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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.


Global Art Forum 10 - DAY 1: THE FUTURE WAS: DUBAI

Image courtesy of: Abu Dhabi Media - Al Ittihad Newspaper

Art Dubai
turns 10 this year. The fair will take place between 16th-19th March 2016, but leading up to it there are a couple of scheduled events.

Saturday, 9th January, Global Art Forum 10 will launch its first session DAY 1: THE FUTURE WAS: DUBAI at Hai 3 in Dubai Design District, and a second sesison on Saturday, 14th January, DAY 2: THE FUTURE WAS: LONDON on 14th January in London at the ICA

For those not familiar with the Global Art Forum, it takes place every year during Art Dubai, it brings together a diverse line-up of artists, curators, musicians, strategists, thinkers and writers to present and debate ideas around a curated theme. This is my favourite part of Art Dubai and the main reason I attend the fair.

The theme for the 10th edition of the Global Art Forum is "THE FUTURE WAS", it will "explore the ways in which artists, writers, technologists, historians, musicians and thinkers have imagined, and are shaping, the future".

The session on 9th January will run from 6.00 pm - 8.00 pm, is open to the public and free to attend.

The session on 14th January will run from 6.15 pm 9 8.00pm and costs £7.00 to £10.00. You can book here to attend the session in London.


Here's the line up of talks on DAY 1: THE FUTURE WAS: DUBAI
Introduction and welcome - THE FUTURE WAS

Still from Sophia Al-Maria, A Whale Is A Whale Is A Whale, 2014 Courtesy of Third Line Gallery

Amal Khalaf (Artist, researcher, curator and Global Art Forum 10 Co-Director), Uzma Z. Rizvi (Associate Professor of Anthropology and Urban Studies, Pratt Institute of Art and Design and Global Art Forum 10 Co-Director) and Shumon Basar (Writer and Global Art Forum 10 Commissioner)



Farah Al-Nakib, Kristine Khouri, Ala Younis, Sulayman Al Bassam, Global Art Forum 8, 2014 

What did the future look like in the mid-2000s? In the Mid-East? Why did a talks program at a new regional art fair decide to be “global” and a “forum”? Art Dubai’s Director, Antonia Carver, and the Global Art Forum’s Commissioner, Shumon Basar, introduce the evening by traveling ten years in ten minutes.
Antonia Carver (Director, Art Dubai) and Shumon Basar (Writer and Global Art Forum 10 Commissioner)



Image via

To commemorate the golden jubilee of the founding of the United Arab Emirates in 2021 the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai will be launching a probe to Mars. The Red Planet probe named Al Amal (Hope) is the first space program ever launched by an Arab state and marks a milestone in the nation’s history.

As part of Global Art Forum 10 held under the theme The Future Was the team behind the Mars probe will for the first time be discussing live the hold ‘space’ has over our imaginations, globally, and the way that space travel is associated with national ambition.
Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi (UAE commentator and Founder of Barjeel Art Foundation), Sarah Amiri (Deputy Project Manager for Science & Science Lead, Emirates Mars Mission, Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre), Ibrahim Hamza Al Qasimi (Head of Strategic Research, Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology) and Saeed Al Gergawi (Strategic Researcher, Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre)



Flying Saucer, c. 1980s, photo by Gerard Reymond

The Flying Saucer Roundabout is one of the most beloved landmarks in Shajrah. The Sharjah Art Foundation is currently engaged in a research project related to this part of the built environment. In this conversation, Hoor Al Qasimi and Murtaza Vali talk through the memories, nostalgia, heritage, and futuristic design of the Flying Saucer Roundabout in Sharjah.
Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi (President, Sharjah Art Foundation) and Murtaza Vali (Critic, curator, editor and Visiting Instructor at the Pratt Institute of Art and Design)


Performative Presentation -

Hasan Hujairi (image via 

What happens when islanders stop looking out to sea and instead look back in land? What are the cultural effects of a changing coastline? In this audio-visual performance, artist Hasan Hujairi introduces us to fidjeri songs or ‘sea music’.

Featuring samples of fidjeri songs, traditionally sung by pearl diving communities in the Gulf, and consisting of an all-male chorus and solo singer with minimal percussion, the performance will also feature video archive of early fidjeri performances and the changing coastline of Bahrain.

This performance follows a conversation between Hujairi and Amal Khalaf as they trace the resonances of fidjeri featuring anecdotes of the myth of the origin of the music form, its close links to zaar music, how Concorde effected music production on the island and the effects of land reclamation on Bahraini culture.    
Amal Khalaf (Artist, researcher, curator and Global Art Forum 10 Co-Director) and Hasan Hujairi (Composer, sound artist and researcher)

Project -
Image via Art Dubai 

If you drove down Dubai’s arterial highway, Sheikh Zayed Road, in 2006, you’d see the largest number of continuously running adjacent billboards in the world. Each one promised a brilliant, bright future under brilliant, bright skies.

Hoards of hijabi and hipster inhabitants in jaw-locked joy. Photoshop Utopias of the better beyond. WTD collate the most iconic and most telling of these real estate image manifestoes.
WTD (UAE-based Magazine)

Event details
Date: Saturday, 9th January 2016, 6:00pm–8:00pm
Venue: Dubai Design District, Hai d3 (location map)
Free and open to the public. To register your interest, email your full name to  

Date: Saturday, 14th January 2016, 6:15pm–8:00pm
Venue: ICA, London
Ticking details and complete information can be found here.



RIP Vilmos Zsigmond

Petr Novák, Wikipedia

Legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond passed away on 1st January. Here's a tribute video made by Brad Jones.

Video includes scenes from:

The Deer Hunter
Heaven's Gate
Blow Out
Fat Man and little Boy
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Real Genius
The Two Jakes
The Long Goodbye
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
The Ghost and The Darkness


RIP Vilmos Zsigmond, 16 June 1930 - 1 January 2016


Cinema at the Space - January 2016 


Cinema at The Space is back with a strong line up of films for January. If you've not been, the screenings take place at The Space in Abu Dhabi (twofour54 Park Rotana Building), and free to attend, but you must RSVP in advance.

Here's the line up, you can click on the images below to read more/RSVP.


Monday, 4th January

Wednesday, 6th January


Friday, 8th January


Monday, 11th January


Wednesday, 13th January

Saturday, 16th January


Monday, 18th January


Wednesday, 20th January


Saturday, 23rd January


Monday, 25th January


Wednesday, 27th January


Saturday, 30th January



Cinema Akil - Where We Dwell film screenings in January 2016

Rags and Tatters
Cinema Akil's "Where We Dwell" film screenings at A4 Space in Alserkal Avenue continue into the new year. The screenings are scheduled to run till 4th March 2016.

Here's this month's line up:

6th, 7th, 8th January 2016 at 7pm

Where the Wild Things Are
Spike Jonze (2009)
101’ | English | USA | Adventure, Drama, Animation | G 

Yearning for escape and adventure, hot-tempered Max runs away from home and sails to an island of his imagination filled with wild beasts that take him in as their king. The film is Spike Jonez’s adaptation of the late Maurice Sendak’s children’s book from 1963.


13th, 14th, 15th January at 7pm

Pirates of Salé
Merieme Addou, Rosa Rogers (2014) 
79’ | Arabic, French | Morocco, France, UK | Documentary | G 

Cirque Shems’y sits on the edge of one of Morocco’s poorest slums, and hundreds of teenagers come to audition each year, desperately hoping for a new future in the circus. The handful who are accepted embark on a tough journey of transformation, learning to live independently, express themselves, challenge convention, and embrace a totally alien concept: artistic freedom.

20th, 21st, 22nd January at 7pm

Rags and Tatters
Ahmad Abdalla (2013)
97’ | Arabic | Egypt | Drama | PG 

In one of the most extraordinary nights in the history of Egypt, the prisons were suddenly opened, leaving thousands of prisoners wandering the desert. Among them was one man trying to find his way in a city that is rapidly changing for good.


27th, 28th, 29th January at 7pm

Man Push Cart
Ramin Bahrani (2005)
87’ | English, Urdu | USA | Drama | PG 

Every night while the city sleeps, Ahmad, a Pakistani immigrant, struggles to drag his heavy cart along the streets of New York to his corner in Midtown Manhattan. And every morning, from inside his cart he sells coffee and donuts to a city he cannot call his own.

He is the worker found on every street corner in every city. He is a man who wonders if he will ever escape his fate. The film won the FIPRESCI Prize at the London Film Festival.

Screening venue: A4 Space in Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai (location map)
Schedules are subject to change, please check our website for updates.
Screenings are free, open to the public and are on a first-come-first-seated basis.


Charlie Brooker's 2015 Wipe

He's back with another yearly look at the news. Favourite line, "ISIS make Al Qaeda look like Crowded House."


Exhibition - The Place of Perpetual Undulation by Reem Falaknaz at Gulf Photo Plus

© Reem Falaknaz

Reem Falaknaz's first solo exhibition The Place of Perpetual Undulation will open at Gulf Photo Plus on Thursday, 7th January. I've known Reem for many years and I've seen her photography develop, and I'm thrilled about her first solo exhibition.

Reem will give a talk on the opening night at 7.30pm and will also give a guided tour on Monday, 18th January at 7.30pm.


Reem Falaknaz’s exploration of small Emirati villages began several years ago when, struck by the drastic developmental changes these villages and their surrounding landscapes faced, she decided to capture the shift through the lens of her camera. 

© Reem Falaknaz

Concentrated on the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, the exhibition showcases the life of the local people and the life of the surrounding mountains – a constant source of stone and raw construction material for an emirate with a rapidly developing and ravenously demanding infrastructure.

As the artist explains, “Ras Al Khaimah, where the series is set, is a mountainous area that is being flattened to pave way for new resorts and hotels, or by quarry sites for providing the building materials for places like these resorts.”

© Reem Falaknaz
Exhibition details

Opening night:  Thursday, 7th January at 7.00 pm followed by a talk with Reem Falaknaz at 7.30 pm
Exhibition runs:  7th - 31st January 2016
Guided artist-tour of the exhibition will take place on Monday, 18th January at 7.30 pm
Venue: Gulf Photo Plus, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai (location map)




The Secret to a Long Life 


I stumbled upon this uplifting video featuring New Yorkers over the age of 85 talking about the secret to a long life. This is the kind of thing you need to see/hear regularly.

These are some of my favourite answers. 

  • "The secret to a long life is to be engaged with life."
  • "I colour my hair, wear make up and flirt with only the cute guys and I always take the stairs."
  • "Have a curious mind, and that is the one thing that is important when you get old."
  • "Be aware of the pleasure that you get when you give something or do something for people that really need it."
  • "Good family and at this time of life, good friends."
  • "....try to be happy, which is not easy."

The video is from a New York Times article, The Wisdom of Old Age featuring men and women talking about old age. Watch the video and read the complete article here.

A paradox of old age is that older people have a greater sense of well-being than younger ones — not because they’re unreservedly blissful, but because they accept a mixture of happiness and sadness in their lives, and leverage this mixture when events come their way. They waste less time on anger, stress and worry.



Happy New Year

Me with my Dad

A new day, a new year. 2015 was a sad year for me. My father passed away in July and it's been a tough emotional period for my family and me. I became less engaged socially in Dubai, spending most of my time at home with family or watching films at home or in the cinema. Watching films has been a great healer for me.

The pain will never go away, but I hope to get back into the swing of things in this new year. I leave you with this perfect message to greet the new year. Happy new year to all.

"May the best of your past be the worst of your future."  (via One Perfect Shot)



My Top 20 Films of 2015 

It's time to share my top 20 films of the year. It's been a good year of films for me, watched a lot at the cinema, in Dubai and abroad.

It's always hard for me to make top lists when it comes to films, but for this year, the top filve list includes films that had me on the edge of my seat, films that I found entralling and gripping.

As for the rest of the list, all films I love and strongly recommend you seek them out if you've not watched them.

Here goes:

20. Jauja - Director:  Lisandro Alonso 

The ending left me scratching my head, but every frame in this film is a beautifully composed, each one worth framing on a wall.


19. Cop Car (Director: Jon Watts)

Not many people I know wacthed this minimalist road thriller. A dark and slightly comedic film starring Kevin Bacon as a nasty mustached cop and two kids who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.


18. Victoria (Director: Sebastian Schipper)

The one shot film everyone is talking about this year. With a running time of 138 mins, and set in real time, it was quite a trip following Victoria from the opening scene at dancing at a club in Berlin and what follows. The Nils Frahm film score was an added bonus too.


17. Ex Machina (Director: Alex Garland)

One added to my list of favourite sci-fi films, and also for this dance scene.  


16. Selma (Director: Ava DuVernay)

Such a well crafted film, we need to see more films by Ava DuVernay.


15. James White (Director: Josh Mond)

On coping with and caring for a dying parent. This film left me in an emotional mess, only because the pain depicted  in it was too familiar.


14. The Forbidden Room (Directors: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson)

"A submarine crew, a feared pack of forest bandits, a famous surgeon, and a battalion of child soldiers all get more than they bargained for as they wend their way toward progressive ideas on life and love."

A visual feast of a film, I wanted to swim in it. The colours, characters, font and for this song.


13. Inherent Vice (Director:Paul Thomas Anderson)

Josh Brolin is tremendous in this "California Noir" film. The pancake scene is just the best, "Motto panacaiku". Brilliant.


13. The Lobster (Director: Yorgos Lanthimos)

Yorgos Lanthimos' first English language film set in a dystiopian world where single men and women must find compatible romantic partners in 45 days or be transformed into an animal of their choice. Yes, it is as strange as it sounds, add to it deadpan and dark humour.


12. Listen Up Philip (Director: Alex Ross Perry)

On narcissism, insecurities, criticism, and entitlement and contempt. a well crafted film by by Alex Ross Perry. Great script and acting in this.

10. Mustang (Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven)

Deniz Gamze Ergüven's first feature film celebrates sisterhood and a commentary on patriarchy and oppression. Beautifully filmed, both joyous and melancholic.

9. The Duke of Burgundy (Director: Peter Strickland)

Stylish and sensual. I think the most beautiful S&M love story ever made. "Pinastri, pinastri".


8. 45 Years (Director: Andrew Haigh)

When an unexpected letter arrives a week before the celebration of a 45th wedding anniversary, it creates an emotional disruption that is so well acted by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. So much emotional depth in this film.


7. Tangerine (Director: Sean Baker)

Despite its fast paced, fast talking, no holds barred script, it's a film about friendship. Filmed entirely on an iPhone, it captured a slice of a very unglamourous, non-forgiving LA.


6. Carol (Director: Todd Haynes)

A beautiful and sumptous looking film about love.So much expressed through the eyes in this film. Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are glorious to look at in this film. Everything in this film is perfect, the script, the cast, the costume, the score. A perfect looking film.


5. Son of Saul (Director: László Nemes)

A worthy first feature by László Nemes. Outstanding acting, cinematography and sound. A film about finding inner peace amidst bleakness.


4. It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)

I wrote three reasons why you must wacth this film here.

3. The Assassin (Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou)

I discovered films by Hou Hsiao-Hsien a few months ago when I managed to watch some of his films at his retrospective in London. He has a very unique style of filmmaking and story telling and I can't wait to see the rest of his films. The Assassin is Hou Hsiao-Hsien's first wuxia/martial arts film and what a film it is. It's quite dense, with many characters and back stories. One of the few films I watched this year that I wanted to rewatch shortly after the first viewing.


2. Mad Max:Fury Road (Director: George Miller)

I hadn't felt this exhilarated watching an action film for a while. Another film that I rewatched shortly after the first viewing. 


1. Hard to be a God (Director: Alexei German

I watched this film a couple of weeks ago and so glad I caught it. I plugged it to the biggest TV screen I could get my hands on, and I am now on a mission to watch it on the big screen. A masterpiece. A monumental masterpiece. Set on a planet called Arkanar that looks like something out of the Middle Ages, we as viewers are thrown into a world of mud, body excrement, sweat, rain and lots of violence. One of the most intrusive films I've seen and it's quite an experience. Not an easy film to watch, but one that must be seen.


Honorable mentions:
Aferim! (Radu Jude), Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul), Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra), I am Belfast (Mark Cousins), Love (Gasper Noe), Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke), Neon Bull (Gabriel Mascaro), Out on the Street (Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk)
, Tangerines (Zaza Urushadze), Taxi Tehran (Jafar Panahi), The Tribe (Miroslav Slaboshpitsky)



Favourite film discoveries of 2015

Image via

2015 was a year I kept track of all the films I watched by making a list evey month. It was a year I discovered a lot of old films. Thanks to online streaming and repertory film programming in cities like London I was able to watch a lot of films I never had a chance to see before and discover new old films.

Here's my list of top 25 favourite film discoveries of the year with a few lines added for some of the films.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

I watched this on 70mm at the Prince Charles Cinema in London. It was a glorious experience. I erased the memory I had of watching it on TV. Watching it in the cinema is the only way to experience this film.

Image via

2. Tokyo Story (Yasujirō Ozu, 1953, Japan)

It took me a long time, but I finally watched this film. So many painful truths expressed in this film.  Profound and heartbreaking.

3. Films directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien:

Flowers of Shanghai (1998), Millennium Mambo (2001), Cafe Lumiere (2003), Three Times (2005)

This was a major discovery for me this year, I watched these films on 35mm at the BFI in London and can't wait to see the rest of his films. 

4. A New Leaf (Elaine May, 1971)

This film needs to be seen by more people. A comedic masterpiece.

5. Films directed by Eric Rohmer

L'Amour l'après-midi (Love in the Afternoon), 1972 / Le Rayon Vert (The Green Ray), 1986

I want to see more Eric Rohmer films in 2016.

6. Films directed by Tsai Ming-liang
The Wayward Cloud (2005), I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (2006)

7. Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg, 1971)

Image via The Guardian

8. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)

9. Boom! (Joseph Losey, 1968)

I watched this on 35mm at the BFI in London. I had a grin from ear to ear the whole time. This film is fabulous. John Waters said "If you don’t like this film, I hate you." I agree.

Image via BFI

10. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (Lou Adler, 1982)

Starring a very young Diane Lane as feminist punk rock singer. "Every girl should be given an electric guitar on her 16th birthday" Corinne Burns (Diane Lane).

11. Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1974)

12. The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963)


13. Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)


14. Rocco and his Brothers (Luchino Visconti, 1960, Italy)

Image via

15. Once Upon a Time in America: Extended Director's Cut (Sergio Leone, 1984, 2012)

I watched this at a screening organised by Badlands Collective in London and it was followed by a discussion with Elizabeth McGovern. Read more about it here.

16. Almayer's Folley (Chantal Akerman, 2011)

Planning to dedicate time in 2016 to watch as many Chantal Akerman films as I can get my hands on.


17. الأرض / Al Ard / The Land (Youssef Chahine, 1969)

18. صراع في الميناء / Sira` Fi al-Mina / Dark Waters (Youssef Chahine, 1956)


19. Black Girl (Ousmane Sembène, 1966)

20. Mon Oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, 1971)



21. Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951)  

22. Harvest: 3000 Years (Haile Gerima, 1976)


23. The Swimmer (Frank Perry, Sydney Pollack, 1968)

24. Valley Girl ( 
Martha Coolidge, 1983)

25. Dogtooth (Greece, 2009, Yorgos Lanthimos)