Van den Berg, Stranger at Home

by Miriam Rosen
published in MER146

Rudolf van den Berg, Stranger at Home (1985).

It is no small compliment to say that Stranger at Home is a film you want to see more than once (and should). Over the years -- 19 to be precise -- Palestine documentaries have become a veritable genre, but with few exceptions, they have hardly become an art. Rudolf van den Berg’s Stranger at Home is a very different enterprise. Richly nuanced in form and thought, it is a kind of double documentary, at once a film about the exiled Palestinian painter Kamal Boullata and his visit to Jerusalem, and a film about the making of the film, about the multi-layered relationship between Boullata and van den Berg, as friends, visual artists, Palestinian and Jew.

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Argo and the Roots of US-Iranian Tensions

by Narges Bajoghli | published December 26, 2012

The box-office hit Argo brings back long-faded memories of the Iran hostage crisis for many Americans.

News in November 1979 that US diplomats had been taken hostage in Tehran shocked the United States. Students stormed the US embassy, blindfolding 52 Americans and threatening them at gunpoint. The hostages, held captive for 444 days, immediately became the nation’s top news story and dogged President Jimmy Carter’s unsuccessful reelection campaign.

Wedding in Galilee

by Ella Shohat
published in MER154

Wedding in Galilee (Michel Khleifi, 1987).

Constructing a Cinema of the City

An Interview with Omer Kavur

by Miriam Rosen
published in MER160

Turkey’s much vaunted “return to democracy” suffered an embarrassingly visible setback at last year’s Istanbul International Filmdays when censors banned four of the 92 films invited for the foreign section: three on grounds of obscenity and a fourth -- Georgian filmmaker Tenguiz Abouladze’s 1968 classic, Incantation -- as an insult to Islam.

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Gender in Hollywood's Orient

by Ella Shohat
published in MER162

From its very beginning, Western cinema has been fascinated with the mystique of the Orient. Whether in the form of pseudo-Egyptian movie palaces, Biblical spectaculars, or the fondness for “Oriental” settings, Western cinema has returned time and again to the scene of the Orient. [1] Generally these films superimposed the visual traces of civilizations as diverse as Arab, Persian, Chinese and Indian into a single portrayal of the exotic Orient, treating cultural plurality as if it were a monolith. The Arabic language, in most of these films, exists as an indecipherable murmur, while the “real” language is European: the French of Jean Gabin in Pepe le Moko or the English of Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca.

Culture, State and Revolution

by Sonali Pahwa , Jessica Winegar
published in MER263

The Arab uprisings have brought major challenges, as well as unprecedented opportunities, to the culture industries. According to a flurry of celebratory news articles from the spring of 2011 onward, protest art is proliferating in the region, from graffiti in Egypt to hip-hop in Morocco to massive photographic displays and political cartoons gone viral in Tunisia. These articles then adopt a predictably ominous tone to express the concern that resurgent Islamist forces represent a danger to arts and culture writ large.

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

Art in Egypt's Revolutionary Square

by Ursula Lindsey | published January 2012

On January 7, under a clear chill sky, the monthly culture festival al-Fann Midan (Art Is a Square) took place in Cairo’s ‘Abdin plaza. In the sunny esplanade facing the shuttered former royal palace, spectators cheered a succession of musical acts, took in a display of cartoons and caricatures, and wandered from tables selling homemade jewelry to others handing out the literature of the Revolutionary Socialists or the centrist Islamist party al-Wasat. The drama troupe Masrah al-Maqhurin (Theater of the Oppressed) put on a series of skits requiring audience participation. In the first, a daughter left the family house against her father’s will, and with her mother’s connivance, to attend a birthday party. She was caught and reported by her brother, and then beaten by her father. In the participatory iterations that followed, a young woman from the audience chose to play the brother and, to much laughter, told the sister: “I won’t tell Dad I saw you in the street if you don’t tell him I was at the café.” Another audience member played the mother, working arduously but in vain to convince the father to allow the girl out of the house under her brother’s supervision. Interestingly, no one in the audience chose to incarnate -- and change the behavior of -- the authoritarian and violent father.

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

Paradise Now's Understated Power

by Lori Allen | published January 2006

Joining Ang Lee, director of the gay cowboy epic Brokeback Mountain, among the winners at the January 16 Golden Globes award ceremony was the director Hany Abu-Assad, a Palestinian born in Israel whose Paradise Now took home the prize for best foreign language film. While critics of all persuasions remark upon what Brokeback Mountain’s victory means about Hollywood and American mores, it is perhaps more remarkable that Paradise Now, a film about two Palestinians recruited to carry out suicide bombings, was deemed unremarkable enough to be honored by Hollywood.

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

Reel Casbah

by Peter Lagerquist , Jim Quilty | published March 2006

To live the East as film is to be in Dubai in mid-December, perched front-row in the outdoor cafés that dot the Madinat Jumeira Oriental theme park. An integrated hotel, shopping and entertainment “experience” sprawled on the city’s booming beachfront rim, the Madina and its whimsy of stucco battlements mass an Arabian fort effect plucked straight from an Indiana Jones set, and as such, the red carpets and film banners that have also come to adorn it in wintertime key a double sense of enframement. From December 11-17, 2005, the Madina hosted the second annual installment of the Dubai International Film Festival, a production whose rumored budget of $10 million has quickly distinguished it as the richest Middle Eastern event of its kind.

Terrorism, Class and Democracy in Egypt

by Joel Beinin
published in MER190

During April 1994, armed actions of the radical Islamist opposition in Egypt achieved a new level of lethal efficiency. One Gama‘a Islamiyya (Islamic Group) hit squad killed Maj. Gen. Ra’uf Khayrat, who was responsible for conducting undercover operations against them; another assassinated the chief of security of Asyout province, the Islamist stronghold in upper Egypt; a third shot at a train transporting tourists to the Pharaonic monuments of upper Egypt; and two or three ordinary policemen were shot each week.

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