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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.


Cinema at the Space - April 2016

Cinema at The Space will screen the following films this month. The screenings take place at The Space in Abu Dhabi (twofour54 Park Rotana Building), and free to attend, but you must RSVP in advance.

Unfortunately, this will be the last screenings at The Space, which will be closed for renovation and will be turned into a new space. I am not sure if the screenings will take place in a new venue next month, but I will keep you posted.

Listen to this interview with Mohammed Khawaja, the programmer of Cinema at the Space, on the podcast Where The Script At?. He makes many valid points about the importance of film in our lives, and highlighted the dumbing down of the cinema experience in the UAE because of the cinemas and film distributors. I urge you to listen to it.


Here's the line up, you can click on the images below to read more/RSVP. I strongly recommend you do not miss 99 Homes, Still Walking and It Follows (which I wrote about last year listing why you must see it).



Saturday, 2nd April


Monday, 4th April


Monday, 11th April


Wednesday, 13th April


Thursday, 14th April


Saturday, 16th April


Monday, 18th April


Wednesday, 20th April


Saturday, 23rd April


Monday, 25th April


Wednesday, 27th April


Saturday, 30th April


NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center - Performances in April/May 2016

This month sees the last few performances at the NYU Abu Dhabi Art Center. It's a packed schedule that goes into the first week of May and includes a range of music including funk, jazz, classical and Iraqi maqam.

Each performance is free to attend, so if you're in Abu Dhabi, make time to attend one or two performances. Here's the line up (click on each title for more information).

Pee Wee Ellis & Fred Wesley | Funk: Evolution of a Revolution (World Premiere)
When: 16th April at 8.00pm
Where: East Plaza, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi

An explosive multi-media show that tells the story of the evolution of music that changed the world, led by two of its most important architects.

Masterminded by Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley, two of the great creative powerhouses of Funk, this explosive multi-media performance tells the story of how Funk has impacted music and culture in its 50 years of life.

Ellis and Wesley are cornerstones of the genre (Pee Wee as one its creators with James Brown himself in the late 1960s, and Fred carrying the torch on through the era of Bootsy Collins and George Clinton) and represent some of the deepest roots of the Funk Family Tree.  

FUNK: Evolution of a Revolution brings together a world-class group of musicians to chart the path of the music from its birth in 1965 to the present and into the future, from jazz to hip hop, New York to New Orleans, London to Lagos, Benin to Brazil and beyond.



Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble
When: 24th and 25th April at 8.00pm | 26th April at 10.00am (family matinee)
Where: Black Box, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi

Meredith Monk’s visionary fusion of sound and movement is as daring now as it was when she debuted five decades ago.

Her influence on musicians both in and beyond the world of classical composition can be felt in the work of artists as varied as pop icon Björk, jazz experimentalist John Zorn, and innovative electronic composer DJ Spooky.

This historic concert will include selections from several of Monk’s most recent works — On Behalf of Nature, impermanence, and mercy — alongside classics from earlier decades, offering an expansive view of Monk’s 50 years of making music.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of her first performances in New York City, this concert focuses on her unique contribution to vocal music. It traces the evolution from the pioneering solo works she created for her own performance, to some of her landmark creations for the Vocal Ensemble she founded in 1978, and ultimately to excerpts from several of her elaborate large-scale music theater works for multiple voices and instruments. 




Aizuri Quartet - Beethoven and Beyond
When: 26th April at 8.00pm
Where: The Arts Center Lobby at NYU Abu Dhabi 

Beethoven and Beyond: Beethoven’s amazing String Quartet No. 13, Opus 130 and his forward looking Grande Fugue paired with works by NYUAD composers.

The Aizuri are rising stars in the classical music scene. Amazing players individually, they are impressive collectively as well. As the graduate string Quartet in Residence at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, they are just the second group to hold this prestigious position.



Joey Alexander Trio
When: 27th April at 8.00pm
Black Box, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi

Since Joey Alexander first encountered the piano at the age of six, his musical intuition has flourished alongside a love of jazz. His talent has taken the world by storm, stunning audiences from New York City to Copenhagen.

Last year, at the age of 12, Joey released his debut album ‘My Favourite Things’ to great acclaim. The Indonesian jazz prodigy has become one of the youngest musicians ever to be nominated for a Grammy award; and not in one, but two categories– ‘Best Improvised Jazz Solo’ and ‘Best Jazz Instrumental Album’.

Join the Joey Alexander Trio for a soulful and joyful musical adventure and witness the magic of this budding young leader, performer and composer as he presents an evening of beloved jazz standards and original compositions.



Alfredo Rodriguez Trio
When: 28th April at 8.00pm
Black Box, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi

Grammy nominated artist, Alfredo Rodríguez reflects the talents of legendary jazz pianists Keith Jarrett and Thelonious Monk. Schooled in the classical conservatories of Havana, Rodríguez’s artistry is informed as much by Bach and Stravinsky as it is by his Cuban and jazz roots.

Discovered at the 2006 Montreux Jazz Festival by Quincy Jones, Rodríguez has distinguished himself as the definition of jazz and improvisation without boundaries. 



Amir ElSaffar | Rivers of Sound Large Ensemble
When: 30th April at 8.00pm
East Plaza, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi

The Rivers of Sound Large Ensemble is deeply rooted in musical forms of Iraq and nearby regions but still speaks the language of swing, improvisation and group interaction, resulting in a sound distinct from other contemporary cross-cultural musical fusions.

The group embraces a broad spectrum of traditions, from Iraqi maqam to American jazz, on a range of instruments including the Middle Eastern oud, buzuq, santur (hammered dulcimer), jowza (spike fiddle), and percussion, arrayed with the piano, bass and drums of jazz, along with trumpet, saxophones, oboe, strings, and voice. Rivers of Sound combines the modal language of the maqam with the aesthetics of contemporary music and jazz to create a new musical vocabulary.



Amir ElSaffar | Alwan Ensemble / Ashwaaq Ensemble
When: 3rd Mat at 8.00pm
Black Box, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi

Amir ElSaffar's Alwan Ensemble delivers a lively and transporting performance of well-loved folk, popular, and art music of the Arab world, highlighting styles and repertoire from Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Egypt. Built around mesmerizing textures of rhythmic and improvisational intensity, the music is based on the maqam modal system, with great emphasis on poetry and highly intricate, interwoven melodies sung by a soloist or chorus, accompanied by the rich bed of sound created by the combination of Middle Eastern instruments.

The Alwan Ensemble’s performance evokes ambiances of Cairo, Baghdad, al-Quds and Aleppo – each cities with great legacies in art and culture, and characteristic and distinct musical repertories – while reflecting the richness and cultural vibrancy of contemporary New York.



Film and TV Viewing Log - March 2016

Dust in the Wind

Night of the Hunter

Rosemary's Baby



My major film highlight this month was watching films by Hou Hsiao-hsien in Singapore (you can read all about it here).

Another highlight is I finally got to see Night of the Hunter starring Robert Mitchum, and an impromptu double bill at home with Rosemary's Baby and Possession.

Very Big Shot, a film from Lebanon by Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya was a great discovery and a suprise and I urge you to seek this film out. I wrote some thoughts about it here. Was also glad to re-watch Theeb at the cinema when it was re-released to celebrate its Oscar Best Foreign Film nomination. 


Here's the complete list:


Hou Hsiao-hsien films (read more about it here)
A Time to Live, A Time to Die (1985) ★★★★★
Dust in the Wind (1986) ★★★★★
The Puppetmaster (1993) ★★★★★
Goodbye South, Goodbye (1996) ★★★★★
Millennium Mambo (2001) ★★★★★
Café Lumière (2003) ★★★★
Three Times (2005) ★★★★★


Agnès Varda films:
Du côté de la côte (1958) ★★★★
Jane B. by Agnès V. (1987) ★★★
Ydessa, the bears and etc. (2004) ★★★★



The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)



Rosemary's Baby (Dir. Roman Polanski, 1968)

Autumn Sonata (Dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1978)

Possession (Dir. Andrzej Żuławski, 1981)

Theeb (Dir. Naji Abu Nowar, 2014)

Very Big Shot (Dir. Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, 2015)  (My thoughts about it here.)




Trumbo (Jay Roach, 2015)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (Dir. Francis Lawrence, 2015)

Steve Jobs (Dir. Danny Boyle, 2015)

Anomalisa (Dir. Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson, 2015)

The Mermaid (Dir. Stephen Chow, 2016)

Cannibal Holocaust (Dir. Ruggero Deodato, 1980)


Survivor (Season 32) - Episodes 3, 4, 5, 6, 7


Film log - January 2016
Film log - February 2016



Singapore Diary - Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien

My last Singapore Diary is about the Hou Hsiao-hsien film retrospective that made me travel to Singapore earlier this month.

I was first introduced to Hou Hsiao-hsien's films  last October in London, the same retrospective was running at the BFI.

The screenings were held in National Museum of Singapore's cinematheque (annoyingly, the link to the Hou Hsiao-hsien screenings is no longer available on the museum's website). The retrospective started on 26th February and ended on 20th March 2016. I only caught a weekend and a half worth of film screenings (11th-13th March and 19th March), so I still have a lot more of his films I'd like to see.

All the films were screened on 35mm and I was so happy to lose myself in Hou Hsiao-hsien's films which are about life, memory and time. Deeply touching films we can all relate to. Kevin Lee describes it best in this Sense of Cinema piece,

To watch a Hou movie is to be confronted with one’s abilities to bear witness to one’s memories, not merely as a distant object to be contemplated or commemorated, but as a past life relived with present day immediacy.



Here's what I watched:


A Time to Live, A Time to Die / Tong nien wang shi
Taiwan, 1985 |  137 min

I was deeply moved by this film. There are so many universal truths in it about family. One particular scene featuring the family's mourning of the father's death just shattered me and anyone who has lost a parent will relate to it.

This quote from Eric Hynes's review of the film in Reverse Shot eloquently sums up the film,

For what passes also remains, changed but still real, and that what seems present and alive is already, slowly and quickly, witnessed or ignored, passing away.


Dust in the Wind / Lian lian feng chen
Taiwan, 1986 | 107 min 

A film about love, loss, heartbreak and change. The opening train scene is beautiful and seeing more of Hou Hsiao-hsien's I really want to visit Taiwan and travel across the country by train. I was also quite taken by these scenes.

The Puppetmaster / Xi meng ren sheng
Taiwan, 1993 | 142 min 

A film about Taiwanese puppet master Li Tien-lu, spanning his childhood to early adulthood between 1908 and 1945. Li Tien-lu appears as a narrator in this film, and as much as it is his personal history, the film is also a look at Taiwan's history during those years. This line by Li Tien-lu about life, "the hardest things are separation and death" stayed with me.


Café Lumière / Kohi Jikou / Kafei Shiguang
Japan, 2003 | 103 min 

This was my second viewing of Café Lumière, Hsiao-hsien's Japanese language film and an homage to Yasujiro Ozu commemorating the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Trains play a role in this film too. This is the last shot of the film, and don't worry, it's not a spoiler in my opinion. I never think of  Hou Hsiao-hsien's endings as actual endings, they are scenes that stay with you and makes you think of what could or will happen next.

The closing soundtrack is sung by the Hitoto Yō who also stars in this film. A song that makes me sway.


Three Times / Zuihao de Shiguang
Taiwan-France, 2005 | 116 min 

This too was a second viewing for me, and it was so rewarding. Three different love stories, set in three different periods (1966, 1911 and 2005) featuring the same lead actors Shu Qi and Chang Chen in all three, who are are absolutely mesmerising in it.


Goodbye South, Goodbye / Nan guo zai jan, nan guo
Taiwan, 1996 | 116 min 

Quite a melancholic film about gangsters and probably the most mundane film about gangsters I've seen. There are so many great eating scenes in Goodbye South, Goodbye, the most I've seen out of the Hsiao-hsien films I've watched so far.

Trains make an appearance too, but also cars and this wonderful motor bike scene. Turn up the sound and watch this.



Millennium Mambo / Qianxi Manbo
Taiwan-France, 2001 | 105 min

This last film I caught at this retrospective was Millennium Mambo. It was my second screening (it was the first Hou Hsiao-Hsien film I watched in London in October). It mesmerised me then, and I was even more mesmerised with the second viewing.

A film that makes me want to go dancing in Taipei and walking in Yubari, Japan. I shared this before and will share again. One in my list of the best opening scene in a film. The track is "A Pure Person" by Lim Giong.



I leave you with this video featuring Richard I. Suchenski, organiser of this film retrospective and editor of the book Hou Hsiao-hsien. It gives you an insight into Hsiao-hsien's films and I hope it encourages you to seek out his films if you've never watched them before. If there's ever a screening of Hou Hsiao-hsien films at a cinema near you, drop everything you're doing and go.



Hou Hsiao-Hsien on IMDB and Wikipedia.


Singapore Diary - The Projector

Entrance to The Projector from the 5th floor foyer of the Golden Theatre (image via The Projector)


When I told my friend Cyril Zammit, Director of Design Days Dubai that I was travelling to Singapore, he said I should visit The Projector, a cinema he was certain I will love. He was right.

The Projector is was officially launched in January 2015, an independent cinema on the 5th floor of the Golden Mile Tower (image below). It was within walking distance from my hotel, but I only had a chance to go once, to watch Anomalisa.

The Projector revives two cinema halls in the 5th floor foyer of the historic Golden Theatre as an independent cinema and creative platform that brings together a great selection of films, one-of-a-kind events, versatile spaces and delectable fare.

A single screen classic cinema hall with 230 seats, the Green Room will be the main screening hall for films curated by The Projector. Besides being redesigned as a versatile events space, the Redrum (pronounced “red room”, inspired by Kubrick’s The Shining) will also be the home to screenings presented by Golden Bar.


Golden Mile Tower (image via The Projector)


A bit of history about the Golden Theatre: 

Golden Theatre was the biggest cinema in Singapore and Malaysia when it was completed in 1973 totaling over 1500 seats. Chong Gay Theatres Ltd built golden Theatre and Golden Mile Tower and the architect was Goh Hock Guan Design Team. Chong Gay Theatres Ltd also built the 2400-seater Kallang Cinema in 1978, the largest cinema in Southeast Asia when it was built, which was bought over by the government in the ‘80s as a new cultural venue called Kallang Theatre.

Golden Theatre, like many other cinemas built in that time, was originally one big movie theatre with stalls and circle seats. The space was subdivided into three separate halls in the 1990s. The Projector comprises two halls (Golden 1 and Golden 2) on the fifth floor that were once the circle seats of Golden Theatre.

Golden Theatre was well patronised for its good quality Mandarin films in the ‘70s and ‘80s, ‘adult’ artistic films in the ‘90s and, more recently, Bollywood hits.


Green Room at The Projector (image via The Projector)

Redrum at The Projector (image via The Projector)



I ended up accessing The Projector from the parking building entrance. Here are photos I took of the space. It's a space for cinema lovers and I can't wait to go back to Singapore to see more films there. If you live in Singapore or plan to visit, make sure you check out The Projector's schedule and go watch a flm or two.

Hats off to the team running the space, I wish them the best of luck.


Entrance from the parking area


Re-interpreted flm posters


Projection on the wall


The cafe


Advertising/social board


Box office


Entrance to the Green Room


Elevators leading to the main exit/entrance


Elevator ceiling


I even bought a Projector bag to add to my tote bag, plus the 2015 programme flyers, most of them can be folded out into posters.


I leave you with the crowdfunding campaign video, where you get to hear why The Projector is important.


All photos © Hind Mezaina unless stated otherwise.


Singapore Diary - The Heritage Shop


The Heritage Shop is a treasure trove for people that like to collect objects and antiques. Even if you don't go in to buy anything, it's great for browsing.

Patrick Phoa, the owner of The Heritage Shop told me his customers include instititions like the National Museum of Singapore and schools. His shop has been written about in several international and inflight magazines, he proudly showed me some of the magazines and expressed how much he enjoys the free publicity and proud to be listed as one of the places to visit in these articles. 

When he found out I'm from Dubai, he quickly told me a sheikh from Qatar recently visited his shop and whipped out his phone to show me photos he took from that visit.

We also talked about the heritage areas of the city and how old buildings are maintained and protected. I really enjoyed my chat with Patrick Phoa and I bought a few postcards, the lightest objects I could put in my suitcase.

If you're ever in Singapore, do make time to visit The Heritage Shop. 

These are the postcards I bought.

Mr and Mrs Phoa





Here are more photos from inside The Heritage Shop.































All photos © Hind Mezaina.


The Heritage Shop
93 Jalan Sultan
Singapore, 198997




Singapore Diary - Around Jalan Sultan


This post is about the area I stayed in Singapore. I stayed on Jalan Sultan street and these are photos from the areas surrounding it.


Breakfast at Dong Po Colonial Cafe

I started most of my days at Dong Po Colonial Cafe to get my breakfast fix of Kaya toast, also known as "Set A". I really liked the space, friendly staff, quick service iand the place is filled with old objects, each table had a glass top covering old objects like magazines and old prints.



Lunch or dinner at Kampong Glam Cafe

I was glad to go back to this restaurant, it was one of my favourite places to eat during my first trip to Singapore. Glad I was able to eat more delicious meals there.



 Alsagoff Arab School


Karaoke Lounge


Parkview Square


Mural on a street behind Jalan Sultan


High rise, low rise (the building on the left is The Concourse)


Tropical trees

Textile shops in the Arab Quarter


Muscat Street in the Arab Quarter


Found this on a wall in Hajji Lane


Kandahar Street


Old buildings


Makeshift barber shop






More chairs


All photos © Hind Mezaina.


Singapore Diary - Little India 

On my last trip to Singapore, I visited Little India at night. It was very crowded and I felt I didn't really get to see it properly. Luckily, I had a chance to visit Little India during this trip. I didn't get to explore it properly, I went there for lunch and walked on some of the main streets. I really enjoyed seeing so much colour.



All photos © Hind Mezaina.




Singapore Diary - Tiong Bahru


Tiong Bharu is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Singapore. I love the architecture, a mix of residential and commercial spaces and overall it feels very chilled. A part of town you can wander around, away from the hustle and the bustle of the city. 

My first stop was BooksActually, one of my favourite bookstores. I love spending time there, browsing through books and magazines, there's always good music playing and the staff is always friendly and helpful. The resident cat is also quite comfortable there. I couldn't believe it when I saw it sitting right next to a book titled "I am a Cat".


Here are images from my walk, which ended at the Tiong Bahru Market where I had a delicious meal of duck rice.


 All photos © Hind Mezaina.


Singapore Diary - Singapore Botanic Gardens


Here are photos from a late afternoon spent at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. So many beautiful flowers and colours. Coming from Dubai, I was glad to be surrounded by nature and all its colourful glory.



All photos © Hind Mezaina.