Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from the 1960s to Now, Part II

October 5–23, 2011


Stars in Broad Daylight. 1988. Syria. Directed by Oussama Mohammad

This three-part film exhibition aims to map a largely unknown heritage of personal, artistic, and sometimes experimental cinema from the Arab world. The program highlights kinships in sensibilities and approaches and explores connections and potential conversations between films. The works selected for this second edition of Mapping Subjectivity hail from Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, Qatar, and the UAE. They reflect a diversity and richness of voices and of imaginative visual languages.

From the 1960s onwards, filmmakers and artists have used existing footage—whether found or borrowed from television, cinema, or public or personal archives—to create montages and forge visual narratives that are profoundly daring, innovative, and subjective. These works engage critically, sometimes provocatively, with official stories, often giving voice to what might be considered “unmentionable.” A number of films in part two of Mapping Subjectivity achieve this through personal histories constructed in the first-person singular, including Akram Zaatari’s This Day, Yto Barrada’s Hand-Me-Downs, Ahmad Ghossein’s My Father Is Still a Communist, Ali Essafi’s Wanted, and Hakim Belabbes’s In Pieces. Azzeddine Meddour's How Much I Love You tells the “other” story of liberation from colonialism by allegorically turning colonial film archives upside down.

Audiovisual archives are a repository and chronicle of memories and lived moments; as such, they are as much a part of the fabric of collective imagination as cinema. Rania Stephan boldly explores this idea in her film The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni. Néjib Belkadhi’s VHS Kahloucha tells the story of an ordinary man’s appropriation of film classics, while Ali Essafi’s Ouarzazate, the Movie uncovers the alternate reality of film production on location. Mohamed Soueid’s Tango of Yearning is a cinephile’s poetic elegy to film and Beirut’s movie theaters, pieced together from memories and traces of a city undergoing a radical transformation.

Another film by Soueid, My Heart Beats Only for Her, blends fiction and nonfiction to tell a singular story about a father and son and their reveries of glory. Tales of sons with dreams for a better life—forging their destinies and enduring a rupture between generations—inspired a number of films in the series, such as Ahmed el-Maanouni’s The Days, the Days, Oussama Mohammad’s Stars in Broad Daylight, and Yousry Nasrallah’s El Madina. We inaugurate part II with Lakhdar Hamina’s majestic The Chronicle of the Years of Embers, an epic of sons and daughters forging their destiny and struggling for liberation from colonial rule.

Co-organized by The Museum of Modern Art and ArteEast. Curated by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, MoMA, and Rasha Salti, Senior Director, ArteEast. Presented in association with the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

The exhibition is made possible by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.


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