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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.


Reel Palestine 2017

The third edition of the Reel Palestine film festival is back this month. It's on between 20th - 28th January 2017, screening a selection of the latest in Palestinian documentaries, dramas, short films and comedies.   

The screenings will take place in Dubai (Alserkal Avenue) and in Sharjah (Mirage City Cinema in Sharjah Art Foundation). The festival is free to attend.   

Here's the schedule and line up: 

Friday, 20th January at 7:30pm, The Yard, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai
Dir. Arab and Tarzan Nasser | 2015) | Drama | Arabic | 2015 | 85min

In Gaza, two hairdressers and ten customers of various ages and backgrounds spend the day trapped in a beauty salon while outside, Hamas police fight a gang who stole a lioness from Gaza's only zoo.  

Saturday, 21st January at 8:30pm, ​Mirage City Cinema, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah
Friday, 27th January at 7:30 pm, ​The Yard, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai  

3000 Nights
Dir. Mai Masri | 2015 | Drama | Arabic | 103min  
Layal, a newlywed Palestinian schoolteacher, is arrested after being falsely accused and sentenced to 8 years of prison. She is transferred to a high security Israeli women’s prison where she encounters a terrifying world in which Palestinian political prisoners are incarcerated with Israeli criminal inmates. When she discovers she is pregnant, the prison director pressures her to abort the baby and spy on the Palestinian inmates. Resilient, and still in chains, Layal gives birth to a baby boy.

Through her struggle to raise her son behind bars, and her relationship with the other prisoners, she manages to find a sense of hope and a meaning to her life. Prison conditions deteriorate and the Palestinian prisoners decide to strike. The prison director warns her against joining the rebellion and threatens to take her son away. In a moment of truth, Layal is forced to make a choice that will forever change her life. 

Sunday, 22nd January at 7:30 pm, A4 Space, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai

Electrical Gaza
Dir. Rosalind Nashashibi, 2015 | English & Arabic | 18min
In Electrical Gaza Nashashibi combines her footage of Gaza, and the fixer, drivers and translator who accompanied her there, with animated scenes. She presents Gaza as a place from myth; isolated, suspended in time, difficult to access and highly charged.  

Gaza Surf Club
Dir. Philip Gnadt & Mickey Yamine, 2016 | Documentary | Arabic & English | 87min
This film will be screened in conjunction with the short film: Electrical Gaza.  Gaza – a strip of land with a population of 1.7 million citizens, wedged between Israel and Egypt and isolated from the outside world. 42 kilometers of coastline with a harbor that no longer services ships. Hardly anything gets in to Gaza and even less get’s out.

The young generation is growing up with very little perspective - occupied and jobless. But against this background there is a small movement.   ​Our protagonists are part of the surf community of Gaza City. Round about 40 surfboards have been brought into the country over the past decades with great effort and despite strict sanctions. It is those boards that give them an opportunity to experience a small slice of freedom - between the coastal reminder of a depressing reality and the Israeli-controlled 6 mile marine border. 

Monday, 23rd January at 7:30 pm, A4 Space, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai 

In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain
Dir. Larissa Sansour, 2015 | Arabic | 29min
In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain resides in the cross-section between sci-fi, archaeology and politics. Combining live motion and CGI, the film explores the role of myth for history, fact and national identity. A narrative resistance group makes underground deposits of elaborate porcelain – suggested to belong to an entirely fictional civilization. Their aim is to influence history and support future claims to their vanishing lands. 

Dir. Ammar Al-Beik, 2009 | Documentary | Arabic | 40min
A trail of memories connects disparate places, from the film director in Syria and the artist Samia Halaby who paints and films Ramallah, to Bisan who wanders aimlessly through Jerusalem. Guided by Samia’s paintings of the olives and the wind of Palestine, gathering the stones and soil of Ramallah that are the “words of the Palestinian people,” the film evokes the space of exiled Palestinians. Their gaze, thoughts, and unspoken words become the light of the film that reflects back on the audience.

I received a present from the Palestinian painter and my friend Samia Al Halaby, a stone from an olive grove in the city of Ramallah. This was ten years after I received my first present, a Jerusalem stone, from a Palestinian friend who I used to meet mostly outside of my country, Syria. I have since then collected a wide variety of stones from Palestinian cities in a special album.

It was that year as well that the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, one of the most important characters in the film by Jean-Luc Godard, Notre musique (Our Music), died on August 9, 2008.

Darwish ascended to the heavens, heavy with the wounds of his usurped country, Jean-Luc Godard is still making films and lighting our nights, Samia is still painting and dreaming of her family’s house in Jerusalem, and Bisan, the girl from Jerusalem, is still walking in the alleys of ancient Jerusalem, passing by the surrounding hills without knowing her destination. 

Tuesday, 24th January at 7:30pm, A4 Space, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai

A Series of Palestinian Shorts
The Embroiderers

A selection of Palestinian shorts and documentary's which explores Palestinian embroidery, the impacts of dependance on foreign aid, a brave boy Yazan and a lesser known history of Bangladeshi fights in the PLO.  
  • Abu Ammar is Coming (Dir. Naeem Mohaiemen, ​2016, 16 min) 
  • The Embroiderers (Dir. Maeve Brennan, ​2016, 23 min)
  • Donor Opium (Dir. Mariam Shahin & George Azar, ​2011, 25 min)
  • I Am Not Afraid of the Soldiers (Dir. Rinske Bosch, 2016, 20 min)

Wednesday, 25th January at 7:30 pm, A4 Space, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai  

The Idol
Dir. Hany Abu Assad, 2015 | Drama | Arabic | 100 min ​
Mohammed Assaf, an aspiring musician living in Gaza, sets a seemingly impossible goal: to compete on the program "Arab Idol." 

Saturday, 28th January at 8:30 p.m, Mirage City Cinema, Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah

Magical Substance Flows Into Me
Dir. Juamana Manna, 2015| Documentary | Arabic, English & Hebrew | 68min
A magical substance flows into me opens with a crackly voice recording. The voice is that of Dr. Robert Lachmann, an enigmatic Jewish-German ethnomusicologist who emigrated to 1930s Palestine. While attempting to establish an archive and department of Oriental Music at the Hebrew University, Lachmann created a radio program for the Palestine Broadcasting Service called “Oriental Music”, where he would invite members of local communities to perform their vernacular music.
Over the course of the film, Jumana Manna—herself a Palestinian from Jerusalem—follows in Lachmann’s footsteps and visits Kurdish, Moroccan and Yemenite Jews, Samaritans, members of urban and rural Palestinian communities, Bedouins and Coptic Christians, as they exist today within the geographic space of historical Palestine. Manna engages them in conversation around their music, while lingering over that music’s history as well as its current, sometimes endangered state. She asks these individuals to perform, and they do.
Intercutting these motley encounters with musicians, are a series of vignettes of Manna interacting with her own parents in the bounds of their family home. In fact, the domestic is a trope that is littered throughout this film with recurring kitchen, living room, and elevator scenes. In Manna’s metaphorical excavation of an endlessly contested history, the film’s preoccupations include: the complexities embedded in language, as well as desire and the aural set against the notion of impossibility. Within our hackneyed one-dimensional ideas about Palestine/Israel, this impossibility becomes itself a trope that defines the Palestinian landscape.   

Wasla - Arab Alternative Music Festival

Wasla is a new music festival celebrating alternative Arabic music. The festival will take place on Friday, 20th January at the Media City Ampitheathre in Dubai. 

I'm glad this is happening and hopefully more of this in the coming year. It's about time we celebrate music from the Arab world and an opportunity to introduce this music to a new audience. The festival will include genres ranging from reggae, rock, jazz, soul, pop, and of course electronic. 

We are Wasla, an Arabic word meaning the connection between two places, or a tool in the Arabic language to give a smooth platform to the beginning of heavy sounds. We are a team of Arabs and Arabists, introverts and extroverts, mad men and suits, lovers and givers that have connected together from across the world to bring a tangible alternative image and weight to the cultural produce of the Arab world.

Tired of the same image of yesterday’s palaces turning into rubble to the tune of fear and confusion, tired of the identity of ignorance and arrogance, tired too of the pastime of creative mediocrity, we are on a mission to provide an alternative, to celebrate the timeless connection of the Arab past with its present, its mother-tongue with its youth, and its talent with its audience – for Arabs, and for the world.


Tickets can be bought here.

  • Early bird (limited): 235 AED  - SOLD OUT 
  • Regular: 295 AED 
  • VIP: 445 AED (Elevated platform with seating, dedicated bar access and table service

Here's the line up in alphabetical order and schedule: 

Abri & Funk Radius  

Nominated for MTV Europe’s Music Award for Best Middle East Act, Hamdan Al-Abri is an Emirati singer/songwriter and one of the founders of Dubai-based soul band ABRI.

One of the most well known names on the UAE’s homegrown music scene, Hamdan Al-Abri has been recognized time and time again for his talent.

Playing music from a young age, he has already released two critically acclaimed albums and toured with legends such as Erykah Badu, Ziggy Marley, Arrested Development, Kanye West and Joss Stone.

Emel Mathlouthi  

A strident songstress whose intensity is cloaked in melliflous vocals, Emel Mathlouthi is also known for her role as a leading artist in the Arab Spring. 

She released her first album, Kelmti Horra (my word is free) in 2012, garnering lavish praise from critics and fans for her powerful vocals laid over a unique mix of north african rythyms and modern electronic beats. 

Her 2015 was prolific, including work on a new album with producer Valgeir Siggurdson and culminating with her solo performance at the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony. 


Jadal is a Jordanian rock band, formed by composer, guitarist, and producer Mahmoud Radaideh in 2003. One of the first Arabic rock bands in the region, they started their journey by grabbing listener’s attention with their cover “Kol Ma Gool Al-Tobah” for the legendary Egyptian artist Abdel Halim Hafez in Jadal’s Arabic Rock style. 

Known for their lively performances, Jadal’s music breaks boundaries, and challenges the music scene. Their diverse fans, both rock and Arabic music fans prove that music isn’t biased to language or background.


Mashrou' Leila  

Born of a nocturnal encounter at the American University of Beirut in 2008, Mashrou’ Leila is a six-member band that fuses the craftiness of a music workshop with the punch of stadium rock. 

With their distinct approach to storytelling and orchestration, they have crafted some of the most melancholic ballads and raucous anthems in contemporary alternative Arabic music, and went on to perform them live at sold-out venues in Lebanon, Cairo, Amman, Istanbul, Dubai, Tunis, Paris, Amsterdam,Montreal, Geneva, Serbia and international festivals such as Byblos, Baalbeck, BabelMed, Paleo and Exit.

I wrote about Masrou Leila previously, here and here.


Egyptian electronic musician and record producer NEOBYRD garnered mainstream recognition after two tracks from his first album “With You Again” and “My Sweet Heartless” were played on Egypt’s biggest radio station, Nile FM.

He is also known for his remixes for Daft Punk, Four Tet, NEUS & Egyptian Legend Hany Shenouda and has gone on to release two Albums: Transbyrd 2011, The King Is Dead 2013. His music video for ‘My Sweet Heartless’ was chosen as one of the top music videos of 2012 by Egyptian publication Ahram Online, winning in 2007, 3rd place and Special prize in a competition organized by ‘Ableton Live’. 

 I wrote about Neobyrd previously, here and here.

Salhi (Mounir Troudi & Imed Alibi) 

The exceptional meeting between percussionist Imed Alibi, Sufi singer Mounir Troudi, and jazz trumpetist Michel Marre serves to create a new expression of Bedouin musical heritage, in particular the “Salhi” which brings together mysticism, poetry, and atmospheres of party and trance.



Souad Massi 

Souad’s music pays homage to a time when the art of kalām or ‘discourse’ was valued by Muslims, rather than feared.

In medieval Spain, the wise men in the council of discourse were called the mutakallimoun – the scholars of debate – and each of the songs of Souad’s new album of the same name is an attempt to encapsulate their spirit of openness, intellect and tolerance in music.


This is the schedule. There will be local acts playing in between these sets. 


These are the acts I am recommending you don't miss: 





Mahsrou’ Leila  



Declaring Email Bankruptcy 

I've been playing email catch up for a long time. I'm talking years. Every time I try to get through my unread or unreplied emails or emails I should delete, I get overwhelmed by the whole thing and decide to continue later. Which only leads to more unread/unreplied/undeleted emails. 

Now that we're one week into the new year, I decided I need to start from a clean slate, and the only way I can do this is by declaring email bankruptcy
Email bankruptcy is a term used to explain a decision to delete all emails older than a certain date, due to an overwhelming volume of messages.  

If you emailed me, sent me a message via this blog, Facebook, text or Whatsapp and I never replied to you, I am truly sorry. If you still need a response from me, please resend your email/message. I am aiming to be better at responding from now on. 

[image via Someecards


The Ground Beneath Me by Mark Cersosimo

Mark Cersosimo
 documented his feet for a whole year and put together this video. The photos show his feet indoors, outdoors, bare, with socks, flip flops and shoes. It's a fun short video.  
I have feet. Sometimes they take me to far away places and sometimes they never leave my apartment. I took a photo of them and the ground beneath that lies beneath them every day from January 1st 2016 to December 31st 2016. Here they are in no particular order.  

Astronautalis live at Bad House Party on 12th January 2017

Astronautalis will be back in Dubai, performing for the second time at Bad House Party on Thursday, 12th January (his first performance there was in December 2015). 
A rising legend of American indie, renowned for his astounding, genre-busting live shows. Performing for the second time in Dubai, after his amazing show in December 2015 that earned rave reviews from the local music press.

"Casa Latina’s tiny stage couldn’t contain Astronautalis’s aggressive attack and ricochet rhymes. The grunge-soaked smash of his band’s drums and guitar threatened to shake down the very walls around us. This was something real and raw, a genuine thunderbolt experience shared by a few hundred folk in the know." Rob Garratt, The National   
Here are a couple of tracks by Astronautalis, you can listen to more here

Event details
Date: Thursday, 12th January 2017
Location: Casa Latina, Ibis Hotel in Barsha, Dubai (location map). 
Ticket: AED 100 on the door (limited number, get there early to avoid disappointment - first come first served, no reservations).  
Doors: 9:00 pm to 2:45 am

Bad House Party event page on Facebook 



Dance in Film 2016


Dancer on Film is one of favourite accounts on Twitter where they post videos and GIFs of dance scenes from films. 

They've put together this video with dance clips from films of 2016. It inculdes some of my favourites, Divines, Aquarius, Moonlight, to name a few. The complete list of films can be found here.



Happy New Year


Happy new year.


[Image from the film 200 Cigarettes (Risa Bramon Garcia, 1999)]


My Top 50 Films of 2016

It's time to share my top 50 films of 2016. It includes various genres and languages, films seen at film festivals and regular screenings in Dubai and abroad.

Critically acclaimed films I didn't get to see this year which could  have made the list:
Death of Louis XIVThe Love WitchNerrudaSilence

Critically acclaimed films I didn't like this:
American HoneyCaptain FantasticEverybody Wants Some!!La La Land, Neon Demon, Nocturnal Animals (except for the story line featuring Michael Shannon, if that was a film on its own, it would have been included in the list below), Paterson 

It's hard to pin down one underlying theme connecting all 50 films listed below, but there are lots of films that feel melancholic and are about time and memories. 

Here it is, my top 50 films of the year:


50. Withered Green (Mohammed Hammad)

Impressive debut by Mohammed Hammad - subtle and probing film about Iman who has to ask her uncles to meet the groom who wants to propose to her younger sister, since Arab traditions requires a male presence from the bride's side. During her meetings with several male relatives to find one of them to agree to turn up, and her daily and mundane routines at work and home, hidden truths start revealing themselves about Iman and her personal and inner conflicts. 

49. Very Big Shot (Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya) 

Another impressive debut film by a young Arab director. Wrote about it here

48. How to be Single (Christian Ditter)    

I thought this was quite a progressive Hollywood rom com, it wasn't just about girl meets boy or girl trying to find boy. It was also about sisters and friendship and independence. Taught me a new phrase roo, "don't fall into a dicksand" (dicksand = male oriented quicksand, when a girl loses her identity around men).  

47. Green Room ( Jeremy Saulnier) 

A commentary about America and violence. It was tense, claustraphobic and the end of film left me wanting a spin off film about Amber.  Also, this track:

46. 10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg) 

Two words: John Goodman

45. The Untamed (Amat Escalante)

Hard to talk about this without giving too much away. But I'll just say this, forest, sexual desires and tentacles. 

44. Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd)

Loveless marriage, stifling household, a passionate love affair, violence leading more violence, we follow Lady Katherine changing her constrained life to one that she takes control of, but with disturbing conequences. A descent into mental and emotional darkness. 

43. I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach)  

A protest film that resonates outside the UK too. Fighting economic hardship and bureaucracy with dignity, despite reaching your lowest point. Incredibly moving. 

42. Hail, Caesar! (Dir. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)  

This was so much fun to watch. "It's all in the hips, the lips, and the eyes and the teeth."


 41. Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar)

A melancholic film about mothers, daughters, loss, grief, guilt, past haunting the present.      

40. Kékszakállú (Gastón Solnicki, 2016)   


The mundane lives of young girls coming of age, that's subtle, ambiguous and visually striking. A film I hope more people will discover and see in 2017. 

39. The Wedding Ring (Rahmatou Keïta)

This film from Niger is a hidden gem in the film festival circuit. It's about Tiyaa, a young woman from an aristocrtic family who returns to her home, the sultanate of Damagaram after studying in Paris. A look at relationships between women and men in Sahelian society - love, marriage, divorce and desertion. A story told with grace and dignity, this is another 
film I hope more people will discover and see in 2017. 


38. Raw (Julia Ducournau) 

A horror tale about sibling rivalry, peer pressure, vegetarianism and cannibalism. Yes, vegetarianism and cannibalism.   

37. The Wailing (Na Hong-jin)  

Gripping 150min supernatural horror from South Korea with so many revelations and twists, comical and jump scare moments, you just have to embrace it and follow the ride till the very end.  

36. Creepy (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2016)  

The suspicious weird neighbour, the missing bodies, the unsolved crimes - everything is exactly what it seems in this Japanese thriller-horror. The strained marriage and lack of communication between the husband (who is also investigating the unsolved criminal cases) and wife that eventually endangers their lives is what stood out for me.


35. Elle (Paul Verhoeven) 

A film about trauma and the refusal to be victimised, I found myself thinking a lot about and trying to understand Michèle Leblanc's character. I struggle to articulate my feelings about this film, but it is one that has stayed with me which is why it is on this list. Also, Isabelle Huppert is brilliiant in this.    


34. Zoology (Ivan I. Tverdovsky)     

A Russian tale about a woman with a tail, an allegory about contemporary Russia. About conformity, individuality and defiance. An ambigious ending that perhaps shied away from being more upfront about its message.        

33. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) 

This film made me think a lot about communication and how language shapes our thoughts. It is also a film about being vulnerable and about trust. I really enjoyed watching Amy Adams in this film. 


32. Midnight Special (Jeff Nichols)  

I found this film very emotional and melancholic. Made me think of Interstellar which was in my top 20 last year. I'd like to revisit both films in a double bill.

Also, another film with a memorable soundtrack. Here's the main theme. 


31. Ascent, Dir. Fiona Tan 

A captivating film made entrirely of photos and narrated by Fiona Tan and Hiroki Hasegawa, Ascent is a reflection on the significance of Mt Fuji and its symbolism throughout Japan's history. One line towards the end of the film stayed with me, "If you can't sleep at night, it is because you are awake in someone else's dream".  


30.Barakah Meets Barakah (Mahmoud Sabbagh)  

My favourite film from/about the Arab region this year. Mostly marketed as Saudi rom com (which in itself is a suprising and an easy selling point), it is much, much more than that. It is a scathing commentary on the control of public spaces and women's bodies. It's sharp, funny with a great two leads, Fatima Albanawi and Hisham Faqeeh.


29. Divines (Houda Benyamina) 

A fantastic debut by Houda Benyamina starring her sister Oulaya Amamra as the very fierce, ambitious and unapologetic Douniya. Opportunities for success for this muslim teenager living in the outskirts of Paris looks limited. But she is determined to enjoy the good life and will do what it takes to have that life. It's thrilling and defiant. The film is on Netflix and I strongly urge you to watch it. It would also make a good double bill with Girlhood (Celine Sciamma) which was in my top 20 last year.   


28. Dog Eat Dog (Paul Schrader) 

One of the most underrated films this year. It deserves more love. It is good. Also very funny. 

27. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)

An exquisite looking film, with some great twists and turns. 

26. United States of Love (Tomasz Wasilewski)

Set in 1990 Poland, soon after the end of the Cold War, I loved the cinematography in this. A despondent and melancholic film about loneliness and alienation.     


25. Train to Busan (Yeon Sang-ho)

Government mistrust and vulnerabilty in one of the best zombie films I've seen for a while.  

24. Under the Shadow (Babak Anvari)

Another political film, this one is a horror film et in an apartment in Iran in the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war. Lots of extremely scary moments in this. 


23. Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)

Dorothea, a single mother in her 50s and raising her teenage son in 1979, a time of cultural change and upheaval, punk music, women's lib,  . is trying to Four women in three stories set in Livingstone, Montana. All somewhat connected and each story about various degrees of unsatisfied lives. I was moved by the yearning and solitary existence in the third story. 


22. 20th Century Women (Mike Mills)

Dorothea Fields, a single free spirited mother in her mid-50s raising her teenage sone in 1979, in Santa Barbara California. A film that captures that year with great detail and authencity. The film is also very authentic emotionally - a mother trying to understand the new counterculture of the time, trying to raise a man without a male role model. But it also becomes about a son trying to understand his mother and the woman she was, is and will be. 

A great ensemble cast that is an ode to the director's mother. Annette Benning is superb in this.     


21. Voyage of Time: Life's Journey (Terrence Malick)

Wonderous. That's all I have to say about this film. 

20. No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman)

An intimate portrait of Akerman's mother in the last years of her life. In its mundaneness, there's a mother-daughter relationship that reveals history and memories. Both personal and universal. 


19. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade) 

An awkward and estranged father/daughter relationship, a lonely father trying to get back into his daughter's life and trying to tell her there is more to life than just work. A daughter trying to prove herself on the job and dealing with with corporate sexism who doesn't seem to have time for anything else. There's a lot of humour masking extreme sadness in this film.    

18. The Eyes of My Mother (Nicolas Pesce)

A gruesome and melancholic horror film about lonliness. One of the most disturbing, but also must see films of the year. 

17. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi, 2016)

A bittersweet and funny, very funny film written and directed by Taika Waititi. So well paced and executed, this was a real suprise for me. 


16. Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu)

A family drama mostly set inside an apartment, a superbly crafted film with great dialogue, acting, direction. 

15. Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello) 

Young Parisians revolting against the establishment. We are never told exactly why, but this is a film that somehow anticipated the troubles in Europe today. Masterful and provocative. With a great soundtrack too.

14. Further Beyond (Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor) 

A tracing of a journey from Ireland to Chile by Ambrosio O’Higgins, First Marquis of Osorno, who left Ireland to become a Spanish colonial administrator and then served the Spanish Empire. But this isn't your traditional biopic. It's a deconstructed film essay that's really about migration and identity.  A unique film. 


13. Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve) 

Another film starring Isabel Huppert. Nathalie, philosophy teacher dealing with a new transition in her life, a husband that leaves her after 25 years, a mother that passes away. There is no melodrama in this film, instead, it's dealing with life through everyday circumstances. Brilliantly directed by Mia Hansen-Løve who is becoming one of my favourite filmmakers.    


12. Your Name (Makoto Shinkai)

An incredibly layered film with themes of parallel lives, missed connections, body swap, dreams and memories. My favourite animated film this year.  

11. The Bacchus Lady (E J-yong)

A devastating film about old age and lonliness. What starts off as comedic soon turns into heartbreak. 

10. Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie) 

A contemporary western, with great dialogue and Jeff Bridges is fantastic in this. Also has the best diner scene in film this year.


9. Dawson City: Frozen Time (Bill Morrison, 2016) 

A documentary that combines two histories, the fise and fall of a city and the history of silent film, all told through remarkable found footage and photos with a mesmerising soundtrack.


8. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho) 

A defiant film about standing up to real estate bullies and the preservation of histories and legacies. Clara, the main protaginist in the film is a hero and we all need someone like her in our lives.


7. Love & Friendship (Whit Stillman)

Sharp, intelligent and absolutely hilarious. 


6. Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Koreeda) 

One of the most loving family dramas I've seen. Featuring ordinary people with ordinary lives, a film with so much empathy, loving and optimism that doesn't feel saccharine. Hirokazu Koreeda creates a world in his films that I want to live in.   

5. Little Men (Ira Sachs)  

Ira Sachs' Love is Strange was in my list of favourite films in 2014. Little Men is also set in New York and also touches upon the real estate issues in New York, but this time told through the lives of two young boys, the sensitive and empathetic Jake and the bold and confident Tony. About coming of age, friendship, following dreams. It's affectionate, moving and humane.    


4. Kaili Blues (Bi Gan) 

I felt so much cinematic pleasure whilst watching this film. References to Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Wong Kar Wai, but a film that is unique to its first time director Bi Gan. Halfway into the film, there's a wonderful and impressive 40min long take 40 that crosses bridges, rivers and alleyways.  A dreamlike state where the past, present and future floats together. The ending of the film left me 

A world where the past, present and future flVisually and narratively A visual Watching this felt like I was in a dream, floating through the past, present and future. The ending wowed me. 


3. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)

What more can be said about Moonlight that hasn't been said already? An incredibly moving and melancholic film, I am so glad to see this 'small film' it getting so much love and recognition. If you missed it this year, seek it out in 2017.


2. A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies) 

A portrait of Emily Dickinson's life, emotional struggles and poetry. An independent woman who followed her passion for writing, even if it was only for a few hours before dawn when she could enjoy writing freely. She challenged social and religious norms, but was also reclusive and lived within the confines of her home with her family.

With excellent direction, writing and acting, Cynthia Nixon is exceptional in this, the film its intelligent, funny and tragic, especially towards in the second half of the film. We see Dickinson dealing with the death of her parents, see isolates herself further from her family. You try to understand her inner thoughts and conflicts, about someone who wrote so well about life but who didn't really live it to the fullest. 

It's a masterpiece and was going to be my number one film this year if it weren't for...  

1. Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson) 

This film came my way only a couple of weeks ago after I was worried I wouldn't get to see it this year. I've been hearing very good things about it from January after its premiere at Sundance. 

A film made up entirely of unused footage captured over 25 years by documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. It starts with this quote:

For the past 25 years, I've worked as a documentary cinematographer. I originally shot the following footage for other films, but here I ask you to see it as my memoir. These are the images that have marked me and leave me wondering still.  

It is masterfully edited, revealing the relationship between the person behind the camera and the person in front of it. It raises questions about objectivity, constructed narratives in documentary making, emotional and ethical complexities of filming other people's lives. But it is also a film about life and the world we live in. A remarkable film.



Favourite film discoveries of 2016

Napoleon (Abel Gance, 1927)

Here's my list of favourite old film discoveries of the year. I feel lucky and thankful that I travel regularly, so I make sure I attend as many film screenings as I can during my travels, especially repertory screenings on 35mm/70mm. 

Here are my top 50 film discoveries and where I saw them (including which format). It includes repertory, remastered/restored, revived screenings mostly at cinemas, plus a few titles I watched on DVD/VOD. 

If I had to share one stand out, it would be Abel Gance's Napoleon. An incredible looking black and white and colour tinted film with a spectacular triptych finale. Politically relevant and deeply engrossing, and with a running time of 404min (including three breaks), it is one screening I will never forget at the BFI in London. Here's the film's timeline and journey from its initial idea to the cinema. Incredible.  


Cinemas/Film Festivals:  

Belladonna of Sadness (Eiichi Yamamoto, 1973)

  1. Napoleon (Abel Gance, 1927, DCP, BFI, London)
  2. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928, DCP, Shakespeare’s Globe, London)
  3. Shadows (John Cassavetes, 1959, 35mm, BFI, London)
  4. One Eyed Jack (Marlon Brando, 1961, DCP, BFI London Film Festival)
  5. Two Weeks in Another Town (Vincente Minnelli, 1962, 35mm, BFI, London) 
  6. Memories of Underdevelopment (Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1968, 35mm, BFI London Film Festival)
  7. Hospital (Frederick Wiseman, 1969, 35mm, BFI London Film Festival)
  8. McCabe & Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971, 35mm, Museum of the Moving Image, New York)
  9. Belladonna of Sadness (Eiichi Yamamoto, 1973, DCP, Cable Car Cinema, Providence)  
  10. Gloria (John Cassavetes, 1980, 35mm, The Prince Charles Cinema - Suprise Film, London)  
  11. El Sur (Víctor Erice, 1983, DCP, BFI, London) 
  12. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986, DCP, BFI - 30th Anniversary Special, London)
  13. Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991, DCP, BFI London Film Festival)
  14. Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001, 35mm, The Prince Charles Cinema, London)
  15. Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Andersen, 2003, DCP,  Anthology Film Archives, New York) 


Also Like Life: The Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien films at the National Museum of Singapore Cinémathèque, February 2016 

  1. Tong nien wang shi (A Time to Live, A Time to Die, 1985, 35mm)
  2. Lian lian feng chen (Dust in the Wind, 1986, 35mm) 
  3. Xi meng ren sheng (The Puppetmaster, 1993, 35mm) 
  4. Nan guo zai jan, nan guy (Goodbye South, Goodbye, 1996, 35mm)
  5. Qianxi Manbo (Millennium Mambo, 2001, 35mm) 
  6. Kohi Jikou (Café Lumière, 2003, 35mm)
  7. Zuihao de Shiguang (Three Times, 2005, 35mm)

This is my second year of watching this retrospective. I started last year in London and managed to catch a few more of his films earlier this year in Singapore


Tales of Cinema: The Films of Hong Sang-soo at the Museum of the Moving Image, New York, June 2016 

  1. Daijiga umule pajinnal (The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well, 1996, 35mm)
  2. Kangwon-do ui him (The Power of Kangwon Province, 1998, 35mm)
  3. Oh! Sio-Jung (Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, 2000, 35mm)
  4. Saenghwalui balgyeon (On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate, 2002, DCP)
  5. Geuk jang jean (Tale of Cinema, 2005, 35mm)
  6. Cheopcheopsanjung (Lost in the Mountains, 2009) 
  7. Jal al-ji-do mot-ha-myeon-seo (Like You Know it All, 2009, 35mm)

Brian De Palma Series at Metrograph, New York, June 2016

Dressed to Kill, Brian De Palma, 1980

  1. Hi Mom! (1970, 35mm) 
  2. Dressed to Kill (1980, 35mm) 
  3. Blow Out (1981, 35mm) 
  4. Scarface (1983, 35mm)

Black Star at the BFI, London, November 2016 

Deep Cover (Bill Duke, 1992)

  1. Borderline (Kenneth Macpherson, 1930, Video)
  2. In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, 1967, DCP)
  3. Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990, 35mm)
  4. A Raisin in the Sun (Daniel Petrie, 1967, 35mm) 
  5. Deep Cover (Bill Duke, 1992, 35mm) 
  6. BodyGuard (Mick Jackson, 1992, 35mm)
  7. Se7en (David Fincher, 1995, 35mm)  

Ride Lonesome: The Psychological Western series at the BFI, London, May 2016

Rancho Notorious (Fritz Lang, 1952)

  1. Rancho Notorious (Fritz Lang, 1952, 35mm)
  2. The Naked Spur (Anthony Mann, 1953, 35mm) 
  3. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954, DCP)


  1. The Red Shoes (Dir. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
  2. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955) 
  3. Badlands (Dir. Terrence Malick, 1973)  
  4. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (Dir. John Cassavetes, 1976) 
  5. Two Drifters (João Pedro Rodrigues, 2005)
  6. To Die Like a Man (João Pedro Rodrigues, 2009)
  7. It's Such a Beautiful Day (Don Hertzfeld, 2012) 


Other Best of Lists:
My Top 10 Exhibitions of 2016
My Top 15 Artworks of 2016 
My Top 10 Cultural Highlights of 2016   


RIP Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

Ron Galella/WireImage

I was planning on posting a page dedicated to Carrie Fisher today, but the sadness was doubled by finding out her mother Debbie Reynolds passed away a day later. 

It's just too much.

Carrie Fisher, October 21, 1956 – December 27, 2016 
Debbie Reynolds, April 1, 1932 – December 28, 2016 


[image via]