Expression for identity
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Expression for identity

The Middle East Now festival, returning to Florence for its fourth year, will screen more than 40 films from April 3 to 8. Along with the films are special projects and exhibitions related to the art and design of up-and-coming talents. It’s all about ‘Pop

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Thu 28 Mar 2013 1:00 AM

The Middle East Now festival, returning to Florence for its fourth year, will screen more than 40 films from April 3 to 8. Along with the films are special projects and exhibitions related to the art and design of up-and-coming talents. It’s all about ‘Pop Middle East’!

 

Middle East Now celebrates the cinema and culture of contemporary Middle East and North Africa, seeking to preserve its historical and cultural identity and end stereotypes associated with the region. Through feature films, documentaries, animated films and shorts, the festival presents a new reality and new vision of the Middle East that is little known outside the area.

 

Among the films will be spotlights and heart-wrenching tales of those living in modern-day North Africa, Afghanistan, Syria, Israel and Palestine, and Lebanon: places where the future of these civilizations is still waiting to be written. Screenings will be held at the Odeon Theatre, the Stensen Auditorium and other locations in the city.

 

The festival opens this year on April 3 with three Italian premiers, the first of which is the documentary, Kabul at Work, by English reporter David Gill, who will also be present at the Odeon (9pm). Gill’s film was made with a team of young Afghans and is a collection of interviews with an array of residents and workers from Kabul who share their fears, hopes and thoughts on the future of the Afghan capital (for details on the project, see www.kabulatwork.tv). Another must-see is Australian filmmaker Trevor Graham’s Make Hummus Not War on April 4 at the Odeon (at 8:45pm), during which the director will be present via Skype. The film is a comic take on the Middle East conflict that asks viewers the rather unusual question: Could a regional love for hummus be the answer to peace in the Middle East? Graham’s work is a humorous journey though the hummus bars and kitchens of Beirut, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and New York, where he encounters a host of figures, among them political activists, chickpea farmers and novelists, in his search for answers on the importance of hummus in Middle Eastern culture. (For details, see www.makehummusnotwar.com.)

 

Morocco will also be in the spotlight this year, thanks to a collaboration with the Embassy of Morocco in Italy. Included will be the European premier of the documentary Casablance Mon Amour (directed by American actor John Slattery), the Hollywood tale of Morocco yesterday and today; and Oscar-nominated Death for Sale (Faouzi Bensaidi), a thriller about the changing lives of three young men, set on the northern border of Morocco.

 

Myriad ‘off-site events,’ including talks, debates, exhibits and culinary tastings, will also compliment screenings at the festival. One of these will feature the work of special guest, Hassan Hajjaj, a Moroccan artist known as the Andy Warhol of the Arab world. He will be in Florence to present his first solo exhibit, VogueArabe, from April 5 to May 5, at the Aria Art Gallery (Borgo Santi Apostoli 40). His powerful images will show how East and West see each other, with playful and provocative attention placed on Vogue’s representation of the two very different worlds. With his portraits of Moroccan women wearing his own designs, he shows Moroccan ‘culture, pride, strength, traditional clothes and style … to see how in the end we are all equal.’

 

The festival is also welcoming the Rana Slam, known as the Queen of Middle Eastern Pop Aesthetics (www.ranasalam.com), a Lebanese graphic artist who will create an installation at the Odeon. On April 4, she will give the lecture ‘From Shaabi to Chic’ (6:30pm, CCC Strozzina) and open a pop-up shop where fans can buy her quirky art, available for the first time in Italy (April 6 to 27; Société Anonyme boutique, via the Mattonaia 24). Her creations—from posters of the famous Egyptian films of the 1980s and the colorful packaging of Lebanese Chicklet chewing gum to mythical figures of pop culture—are a divine take on contemporary creativity.

 

Middle East Now is organized by the nonprofit cultural association Map of Creation, under the artistic direction of Lisa Chiari and Roberto Ruta, and in collaboration with the City of Florence’s Department of Culture, Ente Cassa di Firenze, the Tuscan Region, Embassy of Morocco, Group Why the Best? Hotels Florence, with the support of Fondazione Sistema Toscana, Stensen Foundation Institute, Air Art Gallery, Société Anonyme, IED Florence, CCC Strozzina and other institutions and local and international partners.

 

FILM MIDDLE EAST NOW

April 3 to 9, 2013

Odeon Theatre, Stensen Auditorium and other venues in Florence

E-mail info@middleastnow.it; tel. 338/9868969

www.middleastnow.it

 

Most films have subtitles in Italian and English; check the programme at http://tinyurl.com/c6sg46v to confirm the languages available, as well as the dates and times.

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