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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.


BFI London Film Festival 2016 

Apologies for the lack of update the past few weeks, but I was in London attending the 60th edition of the BFI London Film Festival. I was in my happy place, in a film festival bubble watching films from morning till night and just didn't have a chance to share daily updates as I orginally intended to. 

This year's edition included 249 features, 145 shorts of which 62 features and 59 shorts were made by female directors. Was also glad to see lots of the films focusing on female characters.

As for Arab films, there were 17 18 films in total taking part in several categories of the festival: 

Official Competition:
- Clash by Mohamed Diab
- Layla M. by Dutch director Mijke de Jong 

First Feature Competition
- Divines by Moroccan director Houda Benyamina 
- Hedi by Tunisian director Mohamed Ben Attia 

Documentary Competition 
- The War Show by Danish director Andreas Dalsgaard and Syrian radio host and director Obaidah Zytoon (Syria)

- A Day For Women by Egyptian filmmaker Kamla Abouzekri 
- Farouk, Besieged Like Me by Syrian documentarian Hala Alabdalla
- In the Last Days of the City by Egyptian director Tamer al-Saeed 
- 9 Days - From My Window In Aleppo by Syrian photographer Issa Touma, and Dutch directors Floor van der Meulen and Thomas Vroege (short film) 
- Battalion to My Beat by Japanese filmmaker Eimi Imanishi (short film)
- Noor at Mytilini Port by Irish director Treasa O'Brien (short film)

- Barakah Meets Barakah by Saudi filmmaker Mahmoud Sabbagh
- Tickling Giants by American filmmaker Sara Taksler

- Goodbye, Bonaparte by Egyptian director Youssef Chahine 

- Mimosas by Spanish director Oliver Laxe 
- Tramontane by Lebanese director Vatche Boulghourjian

- In the Future, They Ate From the Finest Porcelain by Larissa Sansour and Soren Lind 
- The Worthy by Emirati filmmaker Ali F. Mostafa   

Below is a list of films I watched (60 in total, including 9 short films), rated in order of preference. I'm aiming to discuss some of the films that left an impression on my, either here on the blog, or on the Tea With Culture podcast, so watch this space. 


The Bacchus Lady

Certain Women

United States of Love 

Aquarius, Dir. Kleber Mendonça Filho
The Bacchus Lady, Dir.  E J-yong 
Certain Women, Dir. Kelly Reichardt
Dawson City: Frozen Time, Dir. Bill Morrison
Moonlight, Dir. Barry Jenkins 
A Quiet Passion, Dir. Terence Davies 
United States of Love, Dir. Tomasz Wasilewski   

Ascent, Dir. Fiona Tan
Born in Flames, Dir. Lizzie Borden (1991) (35mm)
Blue Velvet Revisited, Dir. Peter Braatz
Daughters of the Dust, Dir. Julie Dash (1991)
Elle, Dir. Paul Verhoeven
The Eyes of My Mother, Dir. Nicolas Pesce
The Handmaiden, Dir. Park Chan-wook
Hospital, Dir. Frederick Wiseman (1969) (35mm)
Memories of Underdevelopment, Dir. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (1968) (35mm)
Nocturama, Dir. Bertrand Bonello
One-Eyed Jacks, Dir. Marlon Brando (1961)
Personal Shopper, Dir. Olivier Assayas
Raw, Dir. Julia Ducournau
Rolls and Shutters, Dir. Stina Wirfelt (part of The Past is Present Too shorts)
Sea of Clouds, Dir. George Clark (part of The Past is Present Too shorts) 
Starless Dreams, Dir. Mehrdad Oskouei
Toni Erdmann, Dir. Maren Ade
The Untamed, Dir. Amat Escalante
Voyage of Time: Life's Journey, Dir. Terrence Malick
A Woman Returns From a Journey, Dir. Ruth Novaczek (part of Hollywood Disections shorts)
Your Name, Dir. Makoto Shinkai
Zoology, Dir. Ivan I. Tverdovsky 

The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography, Dir. Errol Morris
BoF, Dir. David Leister (part of Hollywood Disections shorts)
Callback, Dir. Carles Torras
Creepy, Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa
A Day For Women, Dir. Kamla Abouzekri
Don't Blink - Robert Frank, Dir. Laura Israel
The Eagle Huntress, Dir. Otto Bell 
Exprmntl, Dir. Brecht Debackere
Farouk, Besieged Like Me, Dir. Hala Alabdalla   
The Innocents, Dir. Anne Fontaine
Into the Forest, Dir. Gilles Marchand 
Juke – Passages from the Films of Spencer Williams, Dir. Thom Andersen (part of Hollywood Disections shorts)
Kate Plays Christine, Dir. Robert Greene
Kills on Wheels, Dir. Attila Till 
Lake Bodom, Dir. Taneli Mustonen
Lovesong, Dir. So Yong Kim
The Man from Hong Kong, Dir. Karen Yasinsky (part of Hollywood Disections shorts)
The Ornithologist, Dir. João Pedro Rodrigues
The Sea is History, Dir. Louis Henderson (part of The Past is Present Too shorts)
Souvenir, Dir. Bavo Defurne
Stockholm My Love, Dir. Mark Cousins
The Stopover, Dir. Delphine Coulin, Muriel Coulin
Two Marxists in Hollywood, Dir. Zoe Beloff (part of Hollywood Disections shorts)
Transmission from the Liberated Zones, Dir. Filipa Cesar (part of The Past is Present Too shorts)
What's in the Darkness, Dir. Wang Yichun
Without Name, Dir. Lorcan Finnegan 

The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Dir. André Øvredal
I Had Nowhere To Go, Dir. Douglas Gordon 
Sweet Dreams, Dir. Marco Bellocchio

American Honey, Dir. Andrea Arnold 
Porto, Dir. Gabe Klinger (35mm) 

NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center - Performances in October 2016


This month's line up of performances at the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center includes disco from the Philippines, a Japanese performance of Wizard of Oz and a "summit of string virtuosos". All sounds great, so try to not miss any of this.

Entrance is free for all the events, but but you must book tickets online in advance. Click on each title below for more information. 


Disco Manila 
When: Disco Manila in concert on Thursday, 6th October at 8.00 pm
      Disco Manila live band karaoke on Friday, 7th October at 4.00 pm 

Where: East Plaza at NYU Abu Dhabi 

Dancing queens and global crate-diggers, get down to the disco sounds of the late 70’s and early 80’s Philippines and embrace the Manila Sound. Spanky Rigor and Roger Rigor, co-founders of VST & Company, and The Union [featuring Jet Montelibano (formerly of “Music & Magic”), Jessica Casas (formerly of “Something Special”), Nino de Jesus, Jo-ann Visitacion, Fulton Montoya] lead a celebration of Filipino Disco.

Rooted in an amalgam of American soul, funk, and disco origins, this euphoric dance music mixed with Filipino melodic traditions, filtered through the warm glow of the Manila Sound.

After the stars come out on Thursday night, the audience takes center stage on Friday afternoon, singing choice dance tunes from the rich and groovy Disco Manila catalogue in a special live band karaoke. 

There will also be a performance workshop and vocal masterclass on 5th October, more infomation about this can be found here



Yellow Brick Road directed by Tomi Tsunoda
Wednesday - Saturday, 12th - 15th at 8.00 pm
      Matinee performance on Saturday, 15th October at 2.00 pm
Where: Black Box at NYU Abu Dhabi

Yellow Brick Road is a bold theatrical adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, under the direction of Tomi Tsunoda. This devised theater project uses Baum’s classic novel as a launch pad for exploring contemporary conversations around climate crisis, displacement, bureaucracy, survival, and dependency.

Combining conventions of traditional Japanese performance forms with both found texts and original performance material developed by NYU Abu Dhabi students, Yellow Brick Road aims to fracture this iconic American fairytale and reimagine it as a prism for examining the narratives of global crisis. 



Driss el Maloumi and Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya 
When: Thursday, 27th October at 8.00pm 
Where: East Plaza at NYU Abu Dhabi

A summit of string virtuosos, as the Moroccan oud master Driss el Maloumi collaborates with the Hindustani slide guitar wizard Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya. The award winning “Oud Magician” Driss el Maloumi has been praised for the quality, purity, and delicacy of his playing and music.

Trained in Arabic and Western classical music, his music travels between different colours and genres, nourished by encounters with international artists such as Spain’s Jordi Savall, Mali’s Ballake Cissoko and Madagascar’s Rajery (as 3M), Iran’s Keyvan Chemirani, France’s Francoise Atlan, and many others.


Warehouse421 - Wednesdays at the Warehouse - October 2016

Wednesdays at the Warehouse at Warehouse 421 in Abu Dhabi is back after its last season which took place in April.

The new season will start start on 5th October with weekly events that include workshops, talks and film screenings. 

Here's the schedule for October and come back for updates for the next few months.  

Workshop: What's Your Type? The A-Z of Hand-Lettering 
Date: 5th October 2016
Time: 17:00 - 20:00

This workshop explores the world of handlettering, starting with a conversation on the differences between writing, lettering and typography, followed by a series of drawing exercises designed to demonstrate the potential impact and versatility of using letters and words as expressive visual pieces.

Instructor: Ali Al Masri, Type & Graphic Designer, Founder of Abjad Type Foundry, Jordan

Age group: Adults


Talk: From the Cave to the Cloud - A Human History of Visual Communication
Date: 12th October 2016
Time: 18:30 – 20:00

This lecture tracks the evolution of visual communication throughout history, from cave painting to the digital revolution, including the advent of graphic design and the development of semiotics, writing and printing, as transformational methods for communicating information.

Speaker: Prof. Bernard Stein, Chair of Visual Communication, University of Kassel, Germany



Film screenings: Waves '98 and Barakah Meets Barakah
Date: 19th October 2016
Time: 19:30 – 22:00  

Waves '98 (2015) 
Directed by: Ely Dagher | Lebanon, Qatar | PG | Animation | Arabic with English subtitles | 15 min


Set between Beirut’s post-war climate of recovery in the 90’s and today’s general sense of crumbling this is Omar’s story. Growing up in Beirut’s suburbs meant that Omar spent his entire teenage years living on the outskirts, having never visited parts of the segregated city or even crossed its borders.

His daily life is dominated by the mundane, his parents’ financial problems, and a certain lack of motivation; his only escape being the time he spends gazing at the city from his school’s rooftop.

Until, On a cold winter day, Omar unexpectedly witnesses something strange and beautiful. A sort of intense beaming light, shining through the greyness of the city’s landscape that lures him to venture into the depth of the city. This giant discovery leads him to explore and immerse himself in a world he never knew existed. A world that is so close yet so isolated from his reality that Omar finds himself struggling to keep his attachments, his sense of home…


Barakah Meets Barakah (2016) 
Directed by: Mahmoud Sabbagh | KSA | PG | Comedy, Romance, Drama | Arabic with English subtitles | 88 min 

If you were to ask a group of film experts which country is currently the least appropriate setting for a hilarious, truly wacky romantic comedy, the chances are that Saudi Arabia would come out on top. But their guesses would be wrong, as Barakah Yoqabil Barakah provides more than enough evidence to the contrary.

He is a municipal civil servant from Jeddah, whose origins are humble to say the least, while she is a wild beauty, the adopted daughter of a rich couple, whose marriage has suffered due to their lack of biological children. He is also an amateur actor in a theatre company rehearsing a production of "Hamlet", while she functions as a crowd puller for her stylish adoptive mother’s boutique and runs her own boisterous, widely seen vlog.

Fate brings them together – in an environment hostile to dating of any kind. But the two of them show breathtaking ingenuity to circumvent the system of tradition, etiquette and religious police – with the crucial help of a quirky midwife and a pink push up bra. Barakah Yoqabil Barakah is a film for anyone who has always wanted to know just what else is going on in Saudi Arabia.




Workshop: I See What You Mean - Revisiting Visual Communication
Date: 26th October
Time: 17:00 – 20:00

This workshop explores the creative practice of visual communication through the use of simplified drawings, symbols and design. Participants learn about aspects of creative thinking, idea generation, the application of traditional and unconventional techniques, and the use of various media, to effectively communicate ideas without text.

Instructor: David Habchy, Visual Artist & Co-Founder,Studio Kawakeb / Waraq Associassion, Lebanon

Age group: Adults


Sheikha Salama Foundation Emerging Artist Fellowship - Cohort 3

Photo courtesy of the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation 

Earlier this month, I completed my one year with Sheikha Salama Foundation Emerging Artist Fellowship. This one year programme brings together a small group of emerging artists based in the UAE and provides artistic and technical knowledge, and professional skills, in partnership with the Rhode Island School of Design

I was in the third batch of this fellowship with 15 other emerging artists. It was a very rewarding year for all of us, we learned a lot and exchanged lots of ideas and thoughts and explored new mediums. Personally, it was the space I needed (physically and mentally) to think about my work. I had a couple of old friends with me in this fellowship and made some new friends along the way. 

The summer month saw us all working on our final project, creating new work for the final crit session which took place in the last week of August. The work is currently at Warehouse 421 in Abu Dhabi, open to the public till Sunday, 2nd October 2016 (images of our work with a brief description are included below).

On Wednesday, 28th September there will be a panel talk and an 'open house' where visitors can see the work and meet the artists. It is free to attend, if you are in the neighbourhood, please do visit and come and say hello. 

More about the event:

Here's what we all worked on this summer. I do  hope you get a chance to go see the work for yourself between now and 2nd October 2016 at Warehouse 421 in Abu Dhabi.

Ahmed Hasan Mohamed created five "conceptual portraits", each piece reflecting a memory of his life. 

Amal Al Khaja's Self Disciplining Act, asks herself what her role is in the community. 

Asma Yousef Alahmed addresses the role of the mountains in the UAE, "treated as a resource rather than a place".

Fatima Albudoor
's work revolves around fiction and reality, relationships, the self and transient experiences in life.


Fatima Yousef Al Yousef's photo series deals with the death of her sister to cancer and it's impact on family and friends. 


Ghaleya AlMansoori's Chain Reaction is about the her dealing with coming from a conservative family and her place in the art world. 


Lina Younes' work looks at world as a pyramid scheme, hierarchies, single and multiple entities. 


Nasser Alzayani's Watering the Distant, Deserting the Near is about a dried up natural spring in Bahrain and the memories attached to it.

Rania Jishi's The Visit, is a video installation that looks at "Salon Marriages" and the rituals of these visits that are about finding potential brides, predominantly in the Levant region. 

Raudha Al Ghurair
's Vessels explores different modes and relationships of containment.  


Sawsan Al Bahar's Self Portrait is about the state of existence and notions of self.


Sham Enbashi's When I Met Myself, photo series is inspired by Jorge Luis Borges' Labyrinths and questions what if there are two of you and what happens if you cross path with your other self at different stages of life. 


Tala Worrell's Chameleons is about "non-humans we anthropomorphise in order to see our humanity with great clarity". 

Tima Ouzden's Paradise Lost, looks at the concepts of "jannah" (paradise) in both physical and spiritual realms, and the aesthetics of terrorism. 

Zahra Jewanjee
's work looks at marginalised societies, gender, geometry, chaos and order.



Here's what I did, a series of collage, transfers and a video, all linked to memory, changes and the representation of Dubai in the media. Some of it is still unresolved and is a first step of work I want to continue.


All photos © Hind Mezaina, unless stated otherwise.  


Film Screening: Art:Interrupted 

is a documentary by Hattie Bowering that was filmed before and during India's first contemporary art biennale, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2012. It's a behind the scenes look at how a new biennale is set up in a city that doesn't have the infrastructure for a biennale and the challenges faced by its founders and artists. 

The film was first screened in the UAE last November at the Sharjah Art Foundation and will be screened in Dubai on Thursday, 22nd September at A4 Space in Alserkal Avenue

Art:Interrupted gives you an insight into how the city handled its first biennale which was also the antithesis of biennales and art fairs around the world, the reaction of the people of Kochi and the challenges faced by everyone involved. Over a span of few months, many in Kochi who weren't familiar with what a biennale is had a sense of pride their city hosted India's first contemporary art biennale, welcoming visitors from India and abroad, but most importantly, enjoying and engaging with a contemporary art event that was made for them.

The film is endearing and funny, everyone in it believe in the biennale and the positive effect it can have on the city. (Disclosure, I was one of supporters of the crowdfunding campaign to raise money for this film). 

Here's the trailer, and if you are in Dubai, I strongly recommend you go watch this film. I do hope it gets to be screened in more cities.  

Shot in 2012, Art: Interrupted goes behind the scenes as India prepared to host its first contemporary art biennale in the historic port town of Fort Kochi, Kerala. From the frontline of art, the film followed Indian and international artists as they created new and ambitious works in beautiful but derelict colonial spaces. 

It is a very entertaining film set in a part of the world that is colourful, vibrant and loud and presents a picture of India and its cultural connections that everybody can respond to.

Overcoming limited resources, errant labour unions, equatorial heat and swarms of mosquitos, the artists, the organisers and the local community managed – against the odds – to pull off an event that drew over 400,000 visitors and found a new and appreciative audience for contemporary art.

Event details
Date and time: Thursday, 22nd September at 7.00pm (the film is 51 minutes long)
Venue: A4 Space, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai (location map)
Free entry  `


NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center - Performances in September 2016

Zahed Sultan

A new season of performances at NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center is back after a summer break. The season started with Nik Bärtsch's Mobile, a 27 hour performance that started on 1st September and ended at 10pm on 2nd September. I attended approximately 10 hours of the performance during the two days. It was amazing, felt like a rhythmic rituals slumber party. 

Below is the line up for the rest of the month (click on each title for more information) and I will share with you the list of all the performances every month for the rest of this season.

Going by the previous season, expect an eclectic line up of performances that engages with the community. All the events are free to attend, but you must book tickets online in advance. 


When: 7th September at 4.00pm (Family Matinee), 8th September at 8.00pm, 9th September at 5.00pm 
Where: Black Box, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi 


Badke is not a search for a long-lost authenticity, but rather a nuanced expression of both a sense of belonging and a desire to be part of the wider world. But behind the relentless energy and joy also lie darker moments, alluding to life under occupation and violence. This other reality seeps into the celebratory surface of Badke. The dancers push themselves to new extremes, driven by Nasser Al-Faris’ infectious score. But in the end, however, one thought prevails: We will dance until we collapse.


Zahed Sultan and DJ Dolores
When: 21st and 22nd September at 8.00pm
Where: Black Box, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi   


Resonance is an evolving audio-visual project by Kuwaiti multimedia artist Zahed Sultan. Requiring sensory participation from an audience, Resonance blurs the boundaries of what is real and what is perceived, in an immersive live performance integrating music, visuals, and light.


Breakbeats and dub meet the sounds of Brazil’s Northeast in the this special musical hybrid from producer, bandleader and musician DJ Dolores, which reunites his original band Orchestra Santa Massa in a blind date with his newest project, Frevotron.


Summer Series - Sunny, Salty Memories by Olympia Kappou

This is the last post in my Summer Series. It encapsulates what an ideal summer holiday would be for me. If you didn't go on a summer vacation like me, hope you were able to dream of a summer holiday through my posts, or made you think of planning a quick summer getaway soon before the weather changes.


Summer Series - Zanzibar from Above by Mathias Arvedsen

21 days on Zanzibar with unforgettable moments. Stone Town, Jambiani, Paje, Matemwe, Kizimkazi and Makunduchi is some of the places featured in this film. Beautiful nature, delicious fruit and smiling openminded people is three of many reasons to go there.

Did you know the shortest war ever recorded by man is the Anglo-Zanzibar War where the British bombarded the Beit al Hukum Palace and after 38 minutes, a ceasefire was called.


Summer Series - Reverie of Vietnam by Oliver Astrologo

Set off on a 1650Km north to south journey: capturing the best wonders of Vietnam: Hanoi ancient quarter, the breathtaking Halong Bay, the claustrophobic caves in Trang An, the glamorous fabric merchants in Hoi An, the secret temples inside the marble mountain in Da Nang, the historical old capital Hue, the wet and tropical mekong delta and the white sandy beaches at Phu Quoc.

Trip date 29 Mar - 15 Apr 2015.


Summer Series - Watchtowers of Turkey by Leonardo Dalessandri

This video went viral a couple of years ago, but it is always worth revisiting.

Over than 3500 km traveled in 20 days, capturing landscapes from the bluish tones of Pamukkale to the warm ones of Cappadocia, the all passing by a great variation of colors, lights and weathers through six other cities. 

I've crossed Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Ephesus, Istanbul, Konya; and tasted baklava, kunefe, doner, the turkish tea; and got the chance to meet the soul of Turkey, its people.. and got their smiles and their hospitality.

This is Turkey lived by me from north to south, and I hope you enjoy it.