Written by William Dobson
With the continuation of Safar: A Journey Through Popular Arab Cinema, it’s another busy week for Middle Eastern events in London. However, if film isn’t your thing, there’s plenty else on to keep you entertained. As always, get in touch if you feel we’ve missed something!
Monday 24th September
In Pictures: Urban Refugees with Andrew McConnell – Frontline Club, London
As urbanisation reshapes much of the world, refugees are increasingly moving to built up areas, including large towns and cities. Through images, refugee testimonies and video, McConnell’s body of work presents a unique insight into the lives of urban refugees today and challenges commonly held stereotypes. From Somali refugees in Nairobi to Syrian refugees in north Jordan, and from Burmese refugees in Kuala Lumpur to Afghani refugees in New York, the story of where people flee when all is lost is changing.
For more details, see here
Tuesday 25th September
Captain Abu Raed - ICA, The Mall, London
At the time of its release, Captain Abu Raed was the first Jordanian film produced in over 50 years. Abu Raed (Nadim Sawalha) is an airport cleaner who has always dreamt of seeing the world but only experienced it vicariously through books and brief encounters with air travellers. One day he finds a pilot’s cap and takes it to his poor neighbourhood where Abu Raed has befriended a group of children.
Believing that he is a retired pilot, the kids eagerly await to hear about Abu Raed’s worldly adventures. As he takes the children on a fictionalized journey through his stories, he soon begins to discover that there is a grim reality in these children’s lives that he must attempt to rectify. Captain Abu Raed is a universal story of friendship, inspiration and heroism, directed by one of the Arab world’s most successful contemporary film directors.
For information, click here
Wednesday 26th September
Terrorism and the Kebab – ICA, The Mall, London
One of the most popular Egyptian films of all time, Terrorism and the Kebab, starring comedy legend Adel Imam is a farce denouncing the absurdity of bureaucracy in modern Egypt. Adel Imam plays a father who wants to move his son to a school closer to home, and accordingly goes to one of the Government’s major administrative buildings, El-Mogamaa (the building in Tahrir Square that was heavily spray painted in the 2011 uprisings), to pick up the required documents. Frustrated by the lack of response he receives, he ends up attacking a Government official, and when armed police respond to the situation, a machine gun accidentally finds its way into Imam’s hands. In his new found position as a terrorist, Imam’s demand to the Minister of Internal Affairs is simple: shish kebab made of the highest-quality lamb. After having a hearty meal with his hostages, however, his demands become more political. Interestingly, Adel Imam was later tried on charges of blasphemy for his role in the film.
Terrorism and the Kebab will be popular among those who loved films such as Four Lions and other satires, and this screening will mark its first big screen appearance in the UK.
For details, see here
One Zero – ICA, The Mall, London
The only Egyptian film in recent memory to be led by an all female production team (director, writer, cinematographer and editor), One-Zero is a multi-strand narrative melodrama starring an all-star cast from the crème de la crème of the current Egyptian movie scene.
Set on the eve of the 2008 Africa Nations Cup final, the film follows eight characters as they undergo tumultuous social complications. At times of frustration with political, economic and social realities, will the victory of the Egyptian football team consign everyday troubles to oblivion, even if only for one night? Or are the problems that conflict Egyptian society woven too deeply? This film was threatened with a lawsuit before it was even released for its portrayal of Coptic Christian marriage.
For more information, see here
Thursday 27th September
The Yacoubian Building – ICA, The Mall, London
An eye-catching construction, The Yacoubian Building in Cairo was long regarded as the last word in comfort and elegance. Nowadays, the veneer has cracked and the shine has dulled to reveal the truth underneath the façade. Through the interwoven stories of a number of the residents, the film paints a portrait of corruption, fundamentalism, prostitution, homosexuality, and drugs in central Cairo and creates a vibrant but socially critical picture of contemporary Egypt.
As polemical as it is nuanced, The Yacoubian Building was penned by leading Egyptian literary figure Alaa Al Aswany and adapted for the screen by director Marwan Hamed from a script by his father, Wahid Hamed. The film features an all-star cast which includes Adel Imam, Yousra, and Nour El-Sherif. At the time of its production, The Yacoubian Building was the most expensive Arab-Egyptian film ever made, and broke box office records on its release.
For details, see here
Who are the Tablighi Jamaat? - The Frontline Club, London
The ‘ante-chamber of terror’ as the French security service is said to have dubbed the Tablighi Jamaat, or an other-worldly group of Muslims dedicated to piety and preaching? A movement of separatist, supremacist misogynists bent on the Islamisation of Europe, or a misunderstood part of Britain’s multicultural mosaic?
This little-known Muslim association whose name means ‘the preaching group’ has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to secure planning permission for its new world centre or markaz in Newham – yet scholars are completely at odds over its purpose and ethos.
This event launches Tablighi Jamaat by Dr Zacharias Pieri – the first of an authoritative new series Handy Books for Journalists on Religion in World Affairs published by Lapido Media.
For information, see here
Friday 28th September
The Horse: From Arabia to Royal Ascot – British Museum, London
With not long to go until it finishes, this free exhibition will allow you to discover the epic story of the horse – a journey of 5,000 years that has revolutionised human history. The story focuses on two breeds – Arabians, which were prized in the desert for their spirit and stamina, and the thoroughbred which was selectively bred from Arabians for speed and is now raced at world-famous courses such as Royal Ascot.
Objects range from ancient to modern and include depictions of horses in stone reliefs, gold and clay models, horse tack, paintings by George Stubbs, and trophies and rosettes. With the museum open late on Fridays, make sure you head down while you still have the chance.
For details, click here
Sunday 30th September
The Changing Room – Various Locations around Central London
The last day of The Changing Room project, presenting an alternative vision of the changes that have occurred in and around the Arab region today. Realised in Italy (2011), The Changing Room formulates a contemporary compendium of histories, addressed and documented by groundbreaking artists who either live in exile, emigration, or continue to have a physical presence in their region or nation.
Set in an underground gallery, a magic shop and an office hub in central London, one of the project’s central visual statements is to bring Palestine’s Jerusalem into the heart of London.
For more information, check here