Tag Archive for Cairo

Reimagining Arab Cinema

Omar Kholeif is an Egyptian-born, UK-based writer, curator and producer. His current project, “Safar: A Journey Through Popular Arab Cinema” is running from 21 – 27 September at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London.

How did the idea for Safar come about and how did you get involved in it?

I was approached by the Arab British Centre a year and a half ago. We sat down and talked about what it was that we wanted to bring to London and British audiences in order to make a real statement about contemporary Arab cinema. Through lots of discussion and research it transpired that a lot of the Arab cinema that we were receiving in the UK was anchored around very particular social and political concerns and wasn’t necessarily representative of Arab cultural production or the films that were popular locally. What you get with Safar is an experience that we believe is much more representative, but also much more enjoyable. It actually contradicts the confines of what you expect world cinema to be. Traditionally, it’s something that aspires to a high arts concern, but these films are much more dialogue-based, comedic and melodramatic. They’re also epic and enthralling in different ways and actually reveal quite political and dissident things about local culture, by doing it through a form that’s accessible to a broader audience.

Do you think that even though historically Arab cinema hasn’t been shown much in the UK, that is something that’s set to change? Is Arab film coming more to the forefront of cinema in the UK today?

I think so. We’re building audiences slowly, but I think that it can be a red herring and we have to be cautious. What you find is that a lot of events are one-offs, when what you really need is someone to develop an infrastructure in their regular programme so audiences know that this isn’t just some fleeting fad, but actually a cultural form that’s important.

Keep Reading at New Statesman

Judith Barry:…Cairo stories

Judith Barry interviewed by Omar Kholeif

Pioneering video artist Judith Barry has spent the past decade working on the …Cairo stories project, in which Cairene women recount tales of their lives and experiences. Here, Barry discusses the changing perception of Americans in Egypt, the problems of representation and the difficulty of filming in the midst of a revolution.

‘During breaks in shooting we were glued to Al Jazeera on the computer – at the time not on TV channels in New York. You can imagine the mood on the set: elation mixed with excitement, and also at times a great deal of fear. We wrapped two days after President Mubarak stepped down.’

Read the whole interview in the new issue of Art Monthly