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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.


Day 2 at Dubai International Film Festival 2016

Here's a report from my second day at the Dubai International Film Festival. This second episode recorded for the Tea with Culture podcast with Wael Hattar has us discussing After the Storm, I am Not Madame Bovary, Lady Macbeth, plus an interview with Abdallah Elchami from MAD Solutions

Like yesterday, I've also included highlights from Twitter too. 




Day 1 at Dubai International Film Festival 2016

Here's a report from my first day at the Dubai International Film Festival. I recorded an episode for the Tea with Culture podcast with Wael Hattar plus guest and film Twitter friend Barry Freed. We discussed the films we watched yesterday: Certain Women, Nerruda, Like Crazy, Sieranevada and Honey, Rain and Dust. 

I've also shared below Twitter moments with highlights from my first day. 



Preview: Dubai International Film Festival 2016

Here's the first of our daily reports for the Tea with Culture podcast. Wael Hattar and I will be sharing reviews and highlights of what we watched, and hopefully a few interviews too. 

We start off with a preview of the festival where we discuss the strong presence films about women in this year's edition, we also highlight some of our must fee films and take a look "DIFFerent Reality" a new section of the programme that will showcase an international selection of virtual reality films.  

Please follow, subscribe and listen to Tea with Culture on Soundcloud or on iTunes, and let us know what you think.   

Also, in case you missed it, here are my top picks for DIFF 2016 and gere are Wael's top picks


Wael Hattar's top 20 films to see at Dubai International Film Festival 2016 

Like Crazy
After sharing my top 30 list of films to see at this year's Dubai International Film Festival, here's a list by Wael Hattar who has shared his DIFF list in the past (in 2013 and 2015). He is also my Tea with Culture podcast podcast partner (in case you have not listened to it yet). 


Over to you Wael. 



I realised that this year is a little different selection than what I would usually select for myself, possibly due to the notion that many will be later be available via online streaming services like Netflix. There are more smaller films in my list this year, with a lot more sloooooow art stuffs than my usual film fest typical fair. It's still dark, but a lot more quirky and innocent look at things than before.

Usually Hind and I find a theme at every DIFF, and so far this year seems to be about telling stories about women (and many children too) which is a great change to the usual male gaze driven look-on-life-through-film that we usually get globally. So for "Wael’s point of preView", here is my top 20 in the order of what I really want and hope to see the most (and hopefully not get too disappointed).

Additionally, a mini call out to the short films at DIFF this year, as more of them seem very promising. Try to catch Muhr Short 1, Muhr Short 3, and Muhr Gulf Short 2, there seems to be at least two very good shorts in each. 

Here's my list and why I chose them: 

Like Crazy
Director: Paolo Virzì
Rating: 15+  
France and Italy | Italian dialogue with English subtitles | 116 mins   

Looks funny and thoughtful. About two ladies suffering different levels of depression and bipolar disorders who escape an institution in Tuscany of all places. Picked up a lot of awards for the film and it’s actresses.


Director: Cristi Puiu
Rating: 12+ 
Romania | Romanian dialogue with English subtitles | 173 mins 

What is essentially a three hour character study has been reviewed very positively and lauded as one of the films of the year, but you have to pay attention as this film doesn’t spoon feed the viewer anything. Having watched the director’s other award winning film The Death of Mr Lazarescu at DIFF 2005, I know to have patience for the dark comedy and the bits of hidden insights and foreshadowing. Then again, it might just be a family trapped at an occasion fighting with each other for three hours. 


I am Not Madame Bovary 
Director: Feng Xiaogang
Rating: 12+ 
China | Mandarin dialogue with English subtitles | 139 mins 

A dark satire about a woman fighting the system, nominated and won a few awards.


Hotel Salvation
Director: Shubhashish Bhutiani 
Rating: 12+ 
India | Hindi dialogue with English subtitles | 102 mins 

I really wanted to see this since it’s been popping in and out of film festivals so I’m excited it came here. A calm look at death and the time one has to wait for it while life goes on.


Lady Macbeth
Director: William Oldroyd
Rating: 18+
United Kingdom | English dialogue with Colour | 89 mins  

Strong film, a dark new look at a period piece that did well on its festival tours. (I wonder if it is comparable to Childhood of a Leader in terms of style and mood?) 


Free Fire
Director: Ben Wheatley  
Rating : 18+ 
France and United Kingdom | English dialogue with Colour | 90 mins  

A funny script, good actors, too many guns stuck in a warehouse. I also like the director. A win for me especially since I doubt it will get a cinema release in the UAE. 


Your Name
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Rating: 12+ 
Japan | Japanese dialogue with English subtitles | 106 mins   

Animated movie about on teenage identity - the body switching story is less awkward comedy and more into the thinking behind the situations. Beautifully animated, this was a huge hit in Japan and a hit with the critics too. 


Ali, the Goat, and Ibrahim
Director : Sherif El Bendary 
Rating : 15+ 
Egypt, United Arab Emirates, France and Qatar | Arabic and Sign Language dialogue with English and Arabic subtitles | 97 mins  

Egyptian film, an absurd film about a man in love with a goat that could lead to an interesting look at contemporary Egypt. Plus, I like the writer’s work on older films including El Ott which he wrote and directed). 

The Red Turtle
Director: Michael Dudok De Wit
Rating: PG
France, Japan and Belgium / 2016 / Colour / 80 mins  

This animation did really well at festivals, this non-verbal film has also had some not so positive points about it’s rather loose story telling, but also praised for its wordless portrayal of life and it’s cycle. 


Director: Pablo Larraín
Rating : 18+   
Chile, France, Spain and Argentina | French and Spanish dialogue with English subtitles | 108 mins    

Out of the many bio epics we have, the life and chase of Neruda is definitely different, as in not all of it is true life story. Why not create some extra drama for someone like him?  

Director : Junfeng Boo   
Rating : 15+  
Singapore, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Qatar | English and Malay dialogue with English subtitles | 96 mins


This look at an executioner’s job, it tells a story but should also bring up questions on ethics, control as well as religion, since it comes down to taking life. This young director’s second film has gotten great international reviews.  


Sami Blood
Director : Amanda Kernell  
Rating : 15+   
Sweden, Denmark and Norway | Swedish dialogue with English subtitles | 110 mins     

Set in the 1930s when there was discrimination against the Lapps, a young girl has to change who she is to adapt. Harsh reality and a good debut feature from the director who’s story is based on her grandmother. 


White Sun
Director: Deepak Rauniyar  
Rating: PG   
Nepal, Netherlands, Qatar and USA) | Nepali dialogue with English subtitles | 89 mins    

Working on themes of the war as well as separation of caste and the strict rules whilst still managing to keep the points of view of two children, this film did well to grab the attention of the many film fest goers. The film talks of generations and building a new one with the ways of old, and if anything is a point of view from a relatively cinema quiet far off place. 


Foreign Body
Director: Raja Amari  
Rating: 15+ 
France and Tunisia | Arabic and French dialogue with English and French subtitles | 92 mins   

Acting seems superb, and Hiam Abbas is great anyway great, so I am looking forward to this. Many reviews say it could have been great but just didn’t take that step forward, but rather stuck to the not-super-strong three haracter study. A few comparisons to “Parisienne” which showed last year at DIFF, so should be a decent film to catch.

Zaineb Hates the Snow
Director:  Kaouther Ben Hania
Rating: PG 
Tunisia | Arabic and French dialogue with English subtitles | 95 mins  

Knowing Ben Hania’s dark subtle satiric sense of humour (Challat of Tunis at DIFF 2013) I am looking forward to see what she can do with this documentary about a six year old girl moving to Canada who decided to hate it and its snow.    


King of the Belgians
Director : Jessica Woodworth, Peter Brosens  
Rating : 12+  
Belgium, Bulgaria and Netherlands | English, Bulgarian, Dutch and French dialogue with English subtitles | 94 mins  

A mockumentary covering monarchy and the governing issues of things including borders and people. Funny, light and possibly poignant. Expecting to laugh.   


Withered Green
Director : 
Mohammed Hammad
Rating: 15+ 
Egypt | Arabic dialogue with English subtitles | 73 mins  

This quiet film tells a tale of a woman in her land of related males trying to do the right thing and witnesses her interaction. The few reviews out there were very favorable and the clip I found was quite eerie and uncomfortable.   


Wolf and Sheep
Director: Shahrbanoo Sadat  
Rating: 12+ 
Denmark, France, Sweden and Afghanistan | Hazaragi dialogue with English subtitles | 86 mins  

A small village and its tradition seen through the eyes of children. Told by the director from stories similar to her past. 


Gaza Surf Club
Director : Philip Gnadt, Mickey Yamine  
Rating : PG  
Germany | Arabic and English dialogue with English subtitles | 87 mins   

When you have nothing else but the waves, what better way to distract yourself form the horrible reality but to put your head in the watery sand. The story told looks fresh and possibly a combination of sad and hopeful like how life is. Reviews are an interesting flow between “where is the true war and drama?” to “a fresh look at life outside of the usual”. I just hope the film itself doesn’t only just dwell on the 15 year old girl surfer and use it as a crutch to interest the west.  


Voyage of Time
Director: Director : Terrence Malick
Rating: 15+  
Germany | English dialogue with Arabic subtitles | 90 mins 

Beautiful visuals about the creation of the world and time voiced by Cate Blanchette. Compared to the 20min opening sequence of his film “Tree of Life”, most critiques liked where Malik has finally reached whereas there are a few who are not pleased. So in the end, this specific type of documentary visual is really up to my taste. If you are going to see it, then do so at the cinema.


My Top 30 Picks of Films for Dubai International Film Festival 2016

The 13th edition of the Dubai International Film Festival is on from 7th - 14th December. This year's line up includes 156 films (full features and short films) from 55 countries. This is an increase in number of films compared to last year which was 134. Additionally, there's a new section added to the festival's programme focused on 3D films titled DIFFerent Reality, and it looks like there's a focus on 3D in general at this festival. The films included in this section are all short films and will be curious to see the response to these films. 

The festival will open with John Madden’s Miss Sloane starring Jessica Chastain close with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (in 3D) directed by Gareth Edwards. Both are very mainstream Hollywood films and I'm curious why the festival team chose to start and end with these two films. 

The good news is there is a diverse selection of films from 55 countries and I am looking forward to discovering new gems. 

Below are my top 30 picks (in alphabetical order) for this year and you can see the complete festival line up here. I said this last year and will repeat it again, the films screening at the festival wll NOT be censored, never have been. If you're concerned films with adult content will be edited, fear not. You will get to watch the film in original format.   

Expect daily reports via Tea with Culture podcast. You can listen to last year's updates here


20th Century Women
Director: Mike Mills
Rating: 15+ 
USA | English dialogue | 119 mins  

A beautifully mannered character drama from writer/director Mike Mills set in Santa Barbara of 1979 and focusing on teenager Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), who lives with his singer mother Dorothea (Annette Bening).

Worried that she cannot seem to connect with her son, she enlists help from would-be artists Abbie (Greta Gerwig), who rents a room at their house, and Julie (Elle Fanning), Jamie’s childhood friend who he is in love with, to try and help him figure out what it is to be a man. With delightfully drawn characters and great dialogue, the film is made with a delicate poignancy.


76 Minutes and 15 Seconds with Abbas Kiarostami 
Director: Seifollah Samadian 
Rating: PG 
Iran | Persian and French dialogue with English subtitles | 76 mins  

Photographer Seifollah Samadian (also a friend and collaborator of Abbas Kiarostami) put together this affectionate and insightful documentary after the death in Paris of the influential Iranian director and artist, utilising footage that takes in many phases of his busy artistic career.

There are no interviews, which allows the footage to reflect Kiarostami’s own simplicity as a technical filmmaker and shows his sense of playfulness and embrace for the world around him, while the title reflects not only the running time but also that he died aged 76 and 15 days old. 


After the Storm
Hirokazu Kore-Eda
Japan | Japanese dialogue with English and Arabic subtitles | 117 mins  

When it comes to tackling the nature of complexities of family relationships, there are few better than Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, who has nimbly dissected similar themes in recent films such as Like Father, Like Son and Our Little Sister. 

This film is lighter in tone than some of the earlier dramas, but it suits the gently funny structure that mulls over father-son relationships, as it focuses on former novelist - and now private eye and gambling addict – Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), as he struggles to stay in his son’s life. Delightfully nuanced characters and strong use of imagery help Hirokazu’s film achieve the perfect balance of humour and pathos.  


Director: Andrzej Wajda
Rating: 12+ 
Poland | Polish dialogue with English subtitles | 98 mins  


Recently deceased Polish film legend Andrzej Wajda delves into a dark episode in his home country’s history in his last film. In Afterimage he focuses on avant-garde painter Wladyslaw Strzeminski (Boguslaw Linda), who loses an arm and leg in the First World War, but who goes on to become an acclaimed abstract painter, teacher and who stands up against the strict dictates of Stalinist code of Socialist Realism.

He is reduced to poverty and with rich irony one of the few jobs he can find is painting massive banners of Stalin in heroic manner. Beautifully-made and driven with typical Wajda passion and insight, it is a fascinating glimpse into Polish history.


Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces 
Director: Yousry Nasrallah
Rating: 12+ 
Egypt | Arabic dialogue with English subtitles | 110 mins 
Yehia is a chef who runs a catering company with his two sons, Refaat and Galal. Refaat is a passionate cook, while Galal is quite the ladies’ man. Yehia’s niece Karima, is promised to wed Refaat, but Refaat is in love with Shadia, and Karima too is in love with someone else – but is waiting for an appropriate moment to reveal her ‘secret’.

During a peasant’s wedding, catered by Yehia and his sons, an offer is made for the business, which Yehia refuses, and results in interesting developments. 


Certain Women
Director: Kelly Reichardt  
Rating: 15+
USA | English dialogue | 107 mins  


Writer/director Kelly Reichardt confirms and consolidates her credentials as one of the great chroniclers of unromanticised moments in the lives of American women (and those they interact with). This adaptation of a series of short stories by Montana native Maile Meloy is elegantly sustained and beautifully performed.

The three stories – starring Laura Dern, Michelle Williams (a regular player in Reichardt’s films) and Kristen Stewart – are loosely connected and resolutely low-key in terms of broad drama. And yet, they they are all impressively textured, subtle and strikingly performed as they chart moments from ordinary working lives in the Big Sky Country. 


The Cinema Travellers
Director : Shirley AbrahamAmit Madheshiya
Rating: 12+  
India | Hindi and Marathi dialogue with English subtitles | 96 mins   


A delightful documentary that beautifully explores the fast-waning days of the grand tradition of tent cinemas, which have long toured the remote villages of Maharashtra in western India.

While beautiful to look at – from the aged equipment, enthralled viewers, faded tents and aged projectionists – it is also moving and insightful, as it delves into the precarious world of film exhibition on the road and the expected impact on it from pirated DVDs and cable television.

But the underlying joy that accompanies these tent cinemas makes Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya’s film a documentary to cherish.


Egyptian Jeanne D'Arc
Director: Iman Kamel
Rating: 12+ 
Egypt | Arabic and English dialogue with English subtitles | 85 mins 

Influenced by Carl Dreyer’s THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928), EGYPTIAN JEANNE D’ARC is a modern documentary fusing genres through dance, poetic narrative and mythology to examine women's circumstances in present day Egypt. In the context of post-revolution Egypt, the film explores issues of women’s emancipation by drawing attention to women’s repression and their feelings of guilt particularly amongst Egyptian female artistes.


Director: Zeki Demirkubuz  
Rating: 18+
Turkey and Germany | Turkish dialogue with English subtitles / Colour / 115 mins 

Director Zeki Demirkubuz’s modestly mounted, yet astute and classically made film has in its sights an attack on traditions that still keep women in society without rights. The story focuses on seamstress Emine (Aslıhan Gürbüz), who struggles to look after her son Mete, after her husband left her behind with debts.

When her son needs urgent medical treatment, her old flame Ziya (Taner Birsel) offers to help pay bills and soon the pair are lovers. But in true melodramatic fashion her husband returns, and is expectedly angry and drama ensues.

Foreign Body
Director: Raja Amari  
Rating: 15+ 
France and Tunisia | Arabic and French dialogue with English and French subtitles | 92 mins  

Like hundreds of illegal immigrants, Samia lands on European shores. Haunted by the fear of being followed by her extremist brother whom she had denounced to the authorities, Samia first finds refuge at Imed’s home, a former acquaintance from her village, before ending up working for the rich widow Leila. These new meetings mingle with her headlong flight, where desire enhances tensions.


Director: François Ozon
Rating: PG 
France and Germany | French and German dialogue with English subtitles | 113 mins  

French writer/director François Ozon’s black-and-white period drama is beautifully elegant and painfully sad, but driven by memorable performances and an underlying sexual tension. Pierre Niney stars as Frenchman Adrien, who arrives in a small German town just after the First World War to lay flowers at the grave of Frantz, who had died in combat.

He gets to know Frantz’s parents as well as his fiancée Anna (Paula Beer), all of whom are still in mourning, but welcome him when he says he knew Frantz when he studied in Paris. But as truths slowly emerge, his link to Frantz is gradually revealed. A beautiful and gently profound film.


Honey, Rain and Dust
Director : Nujoom Alghanem
Rating: PG
United Arab Emirates | Arabic dialogue with English subtitles | 86 mins  

Aisha, Fatima and Ghareeb are amongst the best known honey specialists in the northern parts of the UAE. Ghareeb is also considered a beekeeper because he established a sanctuary at the top of the mountains, where he can be in control of the surrounding environment and protect his honeybees. 

Fatima and Aisha prefer to roam the mountains freely to find the highest natural honey. Meanwhile, the bees are coping with climate change, survival challenges and the production of honey. Involuntarily, the bees have become integral to the lives of Aisha, Fatima and Ghareeb. But, for how long and to what extent can the bees keep providing?  


Hotel Salvation
Director : Shubhashish Bhutiani 
Rating: 12+ 
India | Hindi dialogue with English subtitles | 102 mins  

The debut feature from Indian filmmaker Shubhashish Bhutiani is a charmingly gentle drama about a father and son getting to know each other while also dealing with life's realities. After a dream, 77-year-old Daya (Lalit Behl) decides he needs to travel to the sacred ghats at Banaras before he dies, and recruits his son Rajiv (Adil Hussain) to accompany him.

Their journey is laced with humour and pathos as the pair gradually make their peace while on their journey, eventually making their way to the Hotel Salvation, a place where the elderly spend their final days.  


I am Not Madame Bovary 
Director: : Feng Xiaogang
Rating: 12+ 
China | Mandarin dialogue with English subtitles | 139 mins  

The sheer filming elegance of Feng Xiaogang dovetails perfectly with Fan Bingbing’s powerful lead performance as a woman, who takes on Chinese bureaucracy, as she stubbornly fights to restore her honour after a false divorce and charges of sexual misdeeds.  

The film is presented in a round frame, which helps give a deeper sense of peering into the troubled life of village woman Li Xuelian (Fan Bingbing) as she fights her way up the convoluted Chinese legal ladder to seek justice. It is a beautifully structured film, blessed with a playful dark humour. 


Director:  Behnam Behzadi
Rating: 12+
Iran | Persian dialogue with English subtitles | 84 mins 

Director Behnam Behzadi’s engrossing and engaging new film features a striking lead performance from Sahar Dowlatshahi as Niloofar, a confident and driven single woman, who owns her own tailoring shop in Tehran. 

She appears in control of her life, but when her ill mother (Shirin Yazdanbakhsh) collapses after a walk in the polluted city, Niloofar finds herself forced to move out of Tehran and look after her mother in a vacation villa out of the city. Before she knows it, her selfish brother has rented out her shop and the comfortable and – almost – independent life she leads is ripped apart. She must find a way to try and ‘invert’ her life once again.    

Lady Macbeth
Director: William Oldroyd
Rating: 18+
United Kingdom | English dialogue with Colour | 89 mins  


This British film was one of the standout discoveries at Toronto, and certainly its style, structure and strong performances make it a strong debut feature for theatre and opera director William Oldroyd.

The film relocates Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel “Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District” to rural northern England of the 1860s, where young Katherine (an excellent Florence Pugh) is newly married to an older man in a passionless marriage of convenience and embarks on a fierce love affair with groom Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis). Its bleak nature and intelligent questions about race in British history help define Lady Macbeth as a fresh vision of the classic British costume drama. 


The Man Who Saw Too Much
Director: Trisha Ziff
Rating: 18+
Mexico | English and Spanish dialogue with English subtitles | 88 mins 

The passionate, visceral and vibrant work of photographer Enrique Metinides provides a fascinating backdrop for filmmaker Trisha Ziff, as she delves into his life and complex personality. A photographer since childhood (apparently he photographed burning buildings from firemen’s shoulders) he found fame with his hyper-violent images while working as a tabloid photographer.

To balance his reputation, he also stopped filming to help victims of incidents he was shooting, and in a reflection of his innocence he has a collection of toy fire trucks and ambulances. An enthralling and intriguing film. 


Manchester by the Sea
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Rating: 15+ 
USA | English dialogue with Arabic and French subtitles | 138 mins  


This beautifully made and powerfully moving film features a magnificent central performance from Casey Affleck. He plays Boston janitor Lee, a man living with pent-up grief and who has to address sadness and revelations from his past when he is notified of his brother’s death and has to reluctantly return to his close-knit hometown community and try to do the best for his brother’s 16-year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges).

As Lee struggles to do his best he has to face aspects of his past, in particular a moving scene where he encounters his ex-wife, wonderfully played by Michelle Williams. 


The Oath
Director:  Baltasar Kormákur
Rating: 15+
Iceland | Icelandic dialogue with English subtitles | 110 mins   

Acclaimed filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur (whose work includes big budget fare such as Everest, Contraband and 2 Gungs) both directs and stars in this gritty Nordic thriller.  He plays an Icelandic heart surgeon worried about the hard-partying and drug-taking lifestyle of his daughter Anna (Hera Hilmar) and decides to try and free her from her petty criminal boyfriend Ottar.

The juddering blend of styles sees the film veer between violent thriller and tough-love drama, with Kormákur delivering a strikingly brooding performance that matches the stark Icelandic landscapes.


Off Frame aka Revolution Until Victory
Director : Mohanad Yaqubi 
France, Palestine, Lebanon, Qatar |  Arabic, English, French, Italian dialogue with English subtitles | 62 mins


Off Frame aka Revolution Until Victory deals with the history and development of militant cinema in the Middle East. The film researches the motives and circumstances behind this genre and questions its dramatic end in 1982.

In resurrecting a forgotten memory of struggle, Off Frame reanimates what is within the frame, but also weaves a critical reflection by looking for what is outside of it. 

On the Milky Road
Director : Emir Kusturica  
Serbia | Serbian dialogue with English subtitles | 125 mins   


Acclaimed director Emir Kusturica aims for reflective magical realism in this rural folk tale/love story, and also casts himself in the lead role of a wistful milkman who attracts the loving interest of an Italo-Serbian woman (played by Monica Belluci) on the run from a British peacekeeping force general she sent to prison.

Kusturica’s character, Kosta takes milk to frontline troops in rural Bosnia and is set to marry Milena, a former champion rhythmic gymnast, but things change when Belluci’s character spots this unlikely donkey-riding lothario. Packed with oddball magical moments; some slapstick comedy as Kusturica also gets to play piano in a couple of jolly party scenes. 


One More Time with Feeling (3D)
Director : Andrew Dominik 
Rating: PG 
France and United Kingdom | English dialogue | 112 mins  

Though on one level, Andrew Dominik’s documentary – largely shot in black and white – is a film aimed at following the recording of “Skeleton Tree”, the latest album from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, its very timing in the period after the death of Cave’s 15-year-old son Arthur, who died after a fall from a cliff near the family’s Brighton home, means that it also dwells on raw emotions, trauma and mourning.

It is an often candid film – as well as one that works musically – as Cave talks about the pain of loss as well as needing to keep on being creative; though it also reinforces the rare talent of Cave and his musicians. 


Only Men go to the Grave
Director: Abdulla Al Kaabi
Rating: 15+
Arabic dialogue with English subtitles / Colour / 80 mins 

After the Iraq-Iran war ended in 1988, a blind mother welcomes her estranged daughters to tell them a secret. Unfortunately, she accidentally dies while sharing it. During the funeral, the daughters try to deal with their mother’s sudden death and also work together to unveil her secret by looking for clues from visitors.

Throughout the funeral, their own lives continue to unravel, giving room for buried family tensions to gradually surface, while struggling to deal with their own secrets and deep-rooted guilt. The daughters start to question everything about their mother’s life after a peculiar encounter. 


Director: Cristi Puiu
Rating: 12+ 
Romania | Romanian dialogue with English subtitles | 173 mins 

Some three hours long and shot almost entirely in a packed and cluttered Bucharest flat, this latest film from talented filmmaker Cristi Puiu (The Death of Mr Lazarescu, Aurora) is a wonderfully absorbing film. It weaves its way through a family reunion that offers a thoughtful insight into the modern-day Romanian middle-class, as Puiu observes tensions and misunderstandings as a family come together at a memorial dinner.

The encounters between the family members veer between dramatic to gently amusing, with Puiu allowing the differing characters to emerge as fully-rounded and appropriately complex people. 


Voyage of Time
Director: Director : Terrence Malick
Rating: 15+  
Germany | English dialogue with Arabic subtitles | 90 mins  


Acclaimed filmmaker Terrence Malick finally gets to reveal the project that he has been mulling over since the late 1970s, with this beautifully mounted film – voiced by Cate Blanchet. It details a stunning journey through the origins of the universe, through to the present time and beyond. Using impressive special effects, Malick delivers a poetic delve into the nature of life and death and on the origins of mankind, featuring mesmerising footage from the ocean floor through to the planets. If the cosmic sequence in his film The Tree of Life offered a taster, then this is on the whole, quite an awesome thing. 


Withered Green
Director : 
Mohammed Hammad
Rating: 15+ 
Egypt | Arabic dialogue with English subtitles | 73 mins  

Withered Green is the story of young Iman, a conservative religious person, who takes people's opinions of her into account and shows uptight restriction to all the withering social traditions. However, a shocking discovery prompts her to do away with all these withered traditions that she once clung to. Withered Green is director Mohammed Hammad’s debut feature and premiered at Locarno. 


Wolf and Sheep
Director: Shahrbanoo Sadat  
Rating: 12+ 
Denmark, France, Sweden and Afghanistan | Hazaragi dialogue with English subtitles | 86 mins  


Writer/director Shahrbanoo Sadat’s acclaimed film, which won a prize at the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes, shrewdly strikes a tonal balance between documentary and drama as it dwells on life in a small Afghan village, where little has changed over the years.

Sadat’s camera and story focuses largely on the children of the village, weaving together a story that subtly tackles the importance of tradition and rituals in a community, where life is tough but also supportive, and where storytelling takes its place alongside life’s lessons. It may be simple in structure and tone, but its insight and sincerity shine through.

The Worthy
Director: Ali F. Mostafa  
Rating: 18+ 
United Arab Emirates | Arabic dialogue with English subtitles | 100 mins  

In a dystopian future, when the water supply has been poisoned, a group of unlikely survivors has taken refuge in an abandoned hangar. They struggle to stay alive and protect one of the last remaining sources of uncontaminated water.

After a near-deadly altercation with bandits, who want to seize the water, two strangers appear to help fight off the bandits. The survivors’ leader agrees to host the strangers, as long as they conform to the camp’s rules. When one of the strangers betrays the group, the compound descends into madness, leaving only one question: who is worthy to live and to lead? 

Your Name
Director: Makoto Shinkai
Rating: 12+ 
Japan | Japanese dialogue with English subtitles | 106 mins   

Following the great tradition of Japanese ‘seishun eiga’ (youth drama), writer/animator Makoto Shinkai’s film focuses on two teenagers – a boy and a girl. The girl, Mitsuha, lives an unhappy life in the countryside and the boy is a high-school student, Taki, whose story takes an unusual spin with the pair switching bodies in their dreams.

There is plenty of humour to be sure, but also more serious undercurrents as they struggle to deal with unexpected situations and rather unfamiliar yearnings. Shinkai is being hailed as the ‘new Miyazaki’, and while his films lack the ‘fantasy quest’ that defined Miyazaki at his best; they are certainly beautifully crafted anime fare. 

Zaineb Hates the Snow
Director:  Kaouther Ben Hania
Rating: PG 
Tunisia | Arabic and French dialogue with English subtitles | 95 mins

2009. Tunisian nine-year-old Zaineb and her mother will rebuild their lives in Canada with a man she was in love with before she married Zaineb’s father, who died in an accident. Zaineb is told that once she is in Canada, she can finally see the snow. But she wants nothing to do with this new country, because Zaineb has decided to hate the snow.

Covering six years in the life of a charismatic young Tunisian girl and her changing family life, Zaineb Hates the Snow is a beautiful and poignant coming-of-age documentary told through the eyes of a wide-eyed little émigrée.





UAE National Day 2016

The UAE turns 45 today. Happy UAE National Day.  



Review: Dubai Design Week 2016 

Abwab: Palestine Pavilion - Mass Imperfections | © Hind Mezaina
The second edition of Dubai Design Week took place between 24th-29th October. I wasn't in town for the inaugural edition last year, so was eager to check its second edition. 

It was heavily promoted with an emphasis on the the biggest Global Grad Show showcasing groundbreaking projects from design schools around the world, Abwab, series of six pavilions built to celebrate and showcase the work by designers, studios and curators from Algeria, Bahrain, India, Iraq, Palestine, United Arab Emirates and Iconic City: Cairo Now! City Incomplete.   

There were also several commissioned installations, a series of talks and workshops, plus design related exhibitions and events across the city. 

My podcast partner Wael Hattar and I recorded an epsiode for our Tea With Culture podcast sharing our thoughts on the fair and reviewing some the work we saw. We also discussed the role of the festival, its impact and some of the missed opportunities by spreading itself all over the citiy. 

Please have a listen to our podcast and below it are photos and tweets I shared on Twitter Moments.  Did you take part/visit the festival? Let me know what were your impressions. 

Warehouse421 - Wednesdays at the Warehouse - December 2016

Line up of workshops, talks, film screenings happening this month at Warehouse 421


Reflections on Screen - Practical Screen-Printing Techniques
Date: 7th December 2016 
Time: 17:00 - 20:00 

Participants in this hands-on session are invited to create an original piece of work and then produce multiple editions of it using a range of screen-printing methods. With a focus on techniques – rather than producing a finished work, this collaborative workshop also explores aspects of color theory and the importance of considering print and production factors in any design process.

Instructor: Ahmad Makary & Mohamed Krayem, Printmakers, The Workshop DXB, UAE

Age group: Adults


A MENA Perspective on Visual Communication - Contemporary Practices From Across The Region
Date: 14th December 2016 
Time: 18:30 - 20:00


This industry-led talk investigates contemporary practices in visual communication by highlighting various examples from across the MENA region and discussing their social, cultural, artistic and commercial influences.

- Ahmad Saqfalhait, Acting Head of Graphic Design Department at German University in Cairo, Egypt
- Mo Saad, AIGA Middle East, Lebanon
- Nuno Paiva, Head of Strategy, Slash, UAE
- Salem Al-Qassimi, Founder and Principle of Fikra, Assistant Professor of Design at AUS, UAE
- Tammam Yamout, Penguin Cube, UAE
- Wael Marcos, Graphic & Type Designer, Lebanon



Film Screenings
Date: 21st December 2016
Time: 19:30 – 22:00   

Sabeel (2010)
Directed by: Khalid Al Mahmood | UAE | PG | Drama | No Dialogue | 20 minutes

Two small boys live with their sick grandmother in the mountains of the UAE. Tending their vegetables and then selling produce on the road, they have to earn enough money to buy medicine for their grandmother. This poignant film depicts their lives and the world in which they live. Sabeel won the Second Prize in the Muhr Emirati Award at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2010. 

Timbuktu (2014)
Directed by: Abderrahmane Sissako | Mauritania, France | PG | Drama | Arabic, Bambara, French, English, Songhay, Tamashek | 97 minutes

Not far from Timbuktu, now ruled by the religious fundamentalists, Kidane lives peacefully in the dunes with his wife Satima, his daughter Toya, and Issan, their twelve-year-old shepherd. In town, the people are powerless, and they suffer from the regime of terror imposed by the Jihadists determined to control their faith.

Music, laughter, cigarettes, even soccer have been banned. The women have become shadows but resist with dignity. Every day, the new improvised courts issue tragic and absurd sentences. Kidane and his family are being spared the chaos that prevails in Timbuktu. But their destiny changes when Kidane accidentally kills Amadou, the fisherman who slaughtered “GPS,” his beloved cow. He now has to face the new laws of the foreign occupants.

Timbuktu is Mauritania's first entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. 



Film and TV Viewing Log - November 2016

Directed by John Cassavetes
Gloria (35mm) (1980) ★★★★
Shadows (35mm) (1958) ★★★★

John Carpentar  - Repertory screenings at BFI (London) 
The Fog (35mm)  (1980) ★★★★
Big Trouble in Little China (1986) ★★★★

Black Star - Repertory screenings at BFI (London)
Borderline (video) (Kenneth Macpherson, 1930) ★★★
In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, 1967) ★★★★
Paris is Burning (35mm) (Jennie Livingston, 1990) ★★★★

A Raisin in the Sun (35mm) (Daniel Petrie, 1967) ★★★★
Deep Cover (35mm) (Bill Duke, 1992) ★★★★
Se7en (David Fincher, 1995)  ★★★★

Krzysztof Kieślowski's Three Colour Trilogy - Repertory screenings at Prince Charles Cinema (London) ★★★★
Three Colours: Blue (1993)
Three Colours: White (1994)
Three Colours: Red (1994)

Napoleon (Abel Gance, 1927)

Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016)
Dog Eat Dog (Paul Schrader, 2016)
Further Beyond (Christine MolloyJoe Lawlor, 2016)
I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, 2016)
Train to Busan (Yeon Sang-ho, 2016)

The Driller Killer (Abel Ferrara, 1979)
Allied (Robert Zemeckis, 2016)
Dr Strange (Scott Derrickson, 2016) 
Equals (Drake Doremus, 2016)
Homo Sapiens (Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 2016)

I, Olga Hepnarová (Tomás WeinrebPetr Kazda, 2016)

Love Battles (Jacques Doillon, 2013) 
The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016)
Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford, 2016) 

Short films: 
Now: End of Season (Ayman Nahle, 2015) ★★★ 
Mad Ladders (Michael Robinson, 2015) ★★★★ 
Regal (Karissa Hahn, 2015) ★★★
Something Between Us (Jodie Mack, 2015) ★★★★ 
Battalion to My Beat  (Eimi Imanishi, 2016) ★★★
Indefinite Pitch (James N. Kienitz Wilkins, 2016) ★★★★ 
Import (Ena Sendijarevic, 2016) ★★★★ 
Murderous Injustice (Gavin Scott Whitfield, 2016) ★★★
World War Cup (Simon Ellis, 2016) ★★★★ 
Symbolic Threats (Mischa Leinkauf, Lutz Henke, Matthias Wermke, 2015) ★★★★  


Survivor - Season 33 - Episodes 7-11  

Film log - January 2016 
Film log - February 2016 
Film log - March 2016
Film log - April 2016
Film log - May 2016
Film log - June 2016 
Film log - July 2016  
Film log - August 2016  
Film log - September 2016 
Film log - October 2016  


Warehouse421 - Wednesdays at the Warehouse - November 2016

This month's edition of Wednesdays at the Warehouse is packed with a great line up of events. Warehouse 421 will also host 100 Best Arab Posters exhibition which will open on Tuesday, 15th November (expect a separate post about this exhibition soon). 

Here's the line up of events this month:

Film Screenings
Date: 2nd November 2016
Time: 19:30 – 22:00   

The Aftermath of the Inauguration of the Public Toilet at Kilometer 375 (2015)
Director: Omar El Zohairy | Egypt | PG | Comedy, Drama | Arabic | 18 minutes

In a contemporary world subjugated by materialism, filled with perpetual fear and unending hardships, the definition of our humanity is blurred, residing in a grey area where it becomes difficult to differentiate between the life of an object and that of a human being. I am always struggling to overcome this constant state of fear which controls me. Fear in all its forms: fear of the unknown, fear of the future (and the past), fear of materialism, of emotions... Fear, that feeling which comes over you like a tornado, destroying all other things in its way. This is why I tried to make a film about that emotion only, devoid as much as possible of any other, a film only about fear.

LoveTheft and Other Entanglements (2016)

Director: Muayad Alayan | Palestine | PG | Adventure, Comedy | Arabic, English, Hebrew | 97 minutes

Mousa gets into the trouble of his life when he steals the wrong car. What he thought was an Israeli car and an easy way to make money in his impoverished Palestinian refugee camp, turns out to be a load of misfortune when he discovers a kidnapped Israeli soldier in the trunk. Mousa's hopes of paying the bribe that will guarantee him an exit visa out of the country and away from his wrecked love affair dissipate as he finds himself on the run from Palestinian militias and the Israeli intelligence.

Talk: Make it Pop - The Influence of Visual & Popular Culture in Graphic Design
Date: 9th November 2016
Time: 18:30 - 20:00

This talk focuses on the symbiotic relationship between visual and popular culture and design by analyzing iconic street art, movie posters, signage and advertising, and exploring how they influenced a shift towards a more graphic style of visual communication, both as a commercial tool and a valid form of artistic expression. 


  • Goffredo Puccetti, Assistant Professor of Practice of Visual Arts, NYU Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • Nancy Skolos, Dean of Architecture and Design, Rhodes Island School of Design, USA
  • Rana Salam, Art Director/Consultant on Middle Eastern popular culture
  • Tarek Atrissi, Founder, Tarek Atrissi Design, Spain 



Workshop: From Film to Paper - The Poster Design Experiment
Date: 16th November 2016
Time: 17:00 - 20:00 

Participants in this workshop watch a short film, discuss its content and meaning, and then construct an original poster combining typography and visual imagery inspired by the film’s themes, messages and characters.

Hadeyeh Badri & Riem Hassan, Designers, Mobius Design Studio, UAE
Age group: Adults       


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