in London, Arts Canteen is also hosts the annual ‘Arab Women Artists Now’ (AWAN) festival. Organised and directed in collaboration with partners, it is now in its fourth edition and will run throughout March, to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Bringing forward the diverse talent, achievements and industrious work of Arab female creatives, AWAN offers not only the chance to attend and enjoy the artistic programme, but it also enables direct networking opportunities – through workshops and the ‘Connect’ programme – whereby established and emerging arts professionals can engage with each other and help guide new hopefuls who may wish to break into the field.

Proving highly popular for its intimate niche outside of the mainstream IWD women events in the UK and abroad – for example, the ‘WOW’ festival at the Southbank Centre – last year’s AWAN attracted an audience reach of 26,000 in London and beyond, both in reality and virtually online.

In terms of what AWAN aims to provide for its visitors, founder of Arts Canteen, Aser El Saqqa, said to Nahla Ink: “AWAN will raise awareness, attract attendance from and create conversations among large numbers of different types of people. In effect, we enable and market positive new ideas about Arab identity at the grassroots, across a broad social spectrum.

“In addition, AWAN community cherishes its ability to strengthen cultural pride and positive self-identity among Arab diasporas in Europe as well as spread a message of Arab talent, harmony and creativity to non-Arab audiences.”

This year the schedule runs from 1-25 March and will host over twenty separate events under the categories of music, comedy, film, visual arts, performance and the informative and practical workshops. Each of these will take place in one of these venues: Rich Mix (Shoreditch), the Royal Albert Hall, Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen, Chatham House, the Arab British Centre or the Book Club.

For the fantastic line up and plan your AWAN visit: https://www.awan.org.uk/

Note: This article was first published circa March 2018

The BFI London Film Festival 2017 – The MENA-Inspired Choices

The BFI London Films Festival (BFI LFF) returns for its 61st edition and set to screen a selection totalling 242 feature films and 128 shorts, made by both established and emerging directorial talent from across the globe. Over twelve days from 4-15 October, London will host a celebration of cinematic output that illustrates the richness of international filmmaking and bringing together a stellar line up of cast and crew. 

As the UK’s leading film festival, the BFI LFF offers the UK public and film industry professionals the chance to be the first to view new films sourced from over 55 countries, alongside a wide events programme where audiences can engage with the world’s most inspiring creative-cinematic talent. This year, the festival will host 28 World Premieres, 9 International Premieres and 34 European Premieres.

As with each year, the online and printed programme classifies films by strands under which they can be found.  These important strands are: Galas, Official Competition, Experimenta, Create, Thrill, Dare, Laugh, Debate, Cult, Love, Journey, Treasures and Family. It is under these strands you have to locate any film of interest and the only way of booking your ticket.

Programmed by MENA-region advisors Elhum Shakerifar and Ali Jaafar, this year’s festival includes at least ten features that are connected to the following countries: Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Lebanon, Algeria and Tunisia, UAE (production) and Qatar (production).

Relating to these films, Shakerifar said to Nahla Ink: “The selection process lasts over months, as we try to bring a dynamic mix of the region’s most exciting new titles to a London audience. This year at LFF, there is definitely something for everyone and the MENA region is represented by a broad array of talent as diverse as the region itself. It is a selection strong in emotions: from the sly humour and absurd realities of ‘Lebanon Factory’ and the charming father and son road trip of discovery of ‘Wajib’ (Annemarie Jacir), to the interwoven stories of a conflicted modern day Casablanca in ‘Razzia’ (Nabil Ayouch) and the taut social drama of ‘The Journey’ (Mohamed Al Daradji). For the dreamers and the cerebral, ‘Le Fort des Fous’ (Narimane Mari) will give a lot to think about, for those wanting to see systemic change, ‘Beauty and The Dogs’ (Kaouther Ben Hania) packs a punch.”

WAJIB

Production: Palestine

Director : Annemarie Jacir

Genre: Official Competition Strand

Showing: Monday 9 October 2017, 6pm Embankment Garden Cinema

Showing; Wednesday 11 October 2017, 2.15pm Embankment Garden Cinema

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

RAZZIA

Production: France

Director: Nabil Ayouch

Genre: Debate Strand

Showing: Thursday 5 October 2017, 8.45pm Cine Lumiere

Showing: Friday 06 October 2017, 6.10pm BFI Southbank NFT2

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loa…

LOOKING FOR OUM KULTHUM

Production: Germany-Austria-Italy-Lebanon-Qatar

Director: Shirin Neshat

Genre: Special Presentations Strand

Showing: Saturday 7 October 2017, 6.20pm BFI Southbank NFT1

Showing: Sunday 8 October 2017, 3.30pm Rich Mix Cinema

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loa…

LEBANON FACTORY

Production: Lebanon-France

Directors: Ahmad Ghossein, Lucie La Chimia, Shirin AbuShaqra, Manuel Maria Perrone, Una Gunjak, Rami Kodeih, Mounia Akl, Neto Villalobos

Genre: Journey Strand

Showing: Saturday 7 October 2017, 3.15pm ICA Cinema Screen 1

Showing: Sunday 08 October 2017, 1pm at Cine Lumiere

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loa…

LE FORT DES FOUS

Production: France-Greece-Germany-Qatar

Director: Narimane Mari

Genre: Experimenta Strand

Showing: Sunday 08 October 2017, 5.45pm BFI Southbank NFT3

Showing: Wednesday 11 October 2017, 6.10pm BFI Southbank, Studio

Link : https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loa…

THE NILE HILTON INCIDENT

Production: Sweden-Denmark-Germany

Director: Tarik Saleh

Genre: Thrill Strand

Showing; Wednesday 11 October 2017, 6:30pm Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 5

Showing: Thursday 12 October 2017, 6:10pm Cine Lumiere

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loa…

THE JOURNEY

Production: UK-Iraq-France-Qatar-Netherlands

Director: Mohamed Jabarah Al-Daradji

Genre: Journey Strand

Showing: Wednesday 11 October 2017, 8:45pm Curzon Soho Cinema

Showing: Thursday 12 October 2017, 6.30pm Rich Mix Cinema

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loa…

OUROBOROS

Production: France-Palestine-Belgium-Qatar

Director: Basma Alsharif

Genre: Experimenta Strand

Showing: Friday 13 October 2017, 6:30pm BFI Southbank, NFT3

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loa…

SHEIKH JACKSON

Production: Egypt

Director: Amr Salama

Genre: Journey Strand

Showing: Thursday 05 October 2017, 9pm Curzon Soho Cinema

Showing: Saturday 07 October 2017, 12.15pm Curzon Mayfair Cinema

Showing: Thursday 12 October 2017, 3:15pm Vue Leicester Square

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loa…

 

BEAUTY AND THE DOGS

Production: Tunisia-France-Norway-Lebanon-Qatar-Sweden-Switzerland

Director: Kaouther Ben Hania

Genre: Debate Strand

Showing: Wednesday 04 October 2017, 8:45pm ICA Cinema

Showing: Thursday 05 October 2017, 2:45pm Vue Leicester Square

Showing: Friday 06 October 2017, 1pm BFI Southbank, NFT2

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loa…

Note: This article was first published circa October 2017

BFI London Film Festival 2016: Films From The MENA Region

The BFI London Film Festival celebrates an impressive 60 years this year. Launching this week Britain’s leading film festival takes place over 12 days and will bring 249 feature films and 145 shorts, including features and documentaries, live action and animated works. With 74 countries participating, there will be 39 world, twelve international, 49 European and eight world restoration premieres. Up for grabs also are the prestigious LFF Best Film Award, the Grierson Award for Documentary, the Sutherland Award for First Feature and the Short Film Award.

The screenings can be viewed across fourteen London cinemas, including: the BFI Southbank, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), the RItzy Cinema, the Curzon Cinemas, the Vue West End, the Embankment Garden Cinema and others. Part of the festival will also feature a stellar line-up of directors, cast and crew who are expected to take part in career interviews, screen talks, Q+As and Industry talks for those interested to learn more from behind the scenes.

Relevant to the MENA region, there are at least 20 titles that I picked out, with works from: Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Tunisia, Qatar, Morocco, Lebanon and Jordan. To help you easily navigate the BFI LFF website, I have listed below the film titles with names of directors, the country of production and the genre-category by which they are registered. I do advise early booking as many of these screenings include world premieres and sell out fast.

Barakah Meets Barakah

Director: Mahmoud Sabbagh

Production: Saudi Arabia (2016)

Genre: Laugh

Showing: Thu 6 October, 6.30pm at Curzon Soho

Showing: Sat 8 October, 8.30pm at Ciné Lumière

​Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Farouk, Besieged Like Me (Mouhassaron Mithli)

Director: Hala Alabdalla

Production: Syria-France (2016)

Genre: Debate

Showing: Fri 7 October, 6.15pm at BFI Southbank NFT2

Showing: Sat 8 October, 3pm at Ciné Lumière

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

In the Last Days of the City (Akher Ayam El Medina)

Director: Tamer El Said

Production: Egypt-Germany-UK (2016)

Genre: Debate

Showing: Sun 9, October, 8.45pm at Picturehouse Central

Showing: Tue 11 October, 3.30pm at BFI Southbank NFT2

​Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Hedi (Inhebbek Hedi)

Director: Mohamed Ben Attia

Production: Tunisia-Belgium-France-Qatar-UAE (2016)

Genre: First Feature Competition

Showing: Tue 11 October, 9pm at ICA

Showing: Wed 12 October, 1.15pm at BFI Southbank NFT3

Showing: Sat 15 October, 3.45pm at Ciné Lumière

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Mimosas

Director: Oliver Laxe

Production: Qatar-Morocco-Spain-France (2016)

Genre: Journey

Showing: Thu 6 October, 9pm at BFI Southbank NFT3

Showing: Fri 7 October, 1pm at ICA

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Tickling Giants

Director: Sara Taksler

Production: Egypt-UK-US (2016)

Genre: Laugh

Showing: Wed 12 October, 6pm at VUE West End Screen 7

Showing: Sat 15 October, 6.15pm at BFI Southbank NFT2

LInk: ​Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Tramontane

Director: Vatche Boulghourjian

Production: Lebanon-France (2016)

Genre: Journey

Showing: Sun 9 October, 1pm at Ritzy Cinema

Showing: Wed 12 October, 6.30pm at BFI Southbank NFT2

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Clash (Eshtebak)

Director: Mohamed Diab

Production: Egypt (2016)

Genre: Official Competition

Showing: Wed 12 October, 8.45pm at Embankment Garden Cinema

Showing; Thu 13 October, 2.30pm at Embankment Garden Cinema

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

A Day for Women (Yom Lel Setat)

Director: Kamla Abouzekri

Production: Egypt (2016)

Genre: Debate

Showing; Thu 6 October, 8.45pm at Picturehouse Central

Showing: Fri 7 October, 1pm at BFI Southbank NFT3

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Adieu Bonaparte

Director: Youssef Chahine

Production: Egypt-France (1984)

Genre: Debate

Showing; Fri 7 October, 8.45pm at BFI Southbank NFT2

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

The Worthy

Director: Ali F Mostfa

Production: UAE (2016)

Genre: Dare

Showing; Sat 8 October, 6pm at VUE West End Screen 7

Showing: Sun 9 October, 6.15pm at ICA

Showing: Sat 15 October, 9pm at Curzon Mayfair

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Layla M

Director: Mijke de Jong

Production: Jordan-Netherlands-Belgium-Germany (2016)

Genre: Official Competition

Showing: Tue 11 October, 6pm at Embankment Garden Cinema

Showing: Thu 13 October, 12noon at Embankment Garden Cinema

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Divines

Director: Houda Benyamina

Production: Qatar-France (2016)

Genre: First Feature Competition

Showing: Thu 6 October, 6.15pm at Haymarket Cinema

Showing: Fri 7 October, 3.30pm at BFI Southbank NFT2

Showing: Tue 11 October, 6.30pm at Ritzy Cinema

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

The War Show

Directors: Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon

Production: Syria-Finland-Denmark (2016)

Genre: Documentary Competition

Showing: Thu 13 October, 6pm at VUE West End Screen 7

Showing: Sat 15 October, 12.45noon at Curzon Mayfair

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo

Director: Issa Touma

Production: Syria-Netherlands (2015)

Genre: Debate

Showing: Sun 9 October, 3.45pm at ICA

Showing: Mon 10 October, 6pm at BFI Southbank NFT3

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Battalion To My Heart (2016): Algeria-US-Western Sahara

Director: Elmi Imanishi

Genre: Debate

Showing: Sun 9 October, 3.45pm at ICA

Showing; 10 October, 6pm at NFT3

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Letters from Baghdad

Directors: Sabine Krayenbuhl and Zeya Oelbaum

Production: UK-US (2016)

Genre: Journey

Showing: Sun 9 October, 3.30pm at Haymarket Cinema

Showing: Mon 10 October, 8.45pm at BFI Southbank NFT2

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Moderation

Director: Anja Kirschner

Production: Egypt- Greece-Italy-UK (2016)

Genre: Experimenta

Showing: Sat 15, October, 8.15pm at BFI Southbank NFT3

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

In the Future, They Ate from the Finest Porcelain

Director: Larissa Sansour

Production: Qatar-UK-Denmark

Genre: Experimenta

Showing: Fri 7 October, 6.30pm at BFI Southbank NFT3

​Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Ruins of Palmyra and Baalbeck

Director: Jack Cardiff

Production: (1938)

Genre: Dare

Showing: Sun 9 October, 12.30noon at BFI Southbank NFT2

Link: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp?BOparam::WScontent::lo…

Note: This article was first published circa October 2016

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