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Tea with Culture

Podcast featuring discussions and interviews about the cultural happenings in the United Arab Emirates presented by Hind Mezaina (The Culturist) and Wael Hattar.


Revived and Restored Films to See at Berlinale 2018

Greetings from Berlin. I'm attending the film festival here which is on from 15 - 25 February. There's a long list of new films to see, but I've also got my eye on the rich selection of old films that are included in this year's edition. 

The Restrospective section this year is titled “Weimar Cinema Revisited”,  focusing on cinema in the Weimar era. Between 1918 and 1933 it was one if the most productive and influential phases in Germanfilmmaking began unfolding, a creative era that went on to shape international perception of the country’s filmculture, even to the present day. The selection includes a total of 28 programmes of narrative, documentary,and short films made between 1918 and 1933.

The Berlinale Classics section features world premieres of a total of seven films in digitally restored versions,and the Homage section is dedicated to Willem Dafoe. Lastly, the Forum section includes a series of Special Screenings committed to an alternative view of film historiography.  

Here are my top picks of revived/restored films to see at Berlinale, per section, listed in the order of the year each film wasoriginally released. I've also included the screening format. My list is focused on feature films only (there's along list of short films I recommend you look up if you are at the festival). Click on each title for more details(images and synposis extracts from the Berlinale website). 



Restrospective - Weimar Cinema Revisited

Heaven on Earth
Director: Reinhold Schünzel Alfred Schirokauer  
1927 | Germany 113 min | 35 mm | Restored Version 2013  

Local representative Traugott Bellmann is a vocal critic of society’s moral decline in general and the notorious nightclub “Heaven on Earth” in particular. Just his luck that he inherits the place – along with half a million marks – and furthermore, on the day, of all days, that he is appointed president of the Moral Decency League! And just his luck that the terms of the inheritance from his deceased brother stipulate that Bellmann has tospend every night from ten to three in the morning in his newly-acquired “den of iniquity”.

Adding to the just his luck scenario is the fact that it all happens on Bellmann’s wedding day, with the daughter of a respectable champagne bottler waiting for her bridegroom in the bedroom … Shimmy, jazz, and Ziegfeld-style girl revues. With risqué innuendo and effervescent humour, the film turns elements of urbaneentertainment into an attack on the 1926 obscenity law.  


Show Life
Director: Richard Eichberg
1928 | Germany / United Kingdom |125 min | 35 mm 

This melodrama set in exotic locales is considered the most mature work of Richard Eichberg, a busy director who worked across all genres. With delicate Hollywood star Anna May Wong, and heavyweight Heinrich George as the leads, the film unfolds as a dazzling visual interplay of contrasts.

Moving between dive bar and cabaret, ocean liner and night train, this German-British co-production represented Weimar cinema’s first foray into the milieu of European ex-pats in a colonial setting, which wasvery attractive for western foreign markets.  


Spring Awakening
Director: Richard Oswald  
1929 | Germany | 95 min | 35 mm 

Setting in the 1920s, the film explores “modern” youth culture, complete with cigarettes, jazz music, the gramophone, and a goodly bit of alcohol. Richard Oswald, a master of films of manners and young sex beginning in the 1910s, fully explores the temptations of the youthful body, even early childhood flirtatiousness. At the same time, with his target audience in mind, the film laments the bigotry and double standards of theadult world. 


Her Majesty, Love
Director: Joe May
1931 | Germany 101 min | 35 mm    

To provoke his brother Othmar, the director of Wellingen motor works, charming playboy Fred von Wellingen gets engaged to barmaid Lia Török. But the company needs a fresh influx of money, so Othmar wants Fred to marry the wealthy Miss Lingenfeld, and promises to promote Fred to general manager in return for giving up Lia. Fred, who by this time is genuinely in love with the barmaid, reluctantly accepts the deal.

The supporting actors are the stars in this tempestuous film operetta. In a mad dash to a surprise ending, a colourful chorus of song numbers, sketches, and artistic tomfoolery put those minor roles at the centre of attention – as filled by actors such as Ralph Arthur Roberts, Szöke Szakall, Otto Wallburg, and Adele Sandrock, who were an essential part of the rich pool of acting talent boasted by Weimar-era cinema.  


The Blue Light 
Director: Leni Riefenstahl  
1932 | Germany | 86 min |  2K DCP Theatrical Release Version 1932, digitally restored 2018 

In an isolated mountain village in the Dolomites, the painter Vigo meets a young woman named Junta. She is ostracised by the superstitious villagers who consider her a witch. They believe that numerous young men, lured by Junta’s beauty, have followed her towards a mysterious blue light on Monte Cristallo and fallen to theirdeaths. Vigo wins the affection of the shy hermit. He moves into her hut and one night, he discovers her secret.

For her directing debut, Leni Riefenstahl also wrote the script with critic Béla Balázs. The film was an outlier intwo respects. Made not only outside of the established Berlin studio system, it was also something of a ‘chick flick’ within the mountain film genre – movies made by and with men, and heavy on athleticism and documentary-style images.   


Berlinale Classics 

Tokyo Boshoku
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
1957 | Japan | 140 min 4K DCP | Digitally restored version 2017 

In a barren, cold Tokyo, a young woman is broken by her father’s harsh nature and silence. This largely-unknown work is considered Ozu’s darkest post-war film. 


Fail Safe
Director: Sidney Lumet  
1964 | USA | 112 min | Black/White | 4K DCP | Digitally restored version 2017  

The film is an intimate drama about nuclear war. This taut psychological drama is based on the eponymous bestselling book published in 1962, the year of the Cuban missile crisis. It is an impressive critique of the Cold War military doctrine, with its portrayal of politicians and the military mired in the fatal logic of mutually assured destruction.   


Wings of Desire
Director: Wim Wenders
1987 |  Federal Republic of Germany / France | 129 min | 4K DCP | Digitally restored version 2018  

Damiel and Cassiel, the film’s two main characters, are guardian angels – benevolent, invisible beings wearing long coats. They are unable to intervene in human lives, but they can hear the thoughts of mortals and attempt to comfort them. Damiel falls in love with trapeze artist Marion and wants to become human, even though thatmeans giving up immortality.

Peter Falk, playing himself as a former angel, has already taken that fateful step and urges Damiel to leave eternity behind too. The story is told from the point of view of the angels, who see the world in black and white. It is not until Damiel becomes human that the world of colour reveals itself to him.   


My 20th Century  
Director: Ildikó Enyedi 
1989 | Hungary, Federal Republic of Germany | 105 min | 4K DCP | Digitally restored version 2017 

A romantic love story, a poetic fairy tale, an erotic riddle – and at the same time, an inventory of new technology – electricity, the telegraph, film. Conceived as an homage to silent movies and shot in black-and-white, My 20th Century references many silent film techniques and tricks. 


To Live and Die in L.A. 
Director: William Friedkin    
1985 | USA |  116 min | 2K DCP  
In this action-packed thriller, Willem Dafoe is a kind of Mick Jagger of the local gangster milieu. His character has a sense of fashion reflected in his clothing and the decoration of his apartment, and a sexual ambivalence that he acts out in a liaison with his lesbian accomplice; he counters the machismo of the federal agent with sardonic charm.  
Director: Oliver Stone

1986 | USA  | 120 min | 35 mm

In the autumn of 1967 during the Vietnam War, army volunteer Chris Taylor is assigned to an infantry platoon near the Cambodian border. He soon realises that he and his comrades have very little chance of surviving intheir fight against the Vietcong. He begins hanging out with a clique of pot-smoking GIs surrounding Elias Grodin, a veteran, disillusioned sergeant who believes the war has already been lost.
When a group of frustrated soldiers massacres the inhabitants of a Vietnamese village, Grodin threatens to turn them in. But theleader of the group is also the sergeant’s superior and during the next patrol, he takes steps to protect himself. 


The Last Temptation of Christ 
Director: Martin Scorsese 
1988 | USA / Canada | 163 min | 2K DCP   

Jesus, a Jewish carpenter from Bethlehem, who makes the crosses that the Roman occupiers use forexecutions, hears the voice of God. He gathers disciples around him and travels the land performing miracles.Judas, tasked with winning him over to the political resistance, also joins the group. In Jerusalem, Jesus bringsdown the ire of the religious and secular authorities upon himself.
But it is not until Judas betrays him that he is captured and nailed to a cross. Whereupon a guardian angelappears to him. In Martin Scorsese’s extremely controversial film adaptation of the eponymous novel, theredeemer is confronted with a range of worldly temptations, giving Dafoe a platform for one of his mostpowerful onscreen performances.    



Mississippi Burning
Director: Alan Parker
1988 | 120 min |  35 mm 

Mississippi, 1964. After driving through the night from the north, three young civil rights activists – two white and one black – disappear without a trace. Young FBI agent Alan Ward and his partner, Mississippian Rupert Anderson, are sent to investigate. But their inquiries are met with resistance at every turn, by racist locals, intimidated African-Americans, and first and foremost, the local sheriff and the mayor, who at a bare minimum sympathise with the Ku Klux Klan, possibly worse. When the FBI agents find the missing activists’ burnt-out car, they assume murder. 

Shadow of the Vampire 
Director: E. Elias Merhige
2000 | USA / United Kingdom / Luxembourg | 90 min | 35 mm
During the making of Nosferatu, a film version of Bram Stoker’s vampire tale “Dracula”, Berlin-based director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau aims for high realism. The exteriors are shot in 1921 in the Carpathian Mountains,where the farmers are played by real farmers. The vampire is played by Max Schreck, known as an adherent ofthe Reinhardt and Stanislavski methods.
But suddenly the thespian begins behaving strangely. He’ll only shoot at night, he never takes his costume off, and he attacks the cinematographer several times. But above all, he has a special craving for his co-star Greta Schröder, who is innocent of the real nature of her over-assertive colleague. 
Auto Focus
Director: Paul Schrader   
2002 | USA |  106 min | 35 mm   
When Bob Crane, the star of TV’s Hogan’s Heroes, meets video technician John Carpenter in the 1960s, it changes his life. The actor had previously made do with porn magazines to survive in a sexually-unfulfilling marriage; now he is making his own porn films – starring himself.
Crane and Carpenter’s friendship remains intact as long as Bob uses his celebrity to lure in women, and John keeps acquiring the latest equipment. But then Crane’s wife, and more and more of his film colleagues learn of his escapades. Not only his marriage, but also his career goes into a steep decline. 




Tahia ya Didou
Director: Mohamed Zinet  
1971 | Algeria | 81 min 

Blending documentary with fiction, Mohamed Zinet’s unique film Tahia ya Didou is an exquisite appropriation ofa commission by the city of Algiers that doesn’t vacuously promote tourism but rather creates a poetic, acerbicand rapturous portrait of the director’s native city. The camera travels freely, through the port, market, streetsand cafés, capturing everyday people, some of whom recur frequently enough to seem like protagonists.

The nominal plotline follows a French tourist couple’s leisurely visit to the city, the man having previouslyserved in the army during the Algerian war. As they walk around, his comments betray his mindset’s racistcolonial prejudices, while his wife reiterates asinine clichés.   


Stories of the Dumpster Kid
Directors: Edgar Reitz, Ula Stöckl
1971 | Germany | 220 min

The Dumpster Kid (Kristine de Loup) grows from a placenta. Dr. Wohlfahrt from social services finds her on a hospital rubbish dump. In subsequent episodes, she looks for foster parents to take responsibility for the kid and integrate her into society. Dumpster Kid goes to school and to church.

Always dressed in a red dress and red tights, she is nosy about everything, asking a few too many questions and taking whatever she desires. She steals and has sex, seducing some and humiliating others. She meets Al Capone and d’Artagnan. She is always in danger, yet immortal.  


Shaihu Umar
Director: Adamu Halilu  
1976 | Nigeria | 142 min

Set in northern Nigeria towards the end of the 19th century, Shaihu Umar starts with a discussion between Islamic students and their renowned teacher, the wise man Shaihu Umar. Asked about his origins, Umar begins to tell his story: he comes from a modest background and is separated from his mother after his father diesand his stepfather is banished.

His subsequent trials and tribulations are marked by slavery, and he is put to any number of tests until hefinally becomes the adopted son of his Arabic master Abdulkarim. He attends Koran School and is made animam upon reaching adulthood. Following a particular dream, he resolves to search for his mother.

11 x 14 
Director: James Benning  
1977 | USA | 82 min | 35 mm  

11 x 14, the first feature-length film by James Benning, is film theory in images. It is composed of single shots,each of which individually narrate something and hold the film together via recurring elements. What isnarrated is pure form. 


Abnormal Family
Director:   Masayuki Suo
1984 | Japan |  63 min

The debut film of the future director of hit international comedy Shall We Dance? (1996) follows the antics of the five members of the model middle-class Mamiya family after the latest arrival into the household, the voluptuous new bride Yuriko of the over-sexed eldest son Koichi. Younger brother Kazuo sees his new sister-in-law as a possible source of release from study stress, while his sister Akiko dons her office lady uniform every morning and slips out of her family’s eyesight with a cheery smile, before heading straight to a workplace that offers much more in the way of financial incentive than the office.

Meanwhile, their father remains a silent fixture behind his newspaper, nodding sagely at the head of the table, while waxing wistfully about the owner of the local bar who reminds him of his dead wife.  




Reel Palestine 2018 

The independent and beloved film festival Reel Palestine is back this month in the UAE with its 4th edition, taking place between 19th and 27th January with film screenings in Dubai (Cinema Akil at The Yard in Alserkal Avenue), Sharjah (Mirage Cinema) and for the first time in Abu Dhabi (Manarat Al Saadiyat). 

I've been featuring this festival on the blog since it started (here, here and here) and seen it grow from a small screening space at thejamjar to having hundreds of attendess at outdoor screenings in Alserkal Avenue.

For this edition, I wanted to have a discussion with the team behind the festival, to talk about its origins and growth over the past few years, and to know more about how the festival has been engaging with its audiences and if it faces any challenges.  

I invited Dana Sadek, one of the co-founders of Reel Palestine to join me and Wael Hattar on our Tea with Culture podcast to talk about the festival. I invite you to listen to it here. It's important to know the importance of this festival to the audience in the UAE and what it means to the team behind it. We discuss the work that goes into it, some of the challenge and also the joy and connections it brings to the festival goers. 


This year's edition will open and close with Wajib, directed by Annemarie Jacir, which recently screened at Dubai International Film Festival where it won he film won Best Feature and its two leading actors, Mohammad Bakri and Saleh Bakri jointly winning the Best Actor award.  It's also one of my favourite films of 2017, and if you are in the UAE and missed out during DIFF, you will have two chances to watch Wajib at Reel Palestine. There's also a selection feature films, short films and critically acclaimed documentaries,

 Here's the full line up with dates and locations. All the screenings are free to attend. Click on the film titles for more information. 


19th January at 7:00 pm, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai
27th January at 8:00 pm, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah 


Directed by Annemarie Jacir
Drama | 2017 | 96 mins. | Arabic (English subtitles)    

The heart-warming story of the rediscovery and reconciliation of a troubled father-son relationship, ‘Wajib’ follows a day in the life of Abu Shadi and his son Shadi. With his sister’s wedding a month away, Shadi travels from his job as an architect in Rome to help his father in the customary hand-delivery of the wedding invitations.

As the estranged pair spend the day together, the tense details of their relationship come to a head, challenging their fragile and very different lives.


20th January 20th at 8:00 pm, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah
26th January 26th at 7:00 pm, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai   ​

Ghost Hunting
Directed by Raed Andoni
Documentary | 2017 | 94 mins | Arabic (English Subtitles)  

As a result of being jailed in the Shin Bet’s Al-Moskobiya investigation centre at the age of 18, director Raed Andoni has fragments of memories he cannot determine as real or imagined. In order to confront the ghosts that haunt him, Andoni decides to try to rebuild that mysterious place.

Responding to a job announcement seeking ex-inmates of Al-Moskobiya who have experience in construction, architecture, painting, carpentry and acting, a large group gathers in an empty yard near Ramallah. Together, they start a journey in which they rediscover the shape of their old prison, try to face the consequences of being under absolute control, and attempt to re-enact a story that took place inside the centre’s walls.


21st January at 7:30 pm, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai   

1948: Creation & ​Catastrophe
Directed by Ahlam Muhtaseb & Andy Trimlett
Documentary | 2016 | 84 mins | Arabic & English

Through riveting and moving personal recollections of both Palestinians and Israelis, 1948: Creation & Catastrophe reveals the shocking events of the most pivotal year in the most controversial conflict in the world. It tells the story of the establishment of Israel as seen through the eyes of the people who lived it. But rather than being a history lesson, this documentary is a primer for the present. It is simply not possible to make sense of what is happening in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today without an understanding of 1948.   


22nd January at 7:30 pm, The Yard, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai    

The Villagers
Directed by Nidal Badarny  
Short | 2015 | 10 minutes | Arabic (English Subtitles)  

A tempestuous Palestinian love story alongside the ‘separation wall’. The story heads towards an end when Majdi decides to leave the country since his dreams and the plums can no longer find their space given the circumstances. His love, Salma, tries to stop him, but to no avail. Suddenly, Majdi and Salma escape from their secret love-nest near the wall, after ‘Abu Mustafa’ discovers their story.

The tragic love story ends and a new story begins with a new protagonist, Abu Mustafa, with the same wall that remains present in all details; giant, grey, absurd. Simply an absurd film, because cinema is frivolous; cinema is absurd.   


You Reap What You Sow
Directed by Alaa Ashkar
Documentary | 2016 | 70 minutes | Arabic (English Subtitles)

A Palestinian director living in France was about to start a documentary about the Palestinian memory. During his research for film locations in Galilee, his family who lives there expressed its concern about the idea of making the film.

The director decides to include his family in the scenario and ends up giving us an intimate story about the evolution of his identity, since his childhood within his protective family, until adulthood through his travels.   


23rd January at 7:30 pm, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai 

A series of Short Films


The Parrot
Directed by Darin J. Sallam, Amjad Al-Rasheed
Narrative | 2016 | 18 minutes | Arabic (English Subtitles) 

​Five Boys and a Wheel  
Directed by Said Zagha
Drama | 2016 | 20 mins / Arabic (English Subtitles) 

Directed by Ahmed Saleh
Drama | 2016 | 11 mins / Arabic (English Subtitles) 

Drowning Man
Directed by Mahdi Fleifel
Drama | 2017 | 15 mins | Arabic (English Subtitles) 

Beneath the Earth
Directed by Sami Alalul
Documentary | 2017 | 21 mins | Arabic (English Subtitles)  


23rd January at 7:30 pm, Manarat Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi   

Fire at Sea
Directed by Gianfranco Rosi
Documentary | 2016 | 114 mins / Italian & English  

Situated some 200km off Italy's southern coast, Lampedusa has hit world headlines in recent years as the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants hoping to make a new life in Europe.

Rosi spent months living on the Mediterranean island, capturing its history, culture and the current everyday reality of its 6,000-strong local population as hundreds of migrants land on its shores on a weekly basis. The resulting documentary focuses on 12-year-old Samuele, a local boy who loves to hunt with his slingshot and spend time on land even though he hails from a culture steeped in the sea.  


25th January at 7:30 pm, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai  ​   

Stitching Palestine
Directed by Carol Mansour
Documentary | 2017 | 78 mins | Arabic (English Subtitles)

Twelve Palestinian women sit before us and talk of their life before the Diaspora, of their memories, of their lives and of their identity. Their narratives are connected by the enduring thread of the ancient art of embroidery.   ​

Twelve resilient, determined and articulate women from disparate walks of life: lawyers, artists, housewives, activists, architects, and politicians stitch together the story of their homeland, of their dispossession, and of their unwavering determination that justice will prevail. Through their stories, the individual weaves into the collective, yet remaining distinctly personal.  



Happy New Year 

Happy New Year. Hope 2018 bring us more joy and less pain. x


[Image from A Fantastic Woman (dir. Sebastián Lelio)]


My Top 50 Films 2017

The best thing that happened to me this summer was watching 
Twin Peaks: The Return. I knew then it would be number one in my end of year list, I was certain I won't see anything better, and I was right. Nothing moved me, challenged my thinking and occupied my mind this year as Twin Peaks: The Return.
The debates "is it a movie or is it TV" started a few weeks ago (after appearing on Sight & Sound and Cahier du Cinema's end of year film polls (no. 2 and no. 1), but has recently calmed down and many pieces have been written arguing both sides, but I will hold on to this one by Vadim Rizov arguing that it's both.  
Unlike the past three years, I will start with my number 1 and end at 50, sharing a few thoughts along the way. The list includes theatrical releases in the UAE and elsewhere, plus fims I watched at festivals and a few on VOD. 

(Films I missed out on and hope to see them in 2018:  Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, Western, Song of Granite, Claire's Camera, The Day After, Song to Song, 24 Frames)  

1. Twin Peaks: The Return (Mark Frost and David Lynch, 2017)  

Monday mornings between 22nd May and 4th September were dedicated to Twin Peaks: The Return (in Dubai the new parts were available the morning after it aired in the US). There was humour and sadness in almost in every new hourly revelation, and there was also mystery, questions and a few other things that I am still trying to articulate.

Both Frost and Lynch offered us a narrative that many of us are still trying to comprehend. I knew from the start we will not be getting easy answers and I recall telling myself I'm happy if we don't get the answers, I am just enjoying the journey.

The deep chills, the utter sadness and the sinking feeling I felt at the very last scene is something I will never, ever forget. 

I enjoyed connecting and bonding with others who were dedicated to this show. We will no doubt be thinking about and discussing Twin Peaks: The Return over many years and I for one feel lucky to have been able to experience and savour each new hour between May and September. A feeling I truly miss. I have not really watched anything that has made me feel the same way again. Not sure if I ever will.

I look forward to revisiting all 18 hours again, and I hope that one day I can watch them on the big screen. MoMA already announced it will screen all 18 hours over three days early January 2018 (herehere and here) and I am devastated I can't go. I hope more cinemas will try to schedule something similar in the coming year and hopefully I will be able to attend too. 


2. Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017)  

Lucrecia Martel's Zama is a masterpiece. It's hypnotic, visually stunning and intellectually complex. About existentialism, the 
subconscious, masculinity and colonialism. There's a lot to unpack in this film which requires more than one viewing for me to be able to articulate myself better about this film. 


3. Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016)

Silence is the Martin Scorsese film we don't deserve. It shamefully didn't do well at the box office. I just hope it will be considered one of his best in the future. An incredibly moving film about the complexities of morality and faith. Regardless what your personal beliefs are about religion, Scorsese has made a masterpiece that has yet to be appreciated by many.    


4. Columbus (Kogonada, 2017) 

This first feature film by Kogonada is about family and melancholia and Modernist architecture. An elegant, soothing and touching film. So much in it is conveyed in its many quiet moments.  


5. Lucky (John Carroll Lynch, 2017) 

Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, life and a turtle.   


6. Angels Wear White (Vivian Qu, 2017) 

Vivian Qu's Angels Wear White is an urgent and devastating film about the patriarchy and society's implicitness in sexism and covering up sexual violence.  


7. Princess Cyd (Stephen Cone, 2017) 

Princess Cyd is a joyous, graceful and loving film. It celebrates women, intellectuals, solitude, the city of Chicago, food, reading, friendship and the joy of discovering. Miranda Ruth (Rebecca Spence) is one of my favourite characters in film this year. One particular scene I love where Miranda responds to Cyd's sarcastic "Maybe if you had a little more sex in your life you wouldn't eat so much."   

I understand you’re finding your own joy, you’re engaging with your own stuff. That’s great. That’s how it should be. It’s a beautiful thing. But hear me, it is not a handicap to have one thing but not another. To be one way and not another. We are different shapes and ways and our happiness is unique and there are no rules of balance. 

8. Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)


"Now you are in the sunken place" still gives me the chills. 


 9. You Were Never Really Here (Lynn Ramsay, 2017) 

Brutal, haunting and absorbing.  "Wake up, let's go, it's a beautiful day."    


10. Brawl in Cell Block 99 (S. Craig Zahler, 2017) 

A stand out role for Vince Vaughn in this film that is very violent - bone crunching violent. The car bashing (the least violent scene) at the beginning is one of my favourite scenes this year. Also, we get Udo Kier and Don Johnson in this.    


11. A Ghost Story (David Lowery, 2017) 

It is understandable that a film with someone covered in a sheet acting as a ghost can't be taken seriously, but trsut me, this film is extraordinary. About grief, the passage of time, about the ones that are left behind. 


12. Marjorie Prime (Michael Almereyda, 2017) 

This film could be paired with A Ghost Story as it also about loss and grief. The role and meaning of memories is the main theme of this film, about the use of holograms to reincarnate dead family members to remain with them. The film is subtle and thought provoking. I've been thinking about it frequently ever since I watched it. 


13. Ex Libris: New York Public Library (Frederick Wiseman, 2017)

The knowledge and generosity shown by the many people appearing in this documentary moved me to tears. There's a scene in it where Khalil Gibran Muhammad describes the New York Public Library as "mind building" and "soul affirming". Many institutions could learn from this film.     


14. John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski, 2017) 

Pure action film pleasure. The Reflections of the Soul fight sequence is the cherry on top.      


15. Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan, 2017)

A film for the big screen. The bigger, the better. A well crafted film with memorable images, colour and sound. I watched this on IMAX Digital in Dubai and on 70mm in Amsterdam. The IMAX version was MUCH louder. 


16. Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)

Sensual, melancholic and touching. Sexual awakening and self discovery. Scenes of summer in Italy, Armie Hammer's voice, Psychedelic Furs' Love My Way, the peach scene, Michael Stuhlbarg's monologue and the tear inducing closing scene. 


17. 120 Beats per Minute (Robin Campillo, 2017) 

Solidarity, activism and love in the face of state and health system prejudices. Energetic and tender.        


18. The Disaster Artist (James Franco, 2017)

Hilarious, meticulous and empathetic. I loved watching it in the packed 1000 seater Madinat Arena during the Dubai Internayional Film Festival. There was such a great energy and by far my favourite cinema experience in Dubai. 


19. Scarred Hearts (Radu Jude, 2016) 

Set in Romania, 1937, the film is about Emanuel, a 20-year-old young man who spends his days bedridden at a sanatorium on the Black Sea coast, suffering from bone tuberculosis. We follow the lives of Emanuel and the other patients, there is no room for pity here, as they are all still trying to live a full life. It's smart, funny and beautifully shot. The film is inspired by Romanian author Max Blecher’s autobiographical novel Scarred Hearts, who died after ten years of suffering, at the age of 29.    


20. Let the Sunshine In (Claire Denis, 2017)

Juliette Binoche is superb in this film about love and desire expressed through words and face expressions. 


21. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hang Sang-soo, 2017) 

About love, broken hearts and cinema. Personal and confessional.   


22. 3/4 (Ilian Metev, 2017)   

A subtle and intimate film about a father and his son and daughter and the relationship with each other. It is their last summer together. There is great composition in this film, creating spaces between the family members. Emphasising a gap in their lives. I hope this small film gets seen by more people in 2018. 


23. Wajib (Annemarie Jacir, 2017)  

The strongest Arab film I saw this year. A tender and moving film about a father and son set in one day in Nazareth. About disappointments, regret and missed opportunities.  A film about family struggles told without resorting to the political melodrama. 


24. Arabia (Affonso Uchoa, João Dumans, 2017)   

A universal tale about the exploitation of the working class. Poetic, political and devastating.        


25. The Seen and Unseen (Kamila Andini, 2017)   

The Seen and Unseen is mythical and spiritual, about sibling connections, child ghosts, and the lunar rhythm of life.       


26.  Wonder  (Stephen Chbosky, 2017)       

This is a about kindness that we all need to see, especially in a year that has left us feeling so exasperated for so many reasons.      


27. Coco (Lee Unkrich, 2017)        

I wasn't expecting to be so moved by this film. An extremely touching film about family, memories and legacy. It is visually spectacular too and must be seen on the big screen. The Land of the Dead is absoutely dazzling. 


28. Human Flow (Ai Weiwei, 2017)    

A harrowing and powerful documentary about the current refugee crisis around the world. The images in it are powerful, empathetic and urgent. The drone footage in it is one of the most effective I've seen, compared to lots of gimmicky drone footage we see in elsewhere. 


29. My Happy Family (Nana Ekvtimishvili, Simon Groß, 2017)  

About the suffocating level of entrapment women face due to cultural and family reasons. About wanting to be be alone, just to be alone. The film is filled with details and gestures that add layers to it. One of my favourite scenes is when Mañana is eating cake alone, listening to music and enjoying the breeze coming through her window.


30. Heal the Living (Katell Quillévéré, 2016)

A deeply human film about loss, grief and connections, without the melodrama. 


31. Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari, 2016)      

We don't often get to see a film about fathers and daughters from Bollywood. Dangal is uplifting, inspiring and touching. The main song from it stayed in head for days, "Dangal, dangal." 


32. Secret Superstar (Advait Chandan, 2017)            

This film me laugh and cry, a lot. It's an ode to mothers and daughters, the struggles against the patriarchy, and the right to dream. The second half of Secret Superstar lights up with Aamir Khan as the obnoxious, crass music producer. Both Meher Vij and Zaira Wasim as mother and daughter give moving performances. 


33. Good Time (Ben Safdie, Joshua Safdie, 2017)

I found this film intense and troubling, but it has grown on me more and more. Robert Pattinson is terrific in it. 


34. A Fantastic Woman (Sebastian Lelio, 2017) 

Sad, defiant, assertive. Daniela Vega is the force that keeps this film going.


35. The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017)

Another film that has grown on me over the past couple of months. It is sadder than I expected, but there are moments of joy and hope.  


36. Faces Places (Agnes Varda, JR, 2017)

A film about personal histories, memories and legacies of different people across France. But it also has incredible moments with Agnes Varda reflecting on her life and work.  


37. My Life as a Zucchini (Claude Barras, 2017)

Melancholic, heartwarming and wonderful.      


38. Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2017)

A harsh fulm about egotism and family in crisis. Andrey Zvyagintsev is a thought provoking director holding a mirror to Russian society.     


39. In the Intense Now (João Moreira Salles, 2017)  

A skillfully edited and narrated film that weaves its way from the personal to the social to the political.     


40. I am Not a Witch (Rungano Nyoni, 2017)

A funny and poignant tale about Zambian witchcraft satire, addressing misogyny and control 


41. Bad Genius (Nattawut Poonpiriya, 2017)

Who would've thought a film about cheating at school exams could keep you on the edge of your seat? 


42. The Outlaws (Yoon-Seong Kang, 2017)  

An action-comedy-thriller about Ciniese/Korean gang war by Yoon-Seong Kang, his first feature. It's hilarious and gripping. Ma Dong- seok is brilliant in it.

My two favourite translated swear words from it:
Bitch dick


43. Logan Lucky (Steven Soderbergh, 2017)

A great ensemble and a fun film. 


44. The Nile Hilton Incident (Tarik Saleh, 2017)

A crime thriller set in Egypt and a scathing commentary on police corruption, violence and dirty politics. It's well written, acted and directed. It's a shame it has not gotten a release in the Middle East. 


45. God's Own Country (Francis Lee, 2017)

A touching and intimate film about love - to love and be loved. It's an accomplished debut feature film by Francis Lee and can't wait to see what he works on next.       


46. The Square (Ruben Östlund, 2017)     

Besides the art world satire which is brilliant on its own, the film also addresses civic responsibility, the marketing machine, politeness and respect versus political correctness.        


47. Colossal (Nacho Vigalondo, 2016)  

A film that's really about resentment, jealousy, abuse, self worth and female empowerment. 


48. The Human Surge ( Eduardo Williams, 2016)

This left me thinking a lot about time, boredom, the internet and creating human connections in today's hyperconnected world.         


49. The Work (Jairus McLeary,  Gethin Aldous, 2017)  

Set inside a single room in Folsom Prison, we witness a four-day group-therapy retreat with a group of incarcerated men and the challenges they face when it experience of rehabilitation. The results are intense, harrowing and powerful. 


50. Lean on Pete (Andrew Haigh, 2017)

I was very moved by Charlie Plummer's performance. Steve Buscemei and Chloe Sevigny were the highlights in this film and my wish is for Andrew Haigh to direct a spinoff focusing on their backstory in the film.      




Favourite film discoveries of 2017 


It has been another good year of film discoveries for me. I am more and more interested in seeking out repertory screenings and feel lucky that I can travel to watch these films. 

Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna was a major highlight when it came to film discoveries and I hope to go back next year for more. The Berlinale Retrospective section offered a riches of science fiction films I had never seen before. BFI Southbank in London is my guaranteed cinema where I know I will discover memorable old films and EYE in Amsterdam has upped its game in its film prgramming. When I am not travelling, I try to watch old films on VOD, mostly on MUBI which continous to be a great source for films I don't have access to otherwise.  

This year I watched two films that have been on my wish list for years and waited till I got a chance to watch them on the big screen. I watched Barry Lyndon at Berlinale, an exquisite film that I hope I get to see again on the big screen and Lawrence of Arabia was screening on 70mm at BFI in London in September, and that was a fanstastic experience too. Both were worth the wait as I can't imagine I would've cherished them the same if watched on the small screen (I remember switching channels after watching 20 mins of Lawrence of Arabia on TV many years ago because I thought this is not how I should be watching this film).

Additionally, this was the year I finally got to see not one, but two Douglas Sirk films, on glorious 35mm technicolor. I've been waiting to watch his films for years and was thrilled to see he was included in the schedule at Il Cinema Ritrovato. 

I was also able to watch a few David Lynch films in cinemas that I had not seen before and was perfect timing to compare and link them to Twin Peaks: The Return. 


Here's my top 50 film discoveries of the year: 



Film Festivals / Special Screenings

  1. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975, DCP, Berlinale) 
  2. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962, 70mm, BFI, London)
  3. Home from the Hill (Vincente Minelli, 1960, 35mm, Il Cinema Ritrovato)   
  4. Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 35mm, BFI London)
  5. Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk, 1956, 35mm, Il Cinema Ritrovato)
  6. All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955, 35mm, Il Cinema Ritrovato)
  7. Ladies Must Love (E. A. Dupont, 1933, 35mm, Il Cinema Ritrovato)
  8. Wise Blood (John Huston, 1979, DCP, Il Cinema Ritrovato)
  9. The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967, DCP, Il Cinema Ritrovato) 
  10. Friends of Eddie Coyle (Peter Yates, 1976, 35mm, Il Cinema Ritrovato) 
  11. World on a Wire / Welt am Draht (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1973, Berlinale)  
  12. Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995, 35mm, Berlinale) 
  13. THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971, 35mm, Berlinale) 
  14. An Autumn Afternoon (Yasujirō Ozu, 1967, DCP, BFI, London) 
  15. Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977, DCP Restored, BFI London Film Festival) 
  16. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (James Cameron, 1991, DCP Restored, Novo Cinema, Dubai) 
  17. Letters from a Dead Man (Konstantin Lopuschanski, 1986, 35mm, Berlinale) 
  18. Nuovomondo / Golden Door (Emanuele Crialese, 2006, DCP, Piazza Maggiore, Bologna)
  19. The Cotton Club (Francis Ford Coppola, 1984, 35mm, Berlinale ) 


David Lynch films at various cinemas in the summer: 
  1. Lost Highway (1997, 35mm, Prince Charles Cinema, London)
  2. The Straight Story (1999, 35mm, Prince Charles Cinema, London)
  3. Eraserhead (1977, DCP, Il Cinema Ritrovato) 
  4. Wild at Heart (1990, 35mm, EYE, Amsterdam)
  1. Taxi Driver (1976, 4K DCP)
  2. Raging Bull (1980, DCP)
  3. Good Fellas (1990, 35m) (I first watched this on VHS when it came out in 1990 in Dubai) 
  4. Kundun (1997, 35mm)
The Grime and the Glamour: NYC 1976–90 at Barbican, London, Sep/Oct 2017
  1. Smithereens (Susan Seidelman, 1982, 35mm)  
  2. Ms 45  (aka Angel of Vengeance) (Abel Ferrara, 1981, DCP)
  3. Tally Brown (Rosa von Praunheim, 1979, 16mm) 


VOD (in order or release date)
  1. Gilda (Charles Vidor, 1946)
  2. In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, 1950)
  3. Summer with Monika (Ingmar Bergman, 1953)
  4. From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinnemann, 1953)
  5. Nightfall (Jacques Tourneur, 1957)
  6. Le Trou (Jacques Becker, 1960)
  7. Bunny Lake is Missing (Otto Preminger, 1965)
  8. Closely Watched Trains ( Jirí Menzel, 1966)
  9. Branded to Kill (Seijun Suzuki, 1967)
  10. The Young Girls of Rochefort ( Jacques Demy, 1967)
  11. Wicker Man ( Robin Hardy, 1973)
  12. Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975)
  13. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1975) 
  14. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974) 
  15. The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1979)
  16. Modern Romance (Albert Brooks, 1981)
  17. Paris Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984)
  18. Moonstruck (Norman Jewison, 1987)
  19. King of New York (Abel Ferrara, 1990)
  20. Mullholland Drive (2001, VOD)

Top 10 Exhibitions of 2017

TV 70: Francesco Vezzoli Watches Rai
, Prada Foundation, Milan. Exhibition view. Photo Delfino Sisto Legnani amd Marco Cappelletti.
Compared to the past few years, I didn't visit many exhibitions in the UAE this year. Reasons include not havingthe time and also not usually interested in what's out there. In the Dubai, the art galleries show a rotation ofexhibitions of artists they represent which soon becomes predictable and uninteresting to me. EastWing, one of my favourite galleries in Dubai was closed most of the year due to its relocation to DubaiDesign District (it opened earlier this month). 

Sharjah Art Foundation continues to host an ongoing series of exhibitions and events all year introducing us tonew works by established and young artists, and it being a biennale year, it was an added bonus. I listed afew of my favourite works from Sharjah Biennale 13: Tamawuj in my previous post.

NYUAD Art Gallery in Abu Dhabi aims to focus on quality instead of quantity in terms of the number ofexhibitions it hosts, and now with the Louvre Abu Dhabi as a new addition and a new institution, I will be onthe look out for what's in store in the coming year. 

For now, here are my top 10 exhibitions of the year, it includes exhibitions I visited in the UAE and abroad. Each title is linked to the dedicated exhibition page with more details. 


1. TV 70: Francesco Vezzoli guarda la Rai / TV 70: Francesco Vezzoli Watches Rai
Fondazione Prada, Milan
9 May - 24 September 2017  

This exhibition was developed by Francesco Vezzoli in collaboration with Rai, Italy’s national broadcastingcompany and looked at the relationships between Italian public television with visual art, politics andentertainment, and also addressed collective narratives and memories. 

Very different to what I was exposed to TV growing up in Dubai in the 1970s, I found this exhibition both entertaining and thought provoking in terms of looking at the role of TV at a certain time in history that was informative and entertaining, there was hi-brow, lo-brow and everything in between, including experimental and avant grade shows that was accessible to a mainstream audience.

The representation of women in shows about them fighting for their rights contrasted with the objectification of women in entertainment and variety shows illustrates that not much has changed over the past few decades. TV as a playground for political agendas, societal issues and entertainment. An exhibition that feels personal, critical and an homage.   

This video features Francesco Vezzoli  talking more about this exhibition showing works from it.



2. Thomas Ruff: Photographs 1979 – 2017
Whitechapel Gallery, London
27 September 2017 – 21 January 2018     

L’Empereur 06 (The Emperor 06), 1982, C-print, 30.2 × 40 cm, © Thomas RuffThomas Ruff. Installation view. Courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery

Thomas Ruff's work looks at themes such as suburbia, advertising culture, utopianism, pornography andsurveillance. His photo series are results of many different image-making technologies. I see a lot of appropriated work, but Thomas Ruff's work is of a superior category. 

Cosmology, suburbia, nudity, utopianism, catastrophe – these are some of the subjectsthat Thomas Ruff (b. 1958, Germany) addresses in his photographic series, which foralmost four decades have investigated the status of the image in contemporary culture.

This exhibition draws from the full range of Ruff’s output: from his acclaimed Portraits – passport-style portraits, reproduced on a huge scale and revealing every surface detail of their subjects, tohis most recent press++ photographs, drawing on newspaper archives from the era of the spacerace and Hollywood starlets.  

I particularly love his Interior series, Newspaper Photographs series and press++ series. Here's Thomas Ruff in conversation with curator Iwona Blazwick.          



3. Adam Jeppesen - Out of Camp
Foam Museum, Amsterdam 
16 June - 27 August 2017  

Adam Jeppesen's work feels delicate and monumental and must be seen in person to be appreciated. No photosof them would them any justice. 

Adam Jeppesen searches for the silence in desolate landscapes and the physical elements theartist surrenders to.   

An important aspect of Jeppesen’s work is his analogue and labour-intensive approach. Hisphotographs are the product of physical challenge and experimental printing techniques. Heabandoned his search for the perfect print in favour of cheap reproductive techniques and massproduction.

Coincidence, damage and imperfection are essential elements in his work. At a time when theimage has become infinitely perfectible and reproducible, Jeppesen experiments with thephotograph as a unique object that is subject to the forces of change and decay.     


4. Gordon Parks - I am You. Selected Works 1942-1978
Foam Museum
16 June - 6 September 2017  

The Invisible Man, Harlem, New York, 1952 © Gordon Parks

The Gordon Parks retrospective is powerful and terrifc. If it ever comes to your city, don't miss it.  

The camera can be a powerful weapon against repression, racism, violence, and inequality. TheAmerican photographer Gordon Parks (1912-2006) used photography to expose the deep divisionsin American society. Parks was an important champion of equal rights for African Americans and inhis work addressed themes such as poverty, marginalisation and injustice.

Aside from his iconic portraits of legends like Martin Luther King, he especially achieved famethrough his photographic essays for the prestigious Life Magazine and films he directed, suchas The Learning Tree and Shaft.   

 This video tells you a little bit about Gordon Parks and includes photos from the exhibition. 


5. Lionel Wendt - Ceylon
Huis Marseille, Amsterdam
10 June - 3 September 2017 

This was a new discovery for me. The photos I saw are beautiful and sensual. I hope more people will be exposed to Lionel Wendt's photography.

There is something special going on with regard to the oeuvre of Ceylonese photographer LionelWendt (1900–1944). After a period of relative oblivion, Wendt was rediscovered – or discovered, infact – worldwide as a unique, individualistic photographer who availed himself of experimentaltechniques and modern compositions.

Wendt’s choice of subjects was eclectic: from sensual and homo-erotic portraits to tropical imagesof Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and from picturesque scenes to compositions for which he usedmodernist stylistic devices and experimental techniques. 

After Wendt’s premature death in 1944 his negatives were destroyed, but the work he left behindlives on. This consists of a collection of beautiful experimental prints, of which several are includedin the renowned collections of such museums as Tate Modern in London and Rijksmuseum inAmsterdam.


6. Emirates to the World: Postal History from 1909 to Unification   
Etihad Museum, Dubai
7 January - 30 April 2017     

Besides the exhibition of the permanent collection, this was the first exhibition hosted by the Etihad Museum which opened earlier this year. It is a nerdy and charming exhibition about the postal services in the Emirates from its earliest days through to the UAE unification in 1971. It included stamps, letters, artworks and archives found in the extraordinary private collection of Mr. Abdulla Khoory, President of Emirates Philatelic Association. 

I regret not taking photos at the exhibition and it is unfortunate the Etihad Museum website does not have an image gallery for this exhibition. Wish the exhibition was extended for the rest of the year especially since there have been no new exhibitions after this one. 

The exhibition begins at the birth of the Emirate's local postal services in 1909, when written letters first became a trusted and efficient mean of communication. Thanks to its breadth and completeness, Khoory's collection captures much of this fascinating period and offers visitors aglimpse back into an era that had not yet seen the dawn of digital communication, or even the unification of the Emirates.      

Here's an article about the exhibition in The National


7. Hassan Sharif: I am the Single Work Artist 
Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah
4 November 2017 - 3 February 2018 

Hassan Sharif 2016 - Cotton rope, acrylic paint, and copper wire. 240 x 535 x 10 cm, Installation view, Image Courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation

This retrospective of Hassan Sharif who passed away a year ago includes a diverse body of work from the early1970s to 2016. It requires multiple visits to gain some form of understanding of what the artist was making and saying. I am left with more questions than answers every time I visit, could also be because of the lack of detailed wall/printed text available at the exhibition. It's one of the best produced exhibitions I've seenhere in the UAE and strongly recommend you visit if you live here.

This retrospective is the culmination of Sharif’s long and storied history with the Emirate of Sharjah, where he first began staging interventions and exhibitions of contemporary art. Hepursued this interest in earnest when he returned to the UAE from London after graduating fromThe Byam Shaw School of Art in 1984.

Moving between roles as an artist, educator, critic and writer, Sharif not only sought to encourage Emirati audiences to engage with contemporary art in exhibitions but also on the page, through his Arabic translations of historical art texts and manifestos.    


8.  Lala Rukh - sagar    
Grey Noise, Dubai
9 March - 13 May 2017     

Lala Rukh is another artist who is no longer with us, she passed away this July. Her photos from the series titled "sagar" are quiet, poetic and contemplative.   

sagar comprises of a collection of enigmatic photographs of the sea that make Lala Rukh's meditations on the nature of time and transience palpable. As a parallel photographic practice, they locate Lala’s travels between years 1992-2005. 

The titles in the photographic sets mark sites across Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Burma where as though a seafarer traversing with a lens, the artist has stopped to take stock. 


9. Sea Views       
17 June - 17 September 2017       

Chip Hooper, Surf, Tasman Sea, New Zealand, Gelatin print on paper, 2005Ray K. Metzker - Valencia, Spain (61 M-38), Gelatin print on paper, 1961

Another sea themed exhibition on the list. The Rijksmuseum received a donation of more than 35 photographic seascapes from a private collector and put together this exhibition. It includes worls by contemporary international photographers such as Viviane Sassen, Chip Hooper, Franco Fontana, Jo Ractliffe, Chris McCaw and Simon van Til. 

The collection of seascapes has been assembled with care, attention and love by a private collector over a period of 10 years. Each piece is an intensive exercise, with the playful use of air, light and tide. 

The photos reveal the influence of the photographer and the richness of photographic print. The resulting works are very diverse. In some works the sea is black, in others azure. Some of the works are monumental, others small and intimate.  


10. Fouad El Koury - Suite Egyptienne
The Third Line, Dubai
13 April - 16 May 2017   

Fouad Elkoury, Kuchuk Hanem, 1990, Ink-jet Print on Baryta Paper, 72 x 90 cm

A series of more than 80 photos from the late 1980s that are are intimate, mysterious and cinematic. I wrote more about it here.        

Fouad Elkoury’s Suite Egyptienne is an account of the artist’s photographic travels through Egypt starting in the late 1980s. Using Gustave Flaubert and Maxime Du Camp as guides, Fouad followed their footsteps along the Nile valley nearly 150 years later. 

Fouad’s work evokes a sense of nostalgia for the era of Flaubert’s romanticism, while also making us reminisce the Egypt of 1989. Suite Egyptienne is an intimate series of photos, a sequence of over 80 images taken a quarter century ago, showing the ephemeral and layered qualities of history.  



My Top 10 Artworks of 2017 


Here's a look at some of my favourite art works I saw this year at some of the exhibitions I visited, which were considerably less compared to the past few years. They are listed in alphabetical (first name) order and I've hyperlinked the title that have a dedicated website/page with more information.   



1. Abigail Reynolds at the Islamic Art Festival exhibition in Sharjah Art Museum


2. Ali Jabri at Sharjah Biennale 13: Tamawuj 

Untitled, 1989-1992 9 boxes, wood and glass boxes, paper cutout on metal and glass, dimensions variable

Untitled, 1989-1992 9 boxes, wood and glass boxes, paper cutout on metal and glass, dimensions variable 


3. Allora & Calzadilla (in collaboration with Ted Chiang) - The Great Silence at Sharjah Biennale 13: Tamawuj 

The Great Silence, 2014 3-channel HD video, 16 minutes 22 seconds


4. Anna Atkins - Photographs of British Algae. Cyanotype Impressions (1843-53) at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam



5. Antonio Massoti - The Women of Bologna (1958-1962), installation at Bologna Fotografata 



6. Bariş Doğrusöz  Heure de Paris: The map and the territory, 2015/2017

Bariş Doğrusöz - Heure de Paris: The map and the territory, 2015/2017 17 digital prints, Hahnemühle Photo Rag 188 gsm

Bariş Doğrusöz - Heure de Paris: The map and the territory, 2015/2017 17 digital prints, Hahnemühle Photo Rag 188 gsm

Images via Sharjah Art Foundation


7. Lawrence Abu Hamdan - Saydnaya (the missing 19db) at Sharjah Biennale 13: Tamawuj 

Saydnaya (the missing 19db), 2017 Sound, mixing desk, light-boxImage via Universes in Universe 


8. Martin Scorsese - The Exhibition - Four Channel Media Installation at EYE Museum 

Media installation on four screens © Deutsche Kinemathek / M. Stefanowski, 2013Image via EYE


9. Picasso - Portrait of a Woman at Louvre Abu Dhabi 

Portrait of a Woman, 1928, Painted paper, gouache and ink on cardboard


10. Sarah Alahbabi at Warehouse 421

Sarah Alahbabi - Destructive, 2017, Manipulated mirror acrylics to portray Arabic phrases that criticize women. Image via Warehouse 421




15 Favourite Things I Listened to, Attended and Experienced in 2017 


Whilst I am working on my list of favourite exhibitions and films this year, here's a list of random things and moments that mattered to me this year.


1. Best song - Shadows by Chromatics:

If you follow me on Twitter, you will know that Twin Peaks: The Return is my favourite thing this year. Will be writing more about this in my end of year list of favourite things I watched.

But for now I will start by saying Shadows by Chromatics is my favourite song this year. This song has been on a loop on many days when I wanted to listen to music. I teared up the first time I listened to it on Twin Peaks: The Return at the end of hour two, and it still makes me tear up once in a while.   


2. The Lodgers - A Twin Peaks Podcast 

During the summer of watching Twin Peaks: The Return, I religiously listened to every episode of The Lodgers podcast hosted by Kate Rennebohm and Simon Howell with a different guest(s) in each episode. It felt like sitting with friends and listening to smart and insightful discussions and can't thank them enough for all their efforts for making this THE best podcast about Twin Peaks.  


3. Twin Peaks Recap by Keith Uhlich on MUBI  


In addition to the podcast, the weekly Twin Peaks Recap by Keith Uhlich are also insightful and smartly written and I urge anyone who watched/is watching Twin Peaks: The Return to not miss reading it. 


4. Il Cinema Ritrovato 2017 

I found out about Il Cinema Ritrovato a few years ago and was finally able to attend this year. The festival takes place in Bologna, Italy and is dedicated to the the rediscovery of old, rare and little-known films. I loved being there and look forward to attending next year. I wrote about my time there this summer here and talk about it on Tea with Culture podcast here.


5. Future Imperfect: Science - Fiction - Film at Berlinale 2017 

Future Imperfect: Science - Fiction - Film
 was the title of this year's Retrospective section at Berlinale. It included a great selection of films, many I watched for the first time. I wrote a bit about it here


6. Lucrecia Martel at BFI London Film Festival 2017

A talk with Lucrecia Martel was added last minute at the BFI London Film Festival. Her film Zama was my favourite at the festival and was glad I had the opportunity to listen to her speak. She shared her (non)scientific views on immersive cinema, time as volume and the arbitrariness of linear storytelling. Someone needs to organise a talk with both her and David Lynch.  

 Here's a good recap of the talk written by Erika Balsom on Sight & Sound. An extract:

In a Screen Talk hosted at BFI Southbank the day after the premiere, Martel turned to a surprising analogy to describe this relationship between film and viewer, comparing the movie theatre to a swimming pool: the audience should be fully submerged, feeling the film as water on skin. Martel noted that we do not live in this submerged state on a day-to-day basis – as she acknowledged, it would be a “harrowing experience” – but for two hours, in the darkness of the cinema, we are captive in body and mind.  


7. Frederick Wiseman at BFI London Film Festival 2017   

Another favourite moment at the BFI London Fil Festival this year was seeing Frederick Wiseman after the screening of his wonderful film Ex Libris: The New York Public Library. In the film, Wiseman captures Khalil Gibran Muhammaed describing the New York Public Library as "mind building" and "soul affirming".

8. Film Comment Podcast 

The Film Comment podcast is favourite in the world of film podcasts this year. Presented by Violet Lucca, who brings together a great selection of themes and guests in each episode. If you want to learn more about film and film criticism, this is the podcast to listen to.  


9. Still Processing Podcast

The Still Processing podcast is a 'culture conversation with Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham'. It is sharp, intelligent, funny and a great podcast discovery for me this year.  The Whitney Houston episode is a particular favourite.   


10. New Order in Dubai 

New Order came to Dubai in April and glad I went as it has been a while since I attended a music concert. 


11. Video editing with Tulip Hazbar 

Over three weeks between October and November, I spent many days and nights working on a video titled MUSIC TV that was played at Louvre Abu Dhabi during its opening week. It wouldn't have happened without Tulip Hazbar who helped me edit the video. The process and the journey of the video was incredibly fun and rewarding because we enjoyed experimenting and discovering new possibilities along the way. I hope we can work together again soon. 


12. Midnight screening of Terminator 2: Judgement Day in 3D at NOVO Cinemas

It isn't often when I have a cherished and memorable experience at a cinema in Dubai, but one night on 13th September I convinced two friends to join me at a midnight screening of Terminator 2: Judgement Day which I had not seen before. I do wish cinemas in the UAE look into screening more old/restored films here.   


13. In conversation with Dr Aisha Bilkhair 

After several attempts at trying to host a talk with Ethnomusicologist and Research Advisor at the UAE National Archives Dr. Aisha Bilkhair this summer, we finally sat togeter at Art Jameel Project Space and talked about music in the UAE, its history, influences and changes. It was a small insight into the wealth of knowledge in her brains and I hope I get to sit with her for more discussions again.  

14. Zeina Hashem Beck ode to Tahia Carioca 

I attended a poetry reading night with Zeina Hashem Beck, part of the launch of her book of poems Louder than Hearts. Her ode to Tahia Carioca and Egyptian cinema was delighful. 


15. Screening of Boy by Taika Waititi and getting the audience to sit through the end credits 


In November I was asked by The Scene Club to select a film they had screened over the past 10 years to screen again as part of their 10 year anniversary. I selected Boy by Taika Waititi because that same week we had his film Thor released in our cinemas.

We had a great turn out, and in my intro I suggested everyone should staying for the end credits because of two additional scenes. The majority stayed back, a site I hardly see in Dubai cinemas, even for Marvel films. I had never felt so proud of myself and left with a happy grin from ear to ear. 



Works I did in 2017 and thank you notes 


This has been a busy year for me on a professional level. I took part in a few exhibitions and programmed several talks and film screenings. It has been a fullfing year and I am looking forward to taking a step back in the next couple of months to plan and figure out would like to work on next.

Here's a run down of the different projects I worked on this year, with links if you'd like to read more details: 

  • February: Exhibited at Is Old Gold? exhibition at DUCTAC curated by Cristiana de Marchi and Muhanad Ali
  • March: Was one of the commissioned artists invited to take part in Sharjah Biennial 13: Tamawuj curated by Christine Tohme. 

Despite meeting great people this year and working with them, one thing I realised this year is there isn't enough peer support or professionalism going around in this town. The art and culture world is a small circle in the UAE and it is unfortunate when there are times where there's not enough mutual support being shown in the community.

I am learning not to let things let this get me down and to focus on the positives, and to seek out people that are worth working in terms of collaboration and exchange of ideas. 

Huge shout out, thank yous and hugs to everyone I worked with closely this year, for the opportunity to create new work, for the incredible discussions and support, for listening and for the laughs. Here's a list of people I would like to thank:  

  • Abdallah Al Shami 
  • Ahmet Salih Ozkut  
  • Ali Khaled
  • Antonia Carver 
  • Austyn Allison
  • Christine Tohme
  • Cristiana de Marchi 
  • Deepak Unnikrishnan
  • Elie Domit
  • Faisal Al Zaabi 
  • Fatma Al Mahmoud 
  • Hammad Nasar
  • Hoor Al Qasimi 
  • John Dennehy
  • Laila Binbrek
  • Laura Metzler 
  • Nick Leech 
  • Mohammed Abdallah 
  • Mouna Khorshid  
  • Muhanad Ali  
  • Nawaf Al Janahi
  • Nayla al Khaja 
  • Noor Al Suwaidi 
  • Reem Shadid
  • Shadi Megallaa
  • Tamsin Wildly 
  • Todd Reisz    
  • Uns Kattan
  • Vicky Tadros 
  • Wael Hattar

An extra special shout out to Mohammad Khawaja who is one of the most supportive people I know in the UAE and to Tulip Hazbar for all her help, support and laughs, and someone I hope to work with more in 2018. 



The Culturist turns 8

November 18, 1924. Washington, D.C. "Debutantes of Columbia Hospital Benefit Committee." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. |


Happy birthday to me.



[image via Shorpy]