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Exhibition - Works on Paper: Hikayat at Green Art Gallery 

Installation view of Works on Paper: Hikayat

Last Saturday I visited Green Art Gallery to see Works on Paper: Hikayat. The exhibition includes over 50 works on on paper by Modern Arab artists including Khouzayma AlwaniMahmoud HammadAdham IsmailJamil MolaebFateh MoudarresAref El RayessKhaldoun ShishaklySeif Wanly and Elias Zayat


Taking storytelling as its main theme ("hikayat" means stories in Arabic), the exhibition brings together works that offer a glimpse of drawing’s potential to make cultural, social, and political proposals or stories, through diverse formal processes. 

Drawing is a medium that offers an intimate and open field for imaginative elaboration, in which concepts and ideas can emerge and change with relative ease. Uninhibited by the obligation to create a finished and independent object, as is traditionally associated with painting and sculpture, drawing as a medium lends itself readily to the theoretical and the experimental. 


The exhibition includes work that is beautiful, harsh, emotional and sensual. Despite all the artists being male, there is a strong female presence in the exhibition. There are some rare works here, so if you are in Dubai, don't miss this, it's on till Suday, 26th October.

My only gripe is that I wish the gallery includes a small description about each artist or work to help visitors understand the importance of this work, and to put it in cultural and historical context relevant to this region.)



My favourite work from this exhibition is a one of a kind piece by Khaldoun Sheishakly (see images below). Titled Shops and Vendors of the Past, it is a collection of 500 works on paper and due to its delicate condition, we cannot browse through each sheet. But the few pages that were laid out had such amazing details drawn with an ink pen, each one telling stories visually and with words. This piece ought to be in a museum for more people to see it. It is sublime. 

Khaldoun Shishakly, Shops and Vendors of the Past, Ink on paper, set of 100 works, each 26 x 21 cm

Installation view of Khaldoun Shishakly's Shops and Vendors of the Past, Ink on paper, set of 100 works, each 26 x 21 cm

Shops and Vendors of the Past is a rare account of 500 works on paper by a Syrian artist, Khaldoun Sheishakly, who has spent his entire life drawing and documenting 500 Damascene professions in intricate detail.

It represents an important history of storytelling and life in Syria and summarizes the artists’ needs to carve a cultural identity that reflected the groundbreaking social and political changes that were taking place at that time. 



Here are more works from the exhibition. 

Khouzayma Alwani

Khouzayma Alwani, Untitled, 1999, Ink on canson paper, 35.5 x 26.5 cm

The region’s political turmoils in the 1970s and 80s are portrayed by Khouzayma Alwani (b.1934, Syria). Alwani’s delicate horrors are so exquisite they beguile the viewer into fascination with intricate imagery. Following the Hama Massacre of 1981, his work revolved around the world as a big dramatic theater of monsters and beasts, in a tacit allusion to the Syrian society in a state of devastation. 


Aref El Rayess

Aref El Rayess, Untitled, c. 1973, Ink on canson paper, 36 x 44.5 cm

Aref El Rayess, Untitled, c. 1973, Ink on canson paper, 37.5 x 38 cm

The work in the exhibition by Aref el Rayess (1928-2005, Lebanon) belong to a series of drawings he produced in the early 1970s to denounce the corruption he was witnessing within the political circles governing the Middle East after the Cairo accord in 1969 and the 1973 Arab Israeli war.

For El Rayess, it is as if the leaders and politicians were gambling our destinies through fishy manipulations and tacit agreements, hence jeopardizing the ideals of the revolution his generation firmly believed in and fought for. The age of deceit has started, and the political scene in the Arab world seems like a big farce. 



Mahmoud Hammad

Mahmoud Hammad, Untitled, 1957, Gouache on paper, 35 x 26 cm 

Mahmoud Hammad, Untitled, 1958, Gouache on paper, 36 x 46 cm

Syrian master Mahmoud Hammad (1923-1988, Syria) recounted rural Syrian life, earlier in his career. Although he has been widely known for his late Abstract Calligraphic period (during the period 1964 till his death in 1988), in which the Arab script and letters became the main element, Hammad’s earlier work are of equal importance.

Upon his return from Rome, he moved to Daraa where he lived for two years and started a series of paintings depicting the social scenes of the Southern area of Horan (Daraa). During that period, Hammad’s central theme was the concept of the family, in addition to the role of the mother.

He was also concerned with the political landscape during that period such as February 1958, a work through which he evoked the union between Egypt and Syria by depicting the metaphorical birth of the two nations' child and at the same time, alluded to the Palestinian cause in many of his works amongst which A Girl from Horan, Wounded and Exile.

This exhibition includes Hammad’s works on paper from the Horan period, most of which became studies for much larger paintings, and many of which have never been shown to the public. 


Adham Ismail

Adham Ismail, Untitled, Ink on carton, 47.5 x 32.5 cm

Adham Ismail, Untitled, Ink on carton, 44 x 32 cm


Jamil Molaeb

Jamil Molaeb, Untitled, c. 1992, Gouache on carton, 50 x 70 cm

For many artists of his generation, storytelling included the representation of the traditional rural life they were witnessing. This is true of Lebanese artist Jamil Molaeb’s (b. 1948) works, which were inspired by the landscapes he saw in the mountains of Lebanon and other sceneries from the traditional life of different Arab communities, depicting in his own way the villages, cities, fields and the people in their daily life. 


Fateh Moudarres

Fateh Moudarres, Untitled, 1981, Watercolor on paper, 29.5 x 38.5 cm

For Fateh Moudarres (1922-1999, Syria), his representational language was engaged with mythology, religion and popular lore as well as a deep political engagement. An accomplished writer and poet, his “dessins” were also featured in several of his published short stories.

Moudarres was once quoted: “It looks childish, but it is not childish. In my paintings one can see, how much I love human beings, in my art I stand near them, when the power of fate and oppressive structures beset them”.  


Seif Wanly

Seif Wanly, Untitled, c. 1953, Pastel on canson paper, 30.5 x 47 cm

Seif Wanly, Untitled, c. 1953, Pastel on canson paper, 30.5 x 47 cm

The theatrical and the sublime is present in the work of Egyptian artist Seif Wanly (1906-1979). The exhibition includes several works on paper in which he portrayed society’s more esoteric dimensions, featuring medieval traditions, circus acrobats and ballet dancers. 


Elias Zayat

Elias Zayat, The Rider, 1967, Ink and watercolor on paper, 63 x 43 cm

Another artist who has been throughly engaged with mythology is the Syrian artist Elias Zayat (b. 1935). Considered among the great modern artists in Syria, Zayat has had a long and rich career in painting and drawing over many decades.

Known for his dramatic portraiture of mankind, his practice has been thoroughly engaged with the visual legacy of mythology, ancient civilizations and religions in the region. Figures intertwine, almost floating, while recurring images of faces, some classical, others saintly and yet others tortured, recall Zayat’s other endeavor – conservationist and restorer of orthodox icons.   




Exhibition details
Date: On till Saturday, 26th October 2014, Saturday - Thursday 10am - 7pm
Venue: Green Art Gallery, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai (location map) 



[images and text via Green Art Gallery]


DUST presents Flamingods in Dubai on 22nd October 2014


DUST is a hosting a gig this week that I am very excited about, and if you live in Dubai and interested in new music, you should be too.

is a band that consists of members based in Dubai and in the UK. After touring across the UK, they will be performing in Dubai for the first time this Wednesday, 22nd October at The Music Room.

Kamal Rasool, one of the founding members describes the band as "culturally confused" and according to the band's Facebook page, they "like to make noise with instruments collected from around the world".

Their latest album Hyperborea has been receiving good reviews. The band gets compared to  Animal Collective in almost every article I read about them, their music videos are mash ups of clips found on YouTube, and according to DUST, we should expect a "night of Indie, Rock, Funk, Psych, Punk, Electronic, Dub, Latin, Afro, Arabic, Asian flavours".

Read this interview on The Quietus which will give you a sense of what the band is about, and you can listen to (and buy) their music here

Flamingods will be supported by Parallel Sound System,  a "three piece Electro Dream Pop" and DubHigh, a four piece "Dub-Experimental band from Dubai" and DUST and Bad House Party DJs.

I am REALLY looking forward to this gig. Below is a taste of the music you will hear on the night (links to each band's Soundcloud page is added at the end of this post).





Parallel Sound System






Event details
Date: Wednesday, 22nd October 2014. Doors open at 8pm, show starts from 8.30pm
Venue: The Music Room, Majestic Hotel, Mankhool Road, Dubai (location map)   
Ticket:  AED 60 (venue is only for anyone aged 21+)
Phone: +9714 359 8888
Event page on Facebook  



Exhibition - Act & Application at Lawrie Shabibi

littlewhitehead - Parrot, from the series Our Pleasure, 2013 | Inkjet Print 277 x 270 cm (overall installation) 109 1/8 x 106 1/4

Act & Application at Lawrie Shabibi
is a group exhibition that brings together six contemporary artists from around the world: Ra di Martino, littlewhitehead, Arthur Prior, David Rickard, Darren Harvey-Regan and Setareh Shahbazi

Curated by London based William Lunn, the exhibition offers a selection from the breadth of diverse outcomes that result from artists’ use of photography within a broader multi-media practice.

It's quite a compelling selection of photography - if you are interested in photography that goes beyond the image, beyond the conventional norms, then don't miss this exhibition. It is on till 29th October 2014. 


Some of the works from the exhibition: 


Ra di Martino 

Ra di Martino - No More Stars (Star Wars) #14, 2010 | Archival pigment print on Baryta paper | 40 x 40 cm 15 3/4 x 15 3/4 in edition of 5 plus 1 artist's proofs



Ra di Martino's No More Stars (Star Wars) depicts ruins of abandoned desert film sets in Tunisia and Morocco. 

Whether the material ruins of a fictional future in No More Stars (Star Wars) or of a replica and dislocated Mecca in her untitled Morocco series, all aspects are considered through the lens of a filmmaker with only peripheral knowledge of photographic convention.

The effects are seen most noticeably in her choice of presentation. The No More Stars series have significant white space left beneath each print as if editors notes or subtitles for on screen dialogue might appear at any moment.




littlewhitehead -The Beef People, 2013 | Inkjet Print 277 x 270 cm 109 1/8 x 106 1/4 in

littlewhitehead - What are you doing?, 2013 | Inkjet Print 277 x 270 cm 109 1/8 x 106 1/4 in

Glaswegian artist duo littlewhitehead have extended their irreverent take on art production to include photography by enlarging holiday snaps of America taken from their families archive. The amateur nature of Our Pleasure adds to the authenticity of each found image - no matter how bizarre the content nothing is staged.

Without ever lifting a camera littlewhitehead create a photographic series with its own unconventional language that evokes a certain European nostalgia with regards to American culture.



Setareh Shahbazi

Setareh Shahbazi - Spectral Days #33, 2013 | Pigmented ink print 28 x 20 cm 11 1/8 x 7 7/8 in

Iranian Setareh Shahbazi’s starting point for her projects is photographs: family photos, film stills, postcards, magazine clippings and more. In her series Spectral Days Shahbazi revisits family photos she stumbled upon from her visit to Tehran in 2009, conjuring up memories of her family’s exile from Iran following the revolution. 

With a healthy disregard for the sanctity of photography as a mirror of reality, she breaks down the images using digital manipulation. Blending, dissolving and over-painting the images to further decontextualize her subjects she engages our imagination in read infinite possible narratives. 



David Rickard 

David Rickard - Exhaust #3, 2011 | C-type print 100 x 75 cm 39 3/8 x 29 1/2 in

Born in New Zealand but based in London, David Rickard examines our relationship to space in architectural terms. With the work Exhaust, he tests his respiratory requirements on a space during one 24 hour period, capturing every outbreath without sleep or rest in large foil balloons.

Working in collaboration with photographer Manuel Vason, images were captured throughout the process, recording the totemic rise of 98 balloons as they accumulated. Here Rickard uses photography purely as an outsourced documentary record of a transitory performance.



Arthur Prior 

British artist Arthur Prior has made several series of quasi-photographic images using his own customised scanning technology. While this unconventional approach to making images throws out many photographic compositional concerns his recent work Various incarnations of Shirley singles out and documents one core convention of the photographic tradition – the printers test trip.

Taking the original colour test strip model ‘Shirley’ as its starting point the artist’s book charts the history of the strips and the various models who came to be known collectively as the ‘Shirleys’. When compiled as a record the effects of feminism, globalization, racial equality, political correctness and technology are drawn out, in subtle and often humorous juxtapositions.



Darren Harvey-Regan 

Darren Harvey Regan - Mass, 2013 | C-Print on archival paper | 100 x 80cm central panel, 90 x 35cm left and right panels

Born in Britain, Darren Harvey-Regan studied photography but works across disciplines to subvert, question and extend the conventions of photography and its relationship to representation and the physical world.

In Mass the simplest and most direct approach is favored in order to render the medium as transparent as possible. Presenting the image in this triptych form he draws not on photographic convention but on the tradition of icon painting. Enhanced by the title - which alludes as much to ceremony as the peculiar weight of the palm, which is its central focus, the artist manipulates representation and transports these objects into the realm of the profound.



Exhibition details
Date: On till 29th October 2014, Saturday - Thursday 10am - 6pm 
Venue: Lawrie Shabibi, Unit 21, Al-Serkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai (location map)
Phone: +9714 346 9906  




Exhibition - Lasting Impressions: Noor Ali Rashid at Sharjah Art Museum

© Noor Ali Rashid Archives | Noor Ali Rashid - Meeting of the minds, Dubai, 1960s | The Federation series

Noor Ali Rashid, also known as UAE's "Royal Photographer" passed away four years ago. In my post about his passing I wrote,

His legacy will live on through his work, and I hope there will be a retrospective exhibition in the UAE to honor him and his work.

This week, Sharjah Art Museum will host an exhibition focusing on the first half of Rashid’s career from the late 1940s to the 1970s. It will chronicle his early years in Oman, events and celebrations and images of the leaders of the UAE, and life abroad. 

‘Lasting Impressions’ is an annual exhibition being organized for the sixth consecutive year. This edition comes as a collaboration between Sharjah Art Museum and the Noor Ali Rashid Archive and will showcase 200 selected photographs by the late photographer, handpicked from a collection of over one million images spanning six decades.

A passionate pioneer in the field of photography, Noor Ali Rashid (1929 - 2010) is considered to be the father of photojournalism in the Middle East. He is also celebrated as a leader in the development of Art photography in the Gulf.

In his esteemed role as ‘Royal Photographer’, he created iconic portraits of the UAE’s leaders and his pictures became a means to glimpse into the early development of the Emirates.


I hope this will be one of many exhibitions showcasing Noor Ali Rashid's work. There's enough in his archive to fill a museum. 


© Noor Ali Rashid Archives | Noor Ali Rashid - Tobacco Vendor, Al Ain, 1960s | The Souqs series  

© Noor Ali Rashid Archives | Noor Ali Rashid - The First Lights at the Clock Tower, Sharjah, 1960s | The Firsts series

 © Noor Ali Rashid Archives | Noor Ali Rashid - Homework in Shade, Muscat, 1970s | The Children series



Exhibition details
Dates: 22nd October - 6th December 2014
Timings: Saturday - Thursday: 8:00 am - 8:00 pm | Friday: 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Venue: Sharjah Art Museum (location map)
Free entry 

[Images courtesy of Sharjah Art Museum. Exhibition info via Art in the City.] 



Slidefest #14 - 22nd October 2014

© Yasser Alwan (from Akkasah: Center for Photography at NYU Abu Dhabi)


The 14th edition of Slidefest organised by Gulf Photo Plus is back this month after a long summer break. The latest edition will take place on Wednesday, 22nd October at 7pm in the Knowledge Village Auditorium

If you've not been to Slidefest before, it's a free community event hosted by Gulf Photo Plus where photographers take the stage to share unique, personal photography projects that run the gamut of genres including landscape and portrait photography, travel and fine art photography and much more. The event also aims to bring photographers (amateurs and pros) and people from the photography community together where people can network, connect and share stories.


Here's the line up of presenters: 


Farah Al Balooshi

Farah Al Balooshi will present a series of minimal black and white fine art photographs that capture man-made and natural architecture in the purest and simplest forms.



Özge Calafato  

From the Yasser Alwan Collection 

Özge Calafato currently works with the New York University in Abu Dhabi, and will be presenting a project called Akkasah, which is the name of the Centre for Photography at the University.  

Akkasah explores the histories and contemporary practices of photography in the Arab world. It fosters the scholarly study of these histories and practices in dialogue with other photographic cultures and traditions from around the world. Through a range of activities, the centre also supports the developing photographic culture in the UAE.  

Ozge will be presenting work from the first photography collection that Akkasah acquired, Vernacular Photography from Egypt: The Yasser Alwan Collection. 



Jack Dabaghian 

Jack Dabaghian unfolds a brilliant mix of story-telling and colourful visualisation while showcasing tribal traditions, fashion and daily routines, all told with unfettered honesty. He engages with his subjects in a way that puts them at ease resulting in an honest representation of their individual lives. 



Gerald Donovan 

Gerald Donovan is a photographer based in Dubai. For the last 18 months he has been working with Dubai Film Productions on creating a revolutionary 360 degree immersive tour of Dubai that is due to launch in December 2014.  "Little Planet" is a timelapse of Dubai International Airport.  Gerald explains,

"Later this year at a groundbreaking website will be launched that will enable you to explore Dubai from anywhere in the world utilising state of the art 360 degree multimedia.  As a sneak preview of the kind of amazing content to come, you can experience what it's like to be standing on the top of the control tower at Dubai International Airport. The timelapse was shot over a 30 hour period depicting over 1,000 planes landing, taking off, and taxiing at the airport." 


Brian Kerrigan

Brian Kerrigan has headed the photo department at The National since the paper’s inception in 2008. In addition to leading a team of editors, photographers and multimedia staff, he’s also a passionate photographer.

With camera in tow, Brian has spent the past two years documenting life in the United Arab Emirates shooting nightlife, street culture and portraiture.  Kerrigan will be sharing a selection of his UAE work for Slidefest.



Catalin Marin 

Catalin Marin will be presenting a series titled "When Time Becomes a Loop". Catalin explains, 

 "Ever since I started learning photography, I have always been fascinated with photographing rivers, waterfalls and oceans. A photograph is a single moment in time and yet a body of water is something that's constantly moving and changing. Sometimes, these changes are so slow that our eyes cannot really perceive them and this is where long exposure photographs come into play. Keeping the camera shutter open for long period of times allowed me to capture landscapes which we will never truly see, but which we can easily imagine."



Shahid Mohammed  

Shahid Mohammed will be presenting a series of images titled The Dream Sellers of Kolkata.  In his images he examines the relationship between the buyer and seller in various locations throughout Kolkata.  He feels that in our modern age bar codes are replacing with conversations, care and concern.  

Where once the relationship between the buyer and seller was a close connection, this has begun to be replaced with a fast and impersonal exchange. Shahid's work highlights merchants in Kolkata who still have that connection with the community, still know their customers by name, and greet them with a smile.




Event details:
Date: Wednesday, 22nd October at 7pm
Location: Knowledge Village Auditorium, Dubai (location map)
Free entry.


Happy Birthday Angela Lansbury 


Earlier today, one of my favourite people I follow on Twitter, Self Styled Siren posted the following:

Happy birthday to Angela Lansbury, 89 today! 


Made me remember how much I adore Angela Lansbury and her TV series Murder She Wrote. I loved how unstoppable she was in every episode, solving crimes and getting the bad guys.

I've not seen much of her lately, but maybe I should follow in the footsteps of Slade Sohmer who recently completed watching every episode of Murder She Wrote. In an interview with The Awl he says, 


Dame Angela Lansbury's acting is worthy of her twelve Emmy nominations in twelve seasons and four Golden Globe wins. And in the memetic era we're in now, drenched in our lust for irony and an inside joke, it was immediately refreshing to remember what unabashed sincerity and earnestness looked like. It's neither snark nor smarm; it's schmaltz, but the best kind. Don't sleep on a cozy mystery drama.

The murders themselves are just serialized rewards, though. The show is a broader case study in Jessica Fletcher Gives Zero Fucks. She's kind and sweet and polite, with a most neighborly etiquette.

But she's also a ruthless advocate for justice, fearless in the face of intimidation and incapable of buying your weak bullshit. When the killer says "I was at a restaurant 'til 9:30," and she calmly refutes, "No, I don't think you were, Jerry," she does it with equal parts elegance and ferocity. She walks down every dark hallway, she opens every locked door, she meets every lying sack of shit with inquisitive charm. And she never judges you.  Slade Sohmer via The Awl 



Towards the end of the interview Sohmer adds, 

You all can keep Beyoncé, Angela Lansbury is the one true queen, king, dame, diva.


Agree. 100%.


Happy birthday Dame Angela Lansbury. Wishing you many more happy and healthy years ahead of you.,_She_Wrote 


Exhibition - Darkened Cities by Thierry Cohen at East Wing 

© Thierry Cohen

When I first looked at
Thierry Cohen's series Darkened Cities, I thought of how sad and poetic they are, beautiful images of what could be. 

It's a series of work that must be seen in person, looking at the work online does not do it any justice. So make sure you go to East Wing in Dubai to see this series. The exhibition is on from 16th October - 20th November 2014. 

Look out for an interview with Thierry Cohen soon, but for now, here's more about Darkened Cities, via East Wing:  


Photographer Thierry Cohen Imagines World Cities Without Lights, his dazzling photographs are rich not only in implication and in sheer visual appeal, but in technical ingenuity. The laborious process of creating his nights-cape images reveals exactly what a specific city’s inhabitants would see when gazing skyward on a clear night if pollution — atmospheric and, even more importantly, light pollution — were not obstructing the view.

The method he employs to produce his pictures is, in its own way, as fascinating as the result. After photographing a cityscape, Cohen positions himself on that city’s exact same geographical latitude in a desert — often thousands of miles away — and takes a photograph, facing the same direction, at the same sidereal time (a scale based on the Earth’s rate of rotation relative to fixed stars) as in the city itself. 


© Thierry Cohen

“The best way to show the stars that are no longer [visible from the city] is to simply put them back in their place,” Cohen says.

“I use the same techniques [as early photography innovators], simply with different tools,” Cohen explains.  

Despite the state-of-the-art digital manipulation he brings to bear, Cohen compares his procedure to techniques utilized by old (sometimes very old) masters of the craft. Like Gustave Le Gray, who in the 1850s merged images of seascapes with sky scenery, Cohen also combines two “scape” pictures — a cityscape and a star-sprayed nightscape — in order to build his utterly singular photographs.


© Thierry Cohen

Cohen has traveled the world and shuttled between bustling cities and empty, silent deserts in pursuit of his vision. For his Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo photos, he traveled to the Atacama Desert in Chile. For New York, he travelled to Black Rock Desert, Nevada. 

Beyond the technical challenges that he’s faced, Cohen has also endured what might be termed more prosaic, if no less intense, human-made hurdles. When he ventured into the Western Sahara, for example, to create his Hong Kong nightscape, he had to be escorted. Due to the conflict between the Polisario Front and Morocco and the prevalence of countless land mines that still pock the territory, it was far too dangerous for him to wander the desert alone. 


© Thierry Cohen

“That is when the project went further than talking about pollution,” he says. “It became something political. The sky is a link between human beings. It is a representation of what earth should be — without borders and without war.”

Although his photographs interrogate the stresses and the benefits — in fact, the very nature of urban living — Cohen started the project with a more basic goal: namely, to create utopian (and, in a sense, imaginary) photographs that let the viewer dream.

Ultimately, though, what he’s trying to do is bring to the city the silence he felt in the desert. “I am creating a bridge between the two environments,” he says.  




Exhibition details 
Date: 16th October - 20th November 2014
Hours: Saturday through Thursday 10:00 am – 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm 
Venue: Limestone House #12, Dubai International Financial Center (location map)  


One additional pick for Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2014 - Two Days, One Night


My last post featured my top 25 picks for the upcoming Abu Dhabi Film Festival. After I shared my selection, I realised I missed out on one more film that is a must see. I somehow missed it when I went through the film list. So here it is, one more to add to the list. 


Two Days, One Night 


Why? Its received rave reviews since its premiere in Cannes earlier this year, where it got a 15 minute standing ovation. Marillion Coltillard's performance has been highly praised. Her character is looking for sympathy, for solidarity, a film that looks at choices humans make, doing the right thing versus doing what is necessary. 




My earlier post featuring my top 25 films to see at this festival.  



Event details
Dates:  23rd October - 1st November 2014
Venue: Emirates Palace Hotel and Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi
Film schedule:



My Top 25 Picks for Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2014

The eighth edition of the Abu Dhabi Film Festival will take place this month, from 23rd October - 1st November 2014. I missed the festival last year, but hoping to watch as many films as I can this year. 

This year's edition includes 197 films from 61 countries which will be screened in Emirates Palace and Vox Cinemas in Marina Mall.

A selection of restored classics like Rebel Without A Cause, Fistful of Dollars and Mary Poppins is also part of  the line up, plus a special screening of restored films by François Truffaut (screening in this part of the world for the first time).

I had a look at the programme and here are my top 25 picks (full features and documentaries) and why: 


20,000 Days on Earth 


This is in my list of favourite music related documentaries after I watched it at the Berlinale in February earlier this year.  It's funny, personal and touching.

"20,000 Days On Earth takes us deep into the heart of how myth, memory, love and loss, shape our lives, every single day." (via

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night


An Iranian vampire western set in a ghost town of "Bad City". That's why. 

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence 


The title. It also won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last month

The Color of Pomegranates

Jean-Luc Godard said this about it in the 1970s, "I think you have to live at least 15 miles away and feel the need to walk there on foot to see [The Colour of Pomegranates]. If you feel that need and give it that faith, the film can give you everything you could wish." (via

El Ott 

Its director, Ibrahim El Batout is one of my favourite filmmakers from Egypt. Always moved by his depiction of malaise in Egyptian society. This one is about selling organs of kidnapped street children. 

From A to B

A road movie from Abu Dhabi to Beirut by Ali F Mostafa (his last feature film City of Life was set in Dubai). 

In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidioten)


A Norwegian black comedy crime thriller.

La Sapienza 

An architect looking for spiritual and artistic renewal by travelling to study the work of 17th century architect Francesco Borromini. (I know the feeling.) 



The Return by Andrey Zvyagintsev is currently in my list of top 10 favourite films. So I don't need much convincing to watch his latest film. Plus, I've been reading very positive reviews since its premiere in Cannes last May. 

Magical Girl


According to, "Fun and disturbing, strange and yet somehow entirely plausible, the film tells the story of three different groups of people and their random connections, and how those connections lead to disaster." 

Manila in the Claws of the Night


One of the restored classics screening at this festival. Plus, "When it first screened at Cannes in 1978, the word around the festival had it that Manila was a "dirty" movie, perhaps because it's characters were criminals, homosexuals, and the homeless, but also, perhaps, because it had the gall to treat poverty as an ignoble tragedy for which violence is a rational response." (via

Memories on Stone


"After the fall of Saddam, childhood friends Hussein and Alan decide to make a film about the genocide of Iraqi Kurds in 1988. To tell the truth and to come to terms with their own identity, it`s worth putting everything on the line, even their lives." (via

National Diploma


A documentary about a group of Congolese high school students fighting a corrupt education system. 

No One's Child


Based on a true story set in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the mid-1980s about a feral boy who was found living among wolves in a forest in the mountains. 

Point and Shoot


Winner of Best Documentary at Tribeca Film Festival this year, about the American citizen Matt Dykes who was imprisoned in Libya as a member of a revolutionary group in 2011.

Return to Homs


"Filmed over three years in Homs, Syria, the film accompanies two outstanding young men from the time they are dreaming of freedom and defending pacifism, to the time when choices are forced to be different.

Basset, the 19 years old national football team goalkeeper, turning into an iconic demonstration leader and singer, then, becoming a fighter and Ossama, a 24 years old renowned citizen-cameraman who is critical, pacifist, and ironic, as his views change till he is detained by the regime's security forces.

It is the story of a city, which the world heard of a lot, but never really got close to. Return to Homs is a modern times epic of youth in war, and of forced choices." (via

Sounds of the Sea


Nujoom Al Ghanem is a poet and a leading film maker from the UAE who has been making films since the 1990s. Her films are usually sensitive portrayals of individuals in this country and I am certain we can expect the same in her latest film, about a famous old sea singer who "wishes to cross Umm Al Quwain Creek on a fishing boat for the last time and sing one of his folklore songs to the fishermen".  



"Award-winning Iranian filmmaker Rakshan Banietemad ends her eight-year hiatus from feature filmmaking to make pointed remarks about the necessity of socially engaged cinema with this ingenious, mosaic-like narrative, which knits together the stories of seven characters to create a microcosm of Iranian working-class society." (via

The Look of Silence


The sequel to Joshua Oppenheimer's extremely chilling The Act of Killing. This one tells the story from the victims' point of view. 

Salt of the Earth


A film by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, and an ode to renowned photographer Sebastião Salgado.


This film has been getting rave reviews ever since it premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Set in Wadi Rum in 1916, it's a "bedouin story of brotherhood and betrayal". 

"Theeb [Wolf] lives with his Bedouin tribe in a forgotten corner of the Ottoman Empire. Having recently lost his father, it falls to Theeb's brother, Hussein, to raise him. Hussein tries to teach Theeb the Bedouin way of life, but the young boy is more interested in mischief than mentorship. Their lives are interrupted with the arrival of a British Army Officer and his Guide on a mysterious mission.

Unable to refuse help to his guests for fear of dishonouring his late father’s reputation, Hussein agrees to escort the pair to their destination, a water-well on the old pilgrimage route to Mecca. Fearful of losing his brother, Theeb chases after Hussein and embarks on a treacherous journey across the Arabian Desert. Since the outbreak of the First World War, this harsh terrain has become the hunting ground of Ottoman mercenaries, Arab revolutionaries and outcast Bedouin raiders. If Theeb is to survive he must quickly learn about adulthood, trust and betrayal. He must live up to the name his Father gave him." (via



The film received a 10 minute standing ovation in Cannes earlier this year where it premiered. Its director, Abderrahmane Sissako broke down in tears during the press conference, discussing the film's depiction of militant jihadists takeover in Northern Mali and its impact on the people living there. 

"It's difficult...We become more and more indifferent to the horrors if we're not careful" Abderrahmane Sissako (via



Won Best Film at Sundance in January this year, and another one with rave reviews. The film looks at ambition and what it takes to seek and achieve greatness and perfection. 

Winter Sleep


A film by Nuri Bilge Ceylan and a winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Nuri Bilge Ceylan's films are subtle and slow (this one is 196 minutes long), so you will need to surrender yourself to see where he will take you mentally and emotionally. 

Special screenings of François Truffaut's films

Because it's François Truffaut. List of films include The 400 Blows, Day for Night, Jules and Jim, The Last Metro, The Man Who Loved Women, Small Change, The Wild Child





Event details
Dates:  23rd October - 1st November 2014
Venue: Emirates Palace Hotel and Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi
Film schedule:


Flow with Balqis Al Rashed 


Balqis Al Rashed is a Saudi visual artist based in Riyadh. She recently shared a very short clip of her with a hoola hoop that has been making its round on Facebook.

Despite it being 16 seconds long, I was mesmerised with her movements and was quite taken with her words about her connection to natural flow and movement of her soul

I got in touch with her asking if I can share this video and words on my blog and she very graciously said yes. She also added this video is part a bigger project that she has been developing for the past year and will be sharing a longer version in the near future. 

For now, enjoy this very short version, and if you share it with others, please don't let this be about a veiled Saudi girl dancing with a hoola hoop. It's much more than that. 



I have developed a love for the circle. The lessons behind the hoop are beyond physical. I found in it the healing power of joy and self expression. The biggest lesson of all is to: flow. Flow?

Flow - move with no resistance, with complete freedom. The hoop became a tool of meditation and soulful articulation. It always connected me to the natural flow and movement of my soul.

In this circle, it is safe to flow and to be, just because. In that space, I am free - free of resistance, free of pain, free of fears. This is where peace resides. This is where joy springs. This is where the child in me is free to safely and joyfully play. Breaking all false boundaries. Breaking free of contradictions, delusions, and resistance to become all that I am, all that I ever was.  

Balqis Al Rashed


Read Balquis' complete blogpost here.


[Hat tip Jane Aldersley]