Tea with Culture

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


Alsarah and the Nubatones in Dubai on 15th June 2015


Dubai, get ready for some "East-African retro-pop" with Alsarah and the Nubatones live concert at The Music Room on Monday, 15th June.


Alsarah, is a Sudanese born singer, songwriter and ethnomusicologist. Born in the capital city of Khartoum, where she spent the first 8 years of her life, she relocated to Taez, Yemen with her family to escape the ever stifling regime in her native country. She abruptly moved to the US in 1994, when a brief civil war broke out in Yemen.

Now residing in Brooklyn, NY, she is a self-proclaimed practitioner of East-African retro-pop. Working on various projects, she most recently has been working with The Nile Project and was featured on their debut release, Aswan (named 1 of the Top 5 “Must Hear” international albums by NPR). She has also collaborated with French producer Débruit on the album Aljwal, released this past November via Soundway Records UK.


The band Alsarah and the Nubatones started out as "a dinner conversation between Alsarah and percussionist Rami El Aasser in his living room, digging through archives of old music from North Africa, and reading about migration patterns in modern day Nubia."

© Nousha Salimi

The band includes master oud player and luthier Haig Manoukian and bass player Mawuena Kodjovi.They've performed in prestigious venues such as The Kennedy Center, The Apollo Music Cafe, Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park, The World Music festival in Chicago, and the Festival du Mond Arab in Montreal just to name a few.



Watch the music videos below featuring songs from their album Silt. I've also embedded the album at the end of this post so you can listen to it. Beautiful voice and and lyrics, the album is smooth, groovy with a few tracks that will get you clapping and dancing.

There will be a few opening acts before Alsarah and the Nubatones come on stage, including hip-hop artist Toofless, DJ sets with James Locksmith, Essarai, DJ O))) from Beg, Steal, Borrow collective and DJ Mocity.

I am REALLY looking forward to this gig. Music aficianados in Dubai, DO NOT MISS THIS. Think it will be a fun night.




Listen to more music by Alsarah and the Nubatones from their album "Silt", which you can buy online here.



Event details
Date: Monday, 15th June 2015. Doors open at 8.00pm.
Venue: The Music Room, Majestic Hotel, Mankhoul, Bur Dubai (location map)
Tickets on the door - AED 100 and free entry for ladies before 9.00pm
Event page on Facebook



Cinema Akil - Here Comes the Sun film screenings in June 

The series showcases stories and narratives that grapple with concepts relating to sunlight, sunshine and the sun in its many manifestations, featuring films from around the world that span a universe of cinematic styles, directors and genres, including romance, sci-fi, drama and comedy.  
Presented at a time when The Sun takes full command over the city, Here Comes The Sun invites audiences to escape the heat and tuck themselves away into the Alserkal Avenue A4 screening room, a shelter of sorts for a cinematic confrontation with The Sun, our chosen protagonist for the summer.

I will list the film line up each month between now and August. But you can see the entire programme here. Here's the line up for June.  

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) on 
3rd, 4th, 5th June at 7.00 pm
Director: F.W. Murnau | 94 min | Silent | USA | Drama, Romance 
"Director F.W. Murnau's emotional odyssey stars George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor as a country couple whose marriage is threatened when O'Brien falls prey to cosmopolitan temptress Margaret Livingston's feminine wiles. Imbued with an intoxicating ambiance in style and substance, the lyrical silent film -- which is, by turns, quixotic, blissful, sensual and terrifying -- chalked up Academy Awards for Best Actress (Gaynor) and Best Cinematography."

Plein Soleil / Purple Noon (1960) on 10th, 11th, 12th June at 7.00 pm

Director: René Clément | 118 min| English, French | France | Thriller 
Based on the novel by crime scribe Patricia Highsmith who also wrote 'Strangers On A Train', Rene Clement's striking study from 1960 of a glamarous and complex psychopath features a career-defining turn from a young, beautiful and ultra-cool Alain Delon.

Solntse / The Sun (2005) on 17th June at 7.00 pm and 18th, 19th June at 9.00 pm

Director: Alexander Sokurov | 110 min | Japanese | Russia | Drama, History

The Sun / Solntse  is a 2005 Russian biographical film depicting Japanese Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito) during the final days of World War II. The film is the third drama in director Aleksandr Sokurov's trilogy, which included Taurus about the Soviet Union's Vladimir Lenin and Moloch about Nazi Germany's Adolf Hitler. The Sun won the Golden Apricot at the 2005 Yerevan International Film Festival, Armenia, for Best Feature Film.

Duel in the Sun (1946) on 25th, 26th, 27th June at 9.00 pm 

Director: King Vidor | 129 min | English | USA | Western, Romance
Duel in the Sun is a Technicolor 1946 Western film directed by King Vidor, produced and written by David O. Selznick, which tells the story of a Mestiza (half-Native American) girl who goes to live with her caucasian relatives, becoming involved in prejudice and forbidden love.

The movie stars Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Gregory Peck, Lillian Gish and Lionel Barrymore.
The screenings are free to attend. Schedules are subject to change, please check Cinema Akil or Alserkal Avenue's or website or the event page on Facebook for updates. 


Film and TV Viewing Log - May 2015 

Once Upon a Time in America 

May has been a good month of film watching, especially on the big screen, in Dubai, Sharjah and London.  


- Watching Once Upon a Time in America: Extended Director's Cut in London at the Brixton Ritzy. Wrote about it here.

- Watching The Tribe at ICA in London. This film from Ukraine has been getting great reviews from last year, so I was glad I managed to see it in London. Not a single spoken word was uttered, the whole film was in sign language acted deaf non-actors. A harsh and brutal film set in a school for the deaf.

- Mad Max: Fury Road was such a thrill. I watched it twice.

- Really enjoyed watching It Follows by David Robert Mitchell in the cinema (wrote about it here) and I also managed to see his first film, The Myth of the American Sleepover. Not a horror like It Follows, but still focuses on teens - a very toned down and warm film about teenagers. Looking forward to see what he works on next.

- Two film screenings in Sharjah during the Sharjah Biennial Meetings, there were lots of long and drawn out talks, but the two film screenings were my highlights. The impromtu screenng of Out on the Street by Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk which premiered at the Berlinale earlier this year and Eliso aka Caucasian Love by Nikoloz Shengelaia a film from the Soviet Union made in 1928.

- The National Gallery by Frederick Wiseman, a fly on the wall three hour documentary about the National Gallery in London. Very dense and insightful.

- Deep Red by Dario Argento from 1975. Despite the hammy acting, it had some scenes that freaked. me. out. Once to add in my list of favourite horror films.

- Seeing Stanley Kubrick's first feature film Fear and Desire. Some dramatic close up shots in this and signs of his greatness that would appear in his later films.

- May also known as Eurovision month and to those that don't know me, I LOVE Eurovision, so I watched everything I could related to it, including the competition of course. It's an annual tradition.




The Myth of the American Sleepover (David Robert Mitchell, 2010) ★★★

Deep Red (Dario Argento, 1975) ★★★★

Oh, Moon / A Ay (Reha Erdem, 1989, Turkey) ★★★

Travel Plans (Ted Fendt, 2013) ★★

Broken Specs (Ted Fendt, 2012) ★★

Diary of a Pregnant Woman (Agnès Varda, 1958) ★★★

The National Gallery (Frederick Wiseman, 2014) ★★★★

Dior and I (Frédéric Tcheng, 2015) ★★★★

Tomorrowland (Brad Bird, 2015)

Zorba the Greek ( Michael Cacoyannis, 1964) ★★★★

Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks, 1939) ★★★★

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

The Tribe (Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, 2014, Ukraine) ★★★★

Industrial Soundtrack For the Urban Decay (Amélie Ravalec & Travis Collins, 2015) ★★★

Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951) ★★★★

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (Chuck Workman, 2014) ★★★★ 

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (David Gelb, 2011) ★★★★

The Girl on a Motorcycle (Jack Cardiff, 1968) ★★★

Mon Oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, 1971) ★★★★

Knife in the Water (Roman Polanski, 1962) ★★★

Mad Max:Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) ★★★★

Me Without You (Sandra Goldbacher, 2001) ★★★

Nocturno 29 (Perre Portabella, 1968) ★★★★

Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso, 2008) ★★★

Out on the Street (Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk, 2015) ★★★★

Eliso aka Caucasian Love (Nikoloz Shengelaia, 1928) ★★★★

C.R.A.Z.Y. (Jean-Marc Vallee, 2005) ★★★

Involuntary (Ruben Östlund,2008) ★★★

Dingomaro (Iran, Kamran Heidari, 2013) ★★★

It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, 2015) ★★★

Fear and Desire (Stanley Kubrick, 1953) ★★★

The Man with the Golden Arm (Otti Preminger, 1955) ★★★

Where the Truth Lies (Atom Egoyan, 2005) ★★★

Code 46 (Michael Winterbotton, 2003) ★★★




Top of the Pops: The Story of 1978 (BBC)

Eurovision at 60 (BBC)

Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Eurovision's Greatest Hits concert (BBC)




Links to previous film and TV viewing log:
January 2015 
February 2015   
March 2015 
April 2015



Cinema at The Space - June  2015

In the Mood for Love

For the month of June, Cinema at The Space will explore explore a selection of original films and filmmakers who have created innovative, daring and highly memorable experiences leaving an indelible impression across the world. It includes some of my favourite films, including In the Mood for Love which is in my top 3. 

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 for June:



Once Upon a Time in America: Extended Director's Cut screening by Badlands Collective


Last week I was in London for a few days to attend Photo London. But I also made time to watch a few films, one of them was a special screening of an extended director's cut of Sergio Leone's last film, Once Upon a Time in America, which I couldn't miss.

The screening was organised by Badlands Collective, founded by Phil Concannon, Ian Mantgani and Craig Williams. It took place on a Sunday morning at the Brixton Ritzy.  

Once Upon a Time in America was first released in 1984. I saw it on VHS, but can’t remember exactly when, most probably in the late 1980s. Before going in to see the extended version, I couldn’t remember much of the film; apart from a few scenes that stayed with me from the first time I saw it.

Oddly enough, scenes from the film were used in Modern Talking's music video Brother Louie, a hit from 1986. For a while I thought the song was from the film, and when I watched it, I realised it had NOTHING to do with the film. Till today I keep wondering how and why Modern Talking used scenes from a Sergio Leone film. What did Sergio Leone think?


But back to the extended director's cut - it looked magnificent on the big screen. Quoting Martine Scorsese, "a great film just became that much greater".

The extended version is 4 hours and 15 minutes long and is the version that should have been released in 1984 - the one Sergio Leone would have wanted us to see compared to the butchered version that was released in the US. (The US version was re-edited in chronological order and lasted 2 hours and 19 minutes and the European version, presented at Cannes in May 1984, lasted 3 hours and 49 minutes.)

It is a masterpiece and I don't use this word lightly. A poetic film about friendship, love, nostalgia, greed and betrayal set between the 1920 and 1960s.

This extended version has a better flow - it's a fuller film and even though some of the new inserted scenes had a lower quality look to them (there were from discarded strips of film that were originally printed for reference only), they added tension and build up.

Leone’s final film, Once Upon a Time in America (1984), re-envisioned the gangster genre. Based on Harry Grey's novel, The Hoods, the story follows the lives of a gang of childhood friends, led by David “Noodles” Aaronson (Robert De Niro) and Maximilian “Max” Bercovicz (James Woods), as they rise to prominence in New York City's criminal underworld. 

Spanning a period of American history from the 1920s to the 1960s in a non-chronological structure, Leone and the film's crew meticulously evoked three separate eras through masterful production design, costuming, and a brilliant score by Ennio Morricone.

Exquisitely lensed in the United States and Europe, Once Upon a Time in America was one of the last great epics to be shot before the advent of the digital age. With its unforgettable imagery and powerful performances, the film is the culmination of Sergio Leone’s magnificent career. 



The film was restored by Italy’s Bologna Cinematheque in collaboration with Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation and Gucci. Here's a clip where you can hear Martin Scorsese talking about the restoration.



The screening at the Ritzy was followed by talk and Q & A with Elizabeth McGovern, moderated by Craig Williams. McGovern played the adult Deborah (the young Deborah was acted by a very young Jennifer Connelly). And yes, the Elizabeth McGovern that many of you know as Cora Crawley aka Countess of Grantham from Downton Abbey.

McGovern talked about the experience of the screening of the extended version at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival – almost 30 years after the cast and crew worked on it. She described the strange feeling she had seeing the scene where Deborah and Noodles (Robert De Niro) meet 30 years later in the film and how she related that moment with Robert de Niro sitting next to her at the screening, how she and the rest of the cast had gone through their own 30 year journey in their careers.

Answering a question if she and Jennifer Connelly worked together during the film, she said despite the similarities in looks and mannerisms with Jennifer Connelly, they never actually discussed or worked on their characters together.

She also touched upon how she received harsh criticisms for her character Deborah for appearing weak and victimized, but was happy the restored and extended version was able to show Deborah as a much stronger  and empowered character, that she pursued her dreams and succeeded.

One of the audience members asked if Sergio Leone discussed or explained the ending with the cast,  McGovern replied saying that never happened, he left it for his cast and viewers to interpret it themselves.

Also I had no idea she’s a singer/songwriter and fronts a band called Sadie and the Hotheads.


The screening I saw was the UK theatrical premiere and it was the only screening. Sadly there hasn't been any announcement of more screenings in cinemas in the UL or elsewhere, but you can find it on iTunes in some regions. It is also available on Blu Ray.

Hopefully Once Upon a Time in America will gets its cinema-worthy moment for its 40th anniversary in 2024. But if you ever get a chance to watch this version of Once Upon a Time in America, especially on the big screen, please don’t miss it.

I leave you with this short interview with Robert De Niro about Once Upon a Time in America and you can read more about the film and the restortion here.


More images via  


RIP Mary Ellen Mark 

RIP Mary Ellen Mark, 20th March 1940 - 25th May 25 2015  






Nepal Fundraiser Screening - Highway by Deepak Rauniyar

On Sunday, 31st May, Alserkal Avenue and Cinema Akil will host the UAE premiere of Deepak Rauniyar’s Highway at A4 Space. The aim of the night is to raise money for the recovery efforts in Nepal, via the Dubai-based social initiative Flea4Charity in association with the UAE Red Crescent.

Entry is by donation and all contributions will go directly to the recovery efforts. 

Highway is viewed as a new era in Nepali filmmaking, it was first screened the Berlin International Film Festival in 2012. 

Highway (2012) 
Directed by: Deepak Rauniyar | Nepali with English Subtitles | 80 mins | PG


All aboard the bus to Kathmandu! As if the mountain terrain weren’t challenging enough, our bus is repeatedly stopped by bandhs, spontaneous civil disobedience blockades which are a frequent phenomenon since the end of the civil war.

Meanwhile, a young woman can’t decide between her boyfriend and the fiancé arriving to marry her; a soldier rushes to his wife in time to try out a fertility potion he’s swallowed (not knowing she’s kept some secrets from him); and the bus driver knows the woman he loves may be forced back into another life if he doesn’t show up with money for her sick child.

Deepak Rauniyar’s debut feature has provoked a tumultuous response from Nepali audiences with its realistic characters and their taboo-shrouded issues rendered in an improvised cinematic style that heightens an already wild ride. 



Event details
Date: Sunday, 31st May 2015

19:00 Introduction
19:05 Nepal (2013) a short film by Dubai-based filmmaker Lafi Abood 
19:15 Highway (2012) a feature film by Deepak Rauniyar 
20:30 Refreshments  

Venue: A4 Space in Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai (location map)

Event page on Facebook.  



Vinyl Launch - Systems for a Score by Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver


On Thursday, 21st May, sound artists Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver will launch an album titled "Systems for a Score" released by The Vinyl Factory in London

The album was recorded during their exhibition by the same name at Tashkeel, which included a built-in recording studio called "A Model Studio". UAE-based musicians, artists and school children were invited to  collaborate with the artists, improvising and interpreting "Sadu" (traditional Emirati weave) as graphic scores.  

© Darwin Guevarra - A Model Studio


The recordings resulted in seven tracks released in this limited edition album. The artwork was created by my brother, Khalid Mezaina, (you can read more about it here)

Here's a sampler of the music on the album. It's eclectic and I personally like it a lot. If you like what you hear, then make sure you go to Tashkeel on Thursday, 21st May to buy the album. The evening will include introductions by the contributors, listening session and live performances. 



Event details
Date: Thursday, 21st May 2015, 7.00-9.00pm
Venue: Tashkeel, Nad Al Sheba, Dubai (location map)
Free entry.
Event page on Facebook 



Bjork's DJ set at Tri Angle Records 5th Anniversary Party


Bjork was the suprise guest and DJ at Tri Angle Records fifth birthday party in New York, it took place on Wall Street, in the basement of the former headquarters of J.P. Morgan.

The music set was uploaded on Bjork's Soundcloud account a few hours ago and since then its been making its round on Twitter. It's quite a diverse list of tracks and I enjoyed listening to it. 

In Bjork's own words: 

i would like to wish tri angle label an incredibly sublime birthday and thank for having been invited to dj at their party . couldnt possibly been more honoured than to play in that company !!!

the mix i played was my present to them : merging together some of my fav beats last year with some of my fav vocalists doing some of their best songs :


Here's the one hour set. You can see the complete track list here and you can see pictures and read about the party here.




[hat tip @disconaivete



Film Screening: What We Do In The Shadows

The Scene Club
 will screen What We Do In The Shadows on 26th and 27th May. It's a mockumentary about vampires (by the same creators of Flight of the Conchords). I saw this film at the Dubai International Film Festival in December and it is funny. 

There will also be a guest of honor on the night, Jonathan Brugh (Deacon) will be present for a Q&A. Tickets are complimentary, but you must register in advance and collect your ticket at the venue. 



Event details
Date: Tuesday, 26th and Wednesday 27th May
Time: 7.00-7.45pm - Ticket Collection and Networking | 8.00pm – Film screening 
Venue: Knowledge Village Auditorium, Dubai (location map)
Register for your ticket online.