Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Arab Film Fest Presents 2 Films in Palo Alto on Oct 22, 2014

The Arab Film Festival is thrilled to present TWO of its films in PALO ALTO on Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014.  Schedule and tickets at http://aff2014.arabfilmfestival.org/schedule/

HERITAGES
Wednesday, October 22, 7:00pm
Aquarius Theatre

Heritages by Philippe Aractingi
Director Philippe Aractingi sees himself having to leave his motherland to settle elsewhere for the third time in his life. While he and his family are evacuated to France aboard a military ship, he realizes that his ancestors have also been fleeing from wars or massacres for five generations now. All of them have been exiled at least once. Gripped by the burning desire to tell his own children the past that is “not to be told,” Philippe sets out on a journey through History to understand and pass on its lessons. Here, his ancestors’ itinerary is confronted by that of Middle Eastern history: the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the French mandate, the creation of Israel, Pan-Arabism, the Lebanese civil war and beyond. His exploration leads him to the universal questions: Can one find peace in exile, and should unshackle ourselves from our heritage to be free?

Heritages trailer at http://youtu.be/WSGpAqDP8Ik


ARWAD
Wednesday, October 22, 9:15pm
Aquarius Theatre


A deep feeling of nostalgia takes hold of Ali following his mother’s death, causing him to slowly drift away from family life. Although Gabrielle senses her husband’s distress, she fails to console him. In an attempt to reconnect with his roots, Ali travels to Arwad, an island located off the Syrian coast. Leaving Montreal and his family behind, he is accompanied by Marie, his mistress, who is discovering the island for the first time. After an unexpected turn of events, a confrontation between Gabrielle and Marie becomes inevitable.

Arwad Trailer at http://youtu.be/5crQLPp4OwE


Many thanks to Serge Bakalian and the whole AFF team for making these screenings possible. You can get tickets at http://aff2014.arabfilmfestival.org/schedule/

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Arab Film Festival Begins Oct 10 in SF + Cherien Dabis in Person


THE ARAB FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES SPECIAL GUESTS AND FULL PROGRAM FOR AFF 2014, OCTOBER 10-23

Director/Writer/Actor Cherien Dabis will be in attendance at the 18th annual Arab Film Festival Opening Night and San Francisco Premiere of her film May in the Summer.


Cherien Dabis, Nadine Malouf, and Alia Shawkat in MAY IN THE SUMMER


SAN FRANCISCO, October 8 - The 18th annual Arab Film Festival (AFF) has announced special guests for its Opening Night on Friday, October 10, with the San Francisco premiere of May in the Summer. Director/Writer/Actor Cherien Dabis will be in attendance, and AJ+ Presenter/Producer Dena Takruri will host the evening, leading a Q&A with Dabis after the screening. Opening Night festivities include a pre-screening reception, 6:00pm, and an after party at the Churchill.

Cherien Dabis is an award-winning filmmaker, who received her MFA in Film from Columbia University. Her first short film, "Make a Wish," premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, and she has worked as a writer, story editor, and co-producer with the television series The L Word (2006 -2008). Dabis made her feature film debut with Amreeka, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival to critical appraise.

Dena Takruri is a Presenter and Producer at AJ+, the new digital channel from the Al Jazeera Media Network. Previously, Takruri was a host and producer at HuffPost Live as well as Al Jazeera Arabic, where she produced the flagship political talk show, "Min (From) Washington."

OPENING NIGHT: MAY IN THE SUMMER
San Francisco Premiere
Friday, October 10, 7:30 pm, Castro Theatre

May has it all - a celebrated book, a sophisticated New York life, and a terrific fiancé to match. But when she heads to Amman, Jordan, to arrange her wedding, she lands in a bedlam of family chaos she thought she'd transcended long before. Her headstrong, born-again Christian mother so disapproves of her marrying a Muslim that she threatens to boycott the wedding. Her younger sisters lean on her like children, and her estranged father suddenly comes out of the woodwork. Meanwhile, doubts about her marriage surface, and May's carefully structured life spins out of control. As with her debut feature, Amreeka (2009), Cherien Dabis breathes life into a world rarely depicted on screen, where tradition, burgeoning modernity, and Western imitation deliciously collide and prove that nothing is quite what it seems. Taking a star turn in the title role, Dabis expertly captures the knotty dynamics of a household of women, mining the inherent humor and pathos as her irresistible characters stumble through rocky familial and romantic terrain. The film also stars Alia Shawkat, Nadine Malouf, Hiam Abbas, and Alexander Siddig.



FULL PROGRAM ANNOUNCED
As the largest showcase of Arab films and filmmakers, the AFF 2014 program features 55 films representing 25 countries. This year the schedule includes 28 US premieres and 19 films from women directors. Complete film and scheduling information is available online at aff2014.arabfilmfestival.org.

In addition to presenting new films from both established and emerging filmmakers, AFF will inaugurate its retrospective series, Arab Classics, with Youssef Chahine's legendary Cairo Station (1958). Chahine received international recognition when his masterpiece depicting the sexuality, repression, madness, and violence amongst society's marginalized was screened at the 1958 Berlin Film Festival and nominated for a Golden Bear.

ARAB CLASSICS: CAIRO STATION
Retrospective Series Inauguration
Monday, October 13, 7:00pm, Roxie Theatre
Special 50th Anniversary 35mm print

In Cairo Station, two populations briefly intersect: those passing through Cairo's grand urban train station and those who live and work there. Among the latter is Kinawai, a crippled newspaper man (played by Director Youssef Chahine) who becomes increasingly obsessed with Hunuma, a beautiful young woman who sells drinks and is engaged to one of the station's respected luggage-carriers. Mixing comedy, tragedy, and musical elements, Chahine's controversial tragicomedy is an examination of the latent desires and violence embedded in Egypt's social stratification.

GENERAL FESTIVAL INFORMATION
AFF 2014 will take place over 14 days from October 10-23 in the Bay Area: San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Palo Alto. Films will be screened in San Francisco at the Castro Theatre (429 Castro Street), Roxie Theater (3117 16th Street), Opera Plaza Cinema (601 Van Ness Avenue), and Artists' Television Access (992 Valencia Street); in Oakland at The New Parkway (474 24th Street) and Grand Lake Theatre (3200 Grand Avenue); in Berkeley at Landmark Shattuck Cinemas (2230 Shattuck Avenue); and in Palo Alto at The Aquarius Theatre (430 Emerson Street). Abridged versions of the Festival will take place in Los Angeles from November 7-9 and in San Diego from November 20-22. AFF is supported in part by Wells Fargo and VISA.

FESTIVAL TICKET INFORMATION
Opening Night VIP film and party $60; film only $25. Advance Festival Pass VIP $175; general $150. 6 Flex Pass $60. Individual Tickets $12 for the general public; $10 for students/seniors. Opening Night, Advance Festival Passes, and 6 Flex Passes are available online now at arabfilmfestival.org/passes. Regular tickets are available online at aff2014.arabfilmfestival.org.

About the Arab Film Festival
The Arab Film Festival is the largest independent annual showcase of Arab films and filmmakers in the country. The festival has an international standing and is considered one of the most important Arab film festivals outside the Arab world. It strives to present the best contemporary films that provide insight into the beauty, complexity, and diversity of the Arab world alongside realistic perspectives on Arab people, culture, art, history, and politics. For more information, visit arabfilmfestival.org.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Roads of Arabia Exhibit at Asian Art Museum in SF (Oct 24-Jan 18)


The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco is bringing an exhibit titled "Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" to the bay area from October 24, 2014 to January 18, 2015

About Roads of Arabia (#RoadsofArabia)
Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the first major international exhibition of artworks and artifacts documenting the region’s early history. The museum serves as the only West Coast venue and final venue in its U.S. tour. The show features more than 200 artibfacts—some dating back one million years—tracing the impact of historic incense trade routes and pilgrimage roads. Objects in the exhibition, like colossal statues, Greco-Roman bronzes and pages from early Qur'ans, testify to a lively mercantile and cultural exchange among civilizations from antiquity through the early centuries of Islam. These and many other unique artworks provide a glimpse of the Arabian Peninsula’s fascinating history.

Roads of Arabia is organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in association with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco are gratefully acknowledged as principal co-sponsors of the tour of Roads of Arabia in the United States. Sponsorship is also provided by The Olayan Group and Fluor Corporation. The Boeing Company, Khalid Al Turki Group, and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation SABIC granted additional support. Presentation at the Asian Art Museum is made possible with the generous support of Chevron Corporation, Saudi Aramco, The Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang Fund for Excellence in Exhibitions and Presentations, ExxonMobil, and ATEL Capital Group. Media sponsors: ABC7, Examiner, KQED, San Francisco magazine. Artwork: Funerary mask, 1st century CE. Saudi Arabia; Thaj city, Tell al-Zayer site. Gold. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2061.

For more info see http://www.asianart.org/exhibitions_index/roads-of-arabia
Or contact: Asian Art Museum, Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art & Culture, 200 Larkin Street, SF, CA 94102 phone 415.581.3500

Monday, August 11, 2014

Interview with Imed Alibi in Paris (2014)



It was my honor to interview Imed Alibi in Paris, France on July 27, 2014--a memorable conversation in which Imed spoke about his background and musical influences while discussing his new CD  'Safar' which has been receiving rave reviews worldwide.

In Part 1 of the interview, Imed speaks to us about his background, his musical influences and his favorite musical genres:



In Part 2 of the interview, Imed Alibi discusses his new 'Safar' CD while emphasizing the many musical contributions and collaborations contained therein:



In Part 3 of this interview, Imed introduces each track from his 'Safar' CD followed by an excerpt from each track he discusses. CD Tracks include: 1. Pour quelques Dinars de plus. 2. Bounawara 3. Fanfare d'Alexandrie 4. Maknassy 5. Nafass 6. MHD 7. Balkani Connexion 8. Staring at the Sand:



Below are some exclusive pictures from my interview with Imed Alibi followed by info about his 'Safar' CD, Facebook Page and more:

With Imed Alibi in Paris, July 2014



Imed Alibi's 'Safar' CD is available on iTunes, Amazon, IRL and many other places on the net.

Imed Alibi- Staring At The Sand (irl records):

Uploads by Imed Albi on YouTube:

For more info:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Essay about Censorship by Lily Harries

The following piece was sent to us by Lili Harries.  All expressed thoughts and opinions are that of the author.

Censorship - A Hot Topic, But Is It Relevant?
Censorship is one of the hottest topics in Arabic media– and a controversial one, at that. Saudi Arabian censorship laws routinely come under fire from international freedom advocacy groups, while Western films are routinely banned in Arabic-speaking nations due to content deemed inappropriate for Arabic audiences. Many argue that this stifles speech and artistic truth – if things like nudity, cursing, and drug-taking cannot be shown in all their tawdry glory, how can the truth of human existence possibly be portrayed? However, the issue is far more complex than this.

Personal Offence
Personal offence must be taken into account in any debate regarding the censorship of the media. Citizens of Arabic nations are largely in favor of media censorship, with 70% even calling for tighter regulations and controls upon ‘violent and romantic’ content. This 70% finds depictions of such things upsetting, disturbing, and offensive, and would thus prefer not to have themselves or their children exposed to them. The counter-argument, of course, is that the media is driven by the will of the people – if people did not want to see such things, they would not watch them, and thus filmmakers would avoid depicting them in order to save their profits. Indeed, many Arabic censorship customs are self-imposed in just such a manner. The problem arrives when media made under such government-and-self-censorship conditions are exported to the Arabic diaspora worldwide. People of Arabic descent living in parts of the world where censorship is less rife almost sometimes find the cultural productions of their homelands to be confusing and possibly even inferior to those offered by their adopted homes, largely due to the restricted amount of content and stories which can be touched upon due to censorship. Meanwhile, Arabic filmmakers living abroad are dismayed to discover that their productions cannot reach their intended audience due to political and cultural taboos regarding that which can and cannot be shown upon a screen. 

Freedom of Expression
The position of many European and American commentators upon the topic is that Saudi-Arabian style censorship is a curtailment of freedoms and artistic expression which naturally stifles the end result. Commentators from the US cite the First Amendment, and condemn nations with strict censorship practices accordingly. However, many of these Western anti-censorship voices miss one essential point – that censorship is by no means a phenomenon restricted to Arabic and Islamic nations. In the UK, the British Board of Film Classification applies an age-related category to each and every film released in the UK. This, they state, is to protect children from viewing ‘unsuitable’ content at a young age. The production teams of films frequently remove scenes in order to gain a lower age rating for their feature, which in effect acts as a form of self-censorship. The US operates a body known as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to vet the media and remove content deemed morally damaging or unsuitable. State and local authorities are also allowed to apply their own guidelines and regulations upon film content. In addition, several US television networks have strict rules governing their shows, which effectively allow them to prevent the expression of that which does not fit their own viewpoints and opinions. Much of the resultant censorship has been contradictory and confusing. For example, the Fox Broadcasting Company has a notoriously hardline attitude towards swearing, nudity, and the exposure of liberal views on their shows. They famously censored ‘The Simpsons’ on a variety of occasions – much to the frustration of the writers. However, they appear to have no problem with broadcasting features depicting gory murders, rapes, and even a live suicide.

Independent Thought vs Moral Corruption
Interestingly, the debate regarding censorship within the West reveals a number of contradictions which cut to the heart of the issue as it present in Arabic as much as in Western media. In the USA, the same groups who vociferously advocate American-style ‘freedoms’ and condemn the ‘nannying’ tactics of the liberal faction are – hypocritically – the groups most likely to demand censorship (although they may not phrase it as such) upon moral grounds. It is not uncommon for right-wing groups in America to demand absolute freedom of speech and a lack of government interference with one breath, and announce that something must be done about declining moral standards in the media with the next. Conflict regarding artistic ‘truth’ and expression vs protecting the moral standards of the nation is rife worldwide. In all nations, the more intellectual side of the debate revolves around how much people are influenced by what they see in the media. Some argue that depictions of activities like drug taking in the media ‘normalize’ such things, thus making the plunge into addiction much less daunting. Others argue that genuine art tells the truth and that, as the truth of things like drug-taking is invariably bad, it will act as a deterrent rather than a goad. Still others claim that the best way to prevent adverse effects is to encourage independence of thought and a willingness to question that which is seen rather than take its ‘lessons’ for granted – something which cannot occur if that which people see is strictly policed. Certainly the censorship of drug-taking depictions in Saudi Arabia appears to have done nothing to halt the spread of illegal drugs in the country - indeed, there are those who argue that the spread of drugs within nations with strict censorship is a problem precisely because people are unaware of the serious problems which drugs can cause, and how hard it can be to recover from addiction.

Artistic Expression
Anti-censorship crusaders are of the opinion that censorship stifles artistic expression – and there is certainly something in that. It is also a shame that a great many Arabic cinematic works made in non-Arabic speaking nations cannot be shown in the lands from which their makers hail due to local censorship laws. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for the ingenuity and artistic integrity of media-makers working within these conditions. It must be remembered that working around conditions imposed from on high has produced some of the greatest and most ingenious forms of art known to humanity. British satire, for example, now famed around the world as a comedic genre and honed to a fine art, grew out of a need to make political statements within a climate hostile to such views. Satire – which takes the mores of a system and hyper-emphasises them in a straight-faced yet comedic manner in order to highlight its failings – could not be condemned as explicit criticism, yet made its point clearly and memorably nonetheless. On a less antagonistic level, the prohibition against aniconism in Islamic art has led to the development of some of the most beautiful and intricate artistic patterns, designs, and disciplines known to humanity. To state that censorship stifles art may not, therefore, be entirely accurate – an artist clever and subtle enough will find a way to make their point, often in a beautiful and fully integrated manner.

A Redundant Topic?
The censorship debate rages back and forth, and it seems that there will never be a resolution. While the censorship and self-censorship mores within some Arabic-speaking countries are extreme, there are those who argue that this promotes a style of filmmaking with much more moral and artistic validity than that of the West, where ‘shock’ value is often used in place of art, and drawing in money-spending crowds is frequently considered more important than the integrity of the piece itself. On the other hand, the intense restrictions have led many budding filmmakers and stars to leave their homelands and head abroad, where they feel that their voices can be heard more freely and that they will be allowed to express themselves with fewer restrictions – thus doing their vision greater justice and reaching a wider audience. Whatever the pros and cons of the case, one thing is clear: that an Arabic filmmaker with something important to say, a vision worth promoting, and an artistic passion which burns strongly will find a way to make that statement, no matter what. In this age of the internet and cross-cultural communication, it is becoming harder and harder to restrict what people see and hear. Saudi Arabia – whose censorship laws are famed and derided throughout the world – has a population who are among the most avid consumers of social media on the planet. Much of the populace gains its news this way, and extrapolates the true situation by cross referencing that which they find on the internet by that which they see and hear from approved news vendors, and drawing their own conclusions. Whatever the moral and political truth of the matter, therefore, censorship may very soon become a redundant topic – impossible to apply, and even more impossible to enforce.

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