Inside Al Jadid - Film Reviews

There’s No Place Like Home: Piecing Together Lebanon Divided

Reine Mitri’s documentary “In this Land Lay Graves of Mine” explores the effects of the violent displacements caused by the Lebanese Civil War in the late 20th century. The film centers on an investigation sparked by Mitri’s (initially) simple goal of selling her land in Ain-al-Mir, a village that is part of the predominantly Christian District of Jezzine, to a Sunni Muslim. However, the director soon finds herself intrigued by the significance the land to her own family history and that of others. Throughout the film, Mitri scrutinizes the cycle of “victim and victimizer” and how the truth is not nearly as black and white as it seems, but lies between the stories of both sides. “In this Land Lay Graves of Mine” is reviewed by Angele Ellis for Al Jadid Vol. 20, No. 70.

‘On the Banks of the Tigris’: The Names Are Erased; the Songs Go On

Music has played an inspiring part in the lives of Iraqi Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, especially those who have been forced into exile. The documentary “On the Banks of the Tigris” chronicles music critic and composer Majid Shokor’s journey as he travels from Melbourne, Australia to Israel, Europe and Iraq in search for other exiled Iraqi musicians. Shokor, after discovering that Iraqi Jews had composed many of the best Iraqi songs, seeks to uncover the hidden history of his beloved culture in meetings with musicians who still play and sing these songs. He comes to a startling realization, that under Saddam’s rule, Iraqi Jewish musicians’ works were renamed and classified as mere folk songs. Hoping to bring an appreciation for the music of his childhood and unite displaced Iraqis of all faiths in their sense of loss and longing for their homeland, Shokor ultimately makes his way to London’s Barbican Centre to play alongside with other Iraqi musicians in a peace concert, ending the documentary on a hopeful note. Professor Lynne Rogers, who reviewed the “The Banks of the Tigris” for Al Jadid (Vol. 20, No. 70), states that the documentary lacks the presence of Palestinians and questions whether the Oud is only an Iraqi instrument. Still, she maintains that the documentary offers heart-wrenching images of exiles yearning for their homeland.

‘Nefertiti’s Daughters’: The (Street) Art of Feminist Revolution

Highlighting the ongoing battle for women’s rights and clashes over their social, political, and religious oppression, directors Mark Nickolas and Racha Najdi lead viewers into aworld of artistic expression seen through the eyes of Egyptian street artists. Featuring three prominent artists--Bahia Shehab, Mira Shihadeh, and Salma Samy--as well as the comments of journalist Shaira Amin and historian Christine Gruber, the documentary “Nefertiti’s Daughters” showcases the struggles of these women to create a voice through their graffiti. The artists use their images to conjure charged social and political messages against mob sexual harassment and political regimes, not only protesting violence and dictatorship, but also utilizing images reminiscent of the Egyptian revolution. Throughout the film, Nickolas and Najdi place great emphasis upon the power of this revolutionary street art, fueled by the ongoing political uprisings playing out around the artists. The revised illustration of Queen Nefertiti, now donning a gas mask, symbolizes this artistic movement, and its outcry against social and political oppression, sexual intimidation, fanatic Islamists, and patriarchy. Professor Nada Ramadan Elnahla reviews “Nefertiti’s Daughters” for the forthcoming Al Jadid, Vol. 20, No. 70.

‘Terrace of the Sea’: Diana Allan Casts Her Cinematic Gaze on a Palestinian Fisherman

In her documentary “Terrace of the Sea,” filmmaker and director Diana Allan introduces the viewer to Palestinian fisherman Ibrahim and his family, who live in an unofficial refugee camp in the city of Tyre in southern Lebanon—a camp which could be seized at any time. Through artistic cinematography, Allan observes this family, telling a story spanning over 60 years, contrasting past and present through corroded photographs and symbolic, poignant pauses. In particular, the film focuses on the tender love shared between each of the family members, most notably between Ibrahim and his son Mohamed, who loyally fishes with his father everyday to keep him company. The family’s history and their adoration of the sea, which they call their home, conveys a tragic image of loss as they attempt to struggle onward, despite recognizing that one day their home on this illegally-held plot of land maybe taken from them. Doris Bittar, who reviews “Terrace of the Sea” (in forthcoming Al Jadid Vol. 20, No. 70), writes, “The execution of the film proves masterful, with its measured stillness, its exquisite color, gorgeous cinematography, and the timing which relentlessly moves toward an unexpected climax where the camera, or Allan herself, ventures out to sea with Mohamed.”

Coming Home to History: New Film Captures Early Days in Yemen’s Revolution

“The Mulberry House,” directed by Sara Ishaq, grants a personal perspective on a tumultuous period of Yemen in 2011, from the protests against the authoritarian President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Ishaq’s own family contributions to the movement. Returning to Yemen after living in Scotland with her mother for 10 years, Ishaq reunites with her father and attempts to relearn her Yemeni culture, bringing her camera along for the journey. Her documentary covers the political unrest during the early stages of the Arab Spring, showing her family’s reactions to the murders of protestors on television as well as scenes where they actively support the cause, donating  blood and cooking meals for the demonstrators. While the protests on the streets against Ali Abdullah Saleh form a central aspect of the film, the relationship between the family members within their home reveals an internal issue of gender roles as well. Ishaq’s father, Habib, initially is caught in older traditional thought regarding women and appears disapproving of the change occurring in her. However, he learns to accept his daughter for who she is and even takes pride in her when Ishaq takes an active role in relaying information to the international press through her dedicated blogging. “The Mulberry House” gives an account of the people’s reactions to unrest and illustrates how changes do not only appear externally but also internally within personal relationships. The film, reviewed by Bobby Gulshan, and is scheduled to appear in Al Jadid Vol. 20, No. 70.

Muslim Women Negotiating Identity in the Deep South

Filmed and directed by Maha Marouan and Rachel Raimist, “Voices of Muslim Women from the US South” explores the impact of the misconceptions and unflattering stereotypes Muslim women face in America, focusing on the daily lives of Muslim women in the South. The documentary features five Muslim students and a Muslim professor at the University of Alabama, recounting their struggle of fitting in a predominantly Christian society. In a society that is “overtly confident with ignorance,” Muslim women face negative representation in the media, depicted as helpless, humorless, and oppressed. Viewers should applaud Marouan and Raimist, writes Dr. Nada Ramadan Elnahla, who reviews the documentary for Al Jadid, “for focusing on the daily efforts of those young Muslim women to integrate into their society, as well as on the pressure they sometimes encounter to represent all Muslims and Islam” instead of singling discrimination they face in the work place, or stories of fear, hatred, or physical harassment.  The review is scheduled to appear in Al Jadid, Vol. 20, No. 70, 2016.


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