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Tea with Culture

A podcast about the cultural happenings in the United Arab Emirates presented by Hind Mezaina (The Culturist) and Wael Hattar.


My French Film Festival 2016


The 2016 edition online film festival, is back, it started on 18th January and will go on till 18th February.

This sixth edition includes 26 films (12 feature films, 11 short films and 3 documentaries that have not been seen before). The films are translated into 10 languages and accessible across the globe.

The films are very affordable, €1.99 per feature film, and there's "Festival Pack", €5.99 to access all the films. Some countries/regions can watch for free, this includes Latin America, India, Poland, Russia, Africa, and Romania.

The complete line up of films and description/trailers can be found here. I strongly suggest you cosy up at home and watch as many films as you can.


My French Film Festival 2016 trailer: (#myFFF2016)


The Culturist on Social Media 

© Hind Mezaina

After years of resisting, don't ask me why, The Culturist can now be found on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

If you're on any or all of these channels, interested in reading about updates from the blog and other news/events I won't have a chance to write about (but news you should know), then please follow.

Spread the word and invite your family/friends/colleagues to follow too. It would mean a lot to me.

Here are the links and I've added the links in the navigation area on the right side of the blog. 
Twitter: @TheCulturist

I'm still on Twitter, you can follow me there too, @hindmezaina


RIP Leila Alaoui

Leila Alaoui had been on assignment in Burkina Faso for Amnesty International for less than a week, working on a series of photographs focused on women’s rights. Credit Art Factum Gallery (Image via New York Times)

A few days ago I read the sad news about the death of Leila Alaoui, a French-Moroccan photographer and video artist. I was shocked and didn't want to believe it at first. She was severely injured during last week's terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and she passed away on 19th January.

I first met Leila in Dubai 2012, we were part of a group exhibition, Women on the Verge at The Empty Quarter, curated by Hester Keijser. We met at the opening and hung out the following afternoon with Hester Keijser, Boushra Almutawakel and Laura Boushnak who were also in the exhhibition.  It was a fun afternoon and I recall thinking I was with a bunch of very cool ladies and wondered how did I get here. Since the exhibition, we were connected via Facebook and where I would read about her travels, her works and exhibitions.

I last saw Leila in March 2015 at Art Dubai. Her work was included at the fair, we spoke briefly, she looked happy. Leila's series, The Moroccans work was recently exhibited at Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. She was gaining recognition lately and she had more to offer.

It is always shocking and painful to hear about any deaths caused by terrorist attacks. When it's someone you know (even briefly), the pain gets a little deeper. Damn the terrorists and religious fundamentalists and anyone that funds and supports these criminals.

I read in the New York Times obituary, before travelling to Burkina Faso, she said to her friend, "Don’t worry, I have been to more dangerous places." Heartbreaking.

Read the New York Times obituary here. Also read this from East Wing, the gallery in Dubai that represented her.

RIP Leila Alaoui, 1982-2016.

Below is a small selection of Leila Alaoui's work. You can see more on her website. Look at her work, celebrate it and if her work is exhibited in a city you live in, go see it.


Pop-Up Film Festival - Reel Palestine 2016


Reel Palestine is back this year with another line up of Palestinian films celebrating "Palestinian culture and tenacity through film". 

The screenings will take place between 23rd and 30th January in Sharjah and in various locations in Dubai.  Below is the schedule in the different venues. The line up includes recently released films and films that are a few years old.

The festival is free to attend, so pick a date or two or all of them and go support this festival.



Saturday 23rd January 2016 at 8.30pm at Sharjah Art Foundation
Friday, 29th January 2016 at 7.00pm at thejamjar, Dubai

Speed Sisters   
Dir. Amber Fares
Documentary | Arabic with English subtitles | 80 min | 2015

Directed by Amber Fares, the film follows the first all-woman racecar driving team in the Middle East. Grabbing headlines and turning heads at improvised tracks across the West Bank, these five women have sped their way into the heart of the gritty, male-dominated Palestinian street car-racing scene.

When racing prodigy Marah loses her place as top female racer to glamorous Betty due to an arbitrary decision by the officials, relationships in the team are strained and Marah’s resolve and the support of her hard-working family are pushed to their limits. Weaving together their lives on and off the track, Speed Sisters takes you on a surprising journey into the drive to go further and faster than anyone thought you could.



Sunday, 24th January 2016 at 7.00pm at A4 Space in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai

On the Bride's Side  
Dir. Gabriele Del Grande, Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry, Antonio Augugliaro
Documentary | Italian, Arabic with English subtitles | 98 min | 2014

On the Bride's Side shows us the story of a Palestinian poet and an Italian journalist who meet five Palestinians and Syrians in Milan who entered Europe via the Italian island of Lampedusa after fleeing the war in Syria. They decide to help them complete their journey to Sweden – and hopefully avoid getting themselves arrested as traffickers – by faking a wedding. With a Palestinian friend dressed up as the bride and a dozen or so Italian and Syrian friends as wedding guests, they cross halfway over Europe on a four-day journey of three thousand kilometres.

​This emotionally charged journey not only brings out the stories and hopes and dreams of the five Palestinians and Syrians and their rather special traffickers, but also reveals an unknown side of Europe – a transnational, supportive and irreverent Europe that ridicules the laws and restrictions of the Fortress in a kind of masquerade which is no other than the direct filming of something that really took place on the road from Milan to Stockholm from the 14th to the 18th of November 2013.

Monday, 25h January 2016 at 7.00pm at A4 Space in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai

Villa Touma

Dir. Suha Arraf
Drama | Arabic with English subtitles | 85 min | 2014

Villa Touma portrays three Palestinian Christian sisters who’ve lost their land and status due to the 1967 war with Israel aren’t able to face the painful new reality that’s been imposed on them, so they lock themselves away in their big house and continue to live in a time warp. 

Within the villa’s crumbling walls, the sisters live in their own personal bubbles, each with her own secrets, dreams and failed love story, hidden behind a mask of manners and propriety. 

When their young niece, Badia, walks into their lives, she challenges their stifling routine and turns their world upside down, obliterating the deadly silence they lived in.



Tuesday, 26th January 2016 at 7.00pm at A4 Space in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai 

Love, Theft and Other Entanglements
Dir. Muayad Alayan
Drama | Arabic with English subtitles | 90 min | 2015


Directed by Muayad Alayan, the film explores the protagonist, Mousa, who gets into the trouble of his life when he steals the wrong car. What he thought was an Israeli car and an easy way to make money in his impoverished Palestinian refugee camp turns out to be a load of misfortune when he discovers a kidnapped Israeli soldier in the trunk.

Mousa's hopes of paying the bribe that will guarantee him an exit visa out of the country and away from his wrecked love affair dissipate as he finds himself on the run from Palestinian militias and the Israeli intelligence.



Wednesday, 27th January 2016 at 7.00pm at thejamjar, Dubai

Dir. Khaled Jarrar
Documentary | Arabic with English subtitles | 70 min | 2013


The checkpoint is closed: “Detour, detour!” shouts a taxi driver, announcing the beginning of yet another uncertain search for a way around the barriers curtailing Palestinian movement in the West Bank.

Infiltrators is a visceral “road movie” that chronicles the daily travails of Palestinians of all backgrounds as they seek routes through, under, around, and over a bewildering matrix of barriers.

Following this high stakes “game” of cat and mouse with a handheld video camera, Khaled Jarrar’s debut documentary was the standout success at the 2012 Dubai International Film Festival, winning the Muhr Arab Documentary Prize, the Special Jury Prize, and the International Critics Prize.



Thursday, 28th January 2016 at 7.00pm at thejamjar, Dubai

The Wanted 18
Dir. Amer Shomali, Paul Cowan
Documentary | Arabic, English, Hebrew, French | 75 min | 2014


It’s 1987, and the first Palestinian popular movement in the West Bank is rising. Residents want local alternatives to Israeli goods, including milk, which they’ve been buying from an Israeli company. And so begins the strange story of the 18 cows.

The plot is hatched by pacifist intellectuals and professionals. Not your typical dairy farmers. These “lactivists” forge ahead anyway, buying 18 cows and smuggling them into the West Bank town of Beit Sahour.

But who knows anything about cows? These newly minted farmers have to learn the most basic skills—even how to milk their charges, which isn’t as easy as it looks. 

Eventually, the cows come to the attention of Israeli authorities, and the chase is on—a cat-and-mouse (or soldier-and-cow) game writ large, as the cows shuttle from barn to barn, with their pursuers determined to find them. The cows became legendary and the “intifada milk” (sometimes distributed under cover of darkness) becomes a part of daily life.



Friday, 29th January 2016 at 4.00pm at thejamjar, Dubai

Dir. Salim Abu Jabal
Documentary | Arabic with English subtitles | 70 min | 2014


Since 1956, 80-year-old Yousef has lived in a shack in the Roshmia Valley with his wife Amna, a refugee from Yasoor. Life is quiet until the municipality of Haifa plans to build a road across the valley to connect the Mediterranean to Mount Carmel – which will require the demolition of the couple’s home and force them to find a new home.

Aouni, their sponsor, acts as a middleman between them and the municipality and attempts to secure a compensation for them. However, the negotiations lead to tension amongst the three.


Saturday, 30th January 2016 at 4.00pm at A4 Space in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai

When I Saw You
Dir. Annemarie Jacir
Drama | Arabic, English | 98 min | 2012

1967. The world is alive with change: brimming with reawakened energy, new styles, music and an infectious sense of hope. In Jordan, a different kind of change is underway as tens of thousands of refugees pour across the border from Palestine. Having been separated from his father in the chaos of war, Tarek, 11, and his mother Ghaydaa, are amongst this latest wave of refugees.

Placed in "temporary" refugee camps made up of tents and prefab houses until they would be able to return, they wait, like the generation before them who arrived in 1948. With difficulties adjusting to life in Harir camp and a longing to be reunited with his father, Tarek searches a way out, and discovers a new hope emerging with the times. Eventually his free spirit and curious nature lead him to a group of people on a journey that will change their lives.

When I Saw You is the story of people affected by the times around them, in search of something more in their lives. A journey full of adventure, love, humor, and the desire to be free. A story of the human spirit that knows no borders.



Saturday, 30th January at 9.00pm at The Yard, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai

Epicly Palestine'd
Dir. Phil & Theo
Documentary | Arabic, English | 26 min | 2015

"People here just don’t know what skateboarding is... They think we’re weird.” The words of Amr, a teenager from Birzeit, are echoed by every skater in Palestine.

“You feel different. You feel unique.” Three years ago, no-one had ever seen a skateboard in the West Bank, save for a few plastic ones in the odd toyshop. It’s still a new thing, but there’s excitement about this emerging scene.

This is the story of how skateboarding began in the West Bank, told through the eyes of the local skateboarders: the journey it has led them on and the challenges facing the skate scene and living under occupation.


The Warren
Dir. James Adolphus
Drama, Thriller | Arabic, Hebrew with English subtitles | 11 min | 2014

On the eve of the Passover seder, March 27, 2002, a wave of suicide attacks against Israel reached its peak when a Palestinian blew himself up at the Park Hotel in Netanya, killing 29 civilians and wounding dozens more. In response, Israel launched an extensive military operation whose declared intent was to “strike at the terrorist infrastructure.” Reserve soldiers were called up. Emergency storehouses were opened. Operation Defensive Shield was underway.

THE WARREN is a documentary-style drama showing the Battle of Nablus, a part of Operation Defensive Shield, fought from April 5 to April 8, 2002 in the Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank between the Israel Defense Forces and Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad which resulted in the death of seventy Palestinian fighters and eight Palestinians civilians as well as one IDF officer, ultimately resulting in a Israeli victory.


Though I Know the River Runs Dry
Dir. Omar Robert Hamilton
Drama | 19 min | 2014


He has returned to Palestine. On his journey through the country he relives the trauma of his past and the choice that sent him to America - a choice between a passport for his unborn child and a safe haven for his activist brother.


Ave Maria
Dir. Basil Khalil
Comedy | Arabic, Hebrew with English subtitles | 15 min | 2014


The nuns of the ‘Sisters of Mercy’ Convent, in the middle of the West Bank wilderness, have their daily routine of silence and prayer disrupted when a family of Jewish settlers come knocking at their door for help after crashing into the convent’s wall.





Free entry. Location map to all the venues.


Baqala by Amirah Tajdin for Sole DXB

Baqala is what we in the Gulf region refer to the local corner store in our neighbourhood. They are mini supermarkets/grocery stores found in many neighbourhoods, always bright and colourful.

The baqala is steeped in memories of many that grew up here, the local supplier of all things sugary that was bad for our teeth. Many have disappeared, but some can still be found in Dubai, especially in residential neighbourhoods.

Sole DXB commissioned Amirah Tajdin to make a video for Sole DXB 2015, an ode to the baqala. It was released last November at Sole DXB 2015, which included an installation titled 'The Baqala'.  You can read more about it here.

In Amriah's own words,

Baqala, is a nocturnal sojourn that celebrates the corner store culture of Dubai. A fixture in every Gulf region childhood and current day life, these stores have come to represent an early cultural aesthetic of the young city and some of my earliest memories.

During the film, three skaters 'baqala hop' the streets and suburbs of Dubai in a neon tinged dream dotted with portraits of store keepers, store fronts that drip with the remnants of a pop art reverie and my ode to bubblegum.


NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center - Performances in February 2016 


The NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center was on a break in January, but ready to go in February. Here's the line up of acts coming next month. It's quite a varied mix of acts, 'cinematic pop', hip hop, dance performance and Balkan brass. Should be quite a month.

Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing Rotana Tarabzouni, a Saudi singer and songwriter currently living in Los Angeles to pursue her music career. Here's a recent interview with her on BBC.


Desert Storm - Featuring Narcy, Sons of Yusuf, Rotana Tarabzouni
When: Wednesday, 3rd February 2016, 8pm
Where: East Plaza, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi

Desert Storm, curated by Noor al Suwaidi, promotes musical talent from the Middle East who are breaking stereotypes, bridging cultural understanding and empowering men and women from the region.

  • Rotana Tarabzouni, a Los Angeles-based Saudi artist and songwriter, describes her music as alternative/cinematic pop.
  • Sons of Yusuf, featuring Kuwaiti brothers Ya’koob and Humble Abdul, blend hip-hop culture with an Arabic twist.
  • Narcy (aka Yassin Al Salman), born in Dubai to parents from Basra, Iraq, and raised between the UAE and Canada, uses hip-hop to explore issues including history of art, identity, religion, colonialism, and race.

This event is free and open to the public. Tickets will be available for online reservation on 20th January 2016 at 3.00pm (UAE time).



Aakash Odera Company - Murmur 2.0 (World Premiere)
When: 10th and 11th February 2016, 8pm
Where: Black Box, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi 

The acclaimed UK-based dancer Aakash Odedra explores his own childhood struggles with learning disabilities through a nexus of light, sound, design and movement.

Odedra creates work that is visually beautiful, heart-wrenching and heart-warming, and full of drama and movement. Murmur 2.0 explores Aakash’s battles with dyslexia and how the world around him responded to his perceived disability.

Diagnosed at a young age, Aakash found conventional education at school very challenging. He felt defined by his learning difficulties, but not his abilities. As written language was so alien, dance became his preferred mode of expression. In this groundbreaking piece, he uses his own childhood struggles with learning disabilities as a springboard into a deep and meaningful investigation of warped and exaggerated realities.

Set to an evocative score by Nicki Wells, Murmur 2.0 reveals the tension that exists between the rational world that we live in and the richness of our imagination. This collaboration between Odedra, Australian choreographer Lewis Major, and Ars Electronica Futurelab of Linz, Austria, explores how the misconceptions of dyslexia can be revealed through visual design, light, sound, and movement. 

This event is free and open to the public. Tickets will be available for online reservation here on 27th January at 3 pm (UAE time).



Fanfare Ciocarlia - The World Shaking 20th Anniversary Tour | UAE Debut

When: 28th February 2016, 8pm
Where: East Plaza, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi

Emerging two decades ago from an isolated village in rural Romania, the unstoppable Fanfare Ciocarlia have become a global phenomenon, revolutionizing brass music and influencing artists in genres from world to classical to rock to jazz.

Fanfare Ciocarlia’s unmistakable sound, their unique repertoire and techniques, have enriched the world music scene while also influencing classical music, EDM, rock and jazz.

Why are Fanfare Cicocarlia beloved across the world? Because they never fail to deliver the wildest parties, the phattest Balkan beats and and the deepest Gypsy soul. Making a special stop in Abu Dhabi on the 20th anniversary world tour they’re calling Onward to Mars!, the band’s legendary “wall of sound” will shake the walls of NYU Abu Dhabi and bring the crowd to its feet.

This event is free and open to the public. Tickets will be available for online reservation here on 10th February at 3 pm (UAE time).



Warehouse421 - Wednesdays at the Warehouse - January 2016

A couple of months ago I wrote about the launch of Warehouse421, a new culture hub in Abu Dhabi. Besides being an exhibition space, we were told the space will be used to host workshops, talks and film screenings.

A recent anouncement was made about Wednesdays at the Warehouse, a curated program of creative activities and events that will take place every other Wednesday between 20th January and 27th April. The events are free to attend and aims to engage with anyone interested in the arts.

“Through a diversity of workshops, panel discussions, and film screenings amongst other activities, ‘Wednesdays at the Warehouse’ presents unique opportunities for both the avid culture enthusiast and the artistically curious, to be part of the constantly growing art scene in the country.” Faisal Al Hassan, the Programming Manager of Wednesdays at the Warehouse


I will list the events mon a montlhy basis, but you can see the complete line up here. Here's the list of activities taking place on Wednesday, 20th January 2016:


Workshop: Mixed-media Constructions - Collage techniques
5.30pm - 7.30pm

Participants will be introduced to various mixed-media and collage techniques including painting, printing and assembling found objects, materials and images to create layered and expressive compositions interpreting the UAE’s desert landscape.

Amanda Nedham, Artist
Alanoud Al Obaidly, Artist 
Alumni, the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship

Book now



Film screenings - 7.30pm - 9.30pm 

Ave Maria
Directed by Basil Khalil
Palestine, France, Germany | PG | Drama, Comedy | 15 minutes | 2015

Nuns of the 'Sisters of Mercy convent' in the middle of the West Bank wilderness have their daily routine of silence and prayer disrupted when a family of religious Jewish settlers crash their car into the convent’s wall.

Book now


Sea Shadow
Directed by Nawaf Al Janahi
UAE | PG13 | Drama | 98 minutes | 2011

Set in a small seaside neighborhood in the United Arab Emirates, Sea Shadow follows teenagers Mansoor and Kaltham as they struggle with tradition and convention in their journey towards adulthood. Bound by family and deeply-rooted values, the pair must find the courage to forge their own paths.

Book now


RIP Alan Rickman

RIP Alan Rickman, 21 February 1946 - 14 January 2016



Here's a double bill music videos starring Alan Rickman, both for Texas. He looks (and sounds) dashing in both. 



[image via]



RIP David Bowie

Terribly sad news today. I was planning to share this video in celebration of David Bowie's 69th birthday (it was his birthday on 8th January) but unfortunately this is now a post to say he is no longer with us.

A true artist of our time. He was one of the greatest. A legend whose name and work will live on.

His career in film was as diverse as his music. Here's David Bowie: On Film, a video essay by Drew Morten.


RIP David Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016). 



[image via @SunsetGunShot]



Exhibition - Wael Hattar: Sold Out at Rotanda Gallery


My friend and Dubai Film Festival and podcast partner in crime Wael Hattar is exhibiting a new installation titled Wael Hattar: Sold Out at Rotanda Gallery in the American Univeristy in Dubai. The newly commissioned piece is up between 10th - 28th January and Wael will give a talk about his work on 13th January at the gallery.  

Wael Hattar is a Dubai based artist who has had sucess both here and internationally. His multidisciplinary approach and use of a wide spectrum of materials and concepts makes his work appealing to a broad audience. He is most definitely someone that our students should be aware of.

Prof. Michael Rice


About the exhibition:

"Wael Hattar: Sold Out" is a study on the current "social" aspect of the commercial art world. As an installation, this consists of smaller elements via self portraits through different media and an interactive element of voting.

Having studied design and film in Beirut and London, Wael Hattar balances his penchant for the conceptual with his experience in media and advertising. Working in this commercial field for almost 15 years, he has become an expert on branded content, winning awards regionally and globally.

Two perspectives present in his practice, of media and advertising, often result as a hybrid world between art and business.

Wael has participated in several regional and international residencies, from smaller group exhibitions to larger commissions and production, including for the Triangle Arts Foundation in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.



Event details
Opening on 10th January 2016, exhibition will be on till 28th January 2016
Artist talk on 13th January at 6.00 pm (event page on Facebook)
Venue: Rotanda Gallery, American University in Dubai, Building A - School of Architecture, Art and Design (location map)