Crisis and Creativity: Contemporary films from and about the Arab World

Dr Shohini Chaudhuri

Dr Shohini Chaudhuri

How does your view of the Arab world change when you explore the stories of everyday life that aren't featured in the mainstream media?

The challenge

A number of catastrophic events have afflicted the Arab world in recent years, including in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt. Western perceptions are distorted by the priorities of mainstream news reports and Hollywood movies. This obscures the stories of people’s everyday struggles.

Our project

Dr Shohini Chaudhuri curated a season of film screenings and talks for The Mosaic Rooms in London, exploring how contemporary filmmaking from the Arab world challenges mainstream media perceptions.

The films were selected to give a subtle insight into the lives of ordinary people living through, and with the legacy of, the recent turbulent events. The season celebrated the creativity, courage and resilience of filmmakers in the region, raising awareness and understanding of the reality of living with political turmoil and the destruction of their cities.

The project involved researching and developing the programme, booking films and speakers, writing accompanying materials (including programme notes and blog features based on interviews with filmmakers), generating publicity, and introducing the events.

The project partner, The Mosaic Rooms, is a gallery specialising in contemporary art from and about the Arab world.

The events

The season consisted of three public events, combining film screenings, expert panels including filmmakers and scholars, and question and answer sessions.

  1. Space and Memory in the War-torn City
    Eight short films about people's relationships to cities in the Arab world that are being destroyed or altered by conflict.
  2. Politicising Tourism in Palestine
    A screening of Leila Sansour's documentary Open Bethlehem, followed by Leila taking part in discussions with an expert panel.
  3. Social Media as Archives of the Arab Uprisings
    A screening of the documentary Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait.

Feature blog articles

The events were accompanied by a series of interviews with filmmakers which were published on The Mosaic Rooms' blog.

Outcomes

The chosen themes were inspired by The Mosaic Rooms’ exhibitions programme, in order to create a flow of debate between the films and the artwork in the gallery. All three events were sold-out. Outcomes included:

  • providing a platform for the filmmakers' work to be shown and discussed – two of the short films had their UK premières and another had its English première
  • changing views and perceptions among audiences by presenting a different angle on the Arab world
  • engagement with organisations with overlapping interests including Stop the War, Syria Solidarity UK, Amnesty International UK, English PEN, the London Short Film Festival and the British Film Institute
  • a change in working practices for The Mosaic Rooms with its first film season, attracting new, younger and more diverse audiences

Media coverage

Research team

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