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Museum of Modern Art Opens Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from the 1960s to Now, Part II

The Museum of Modern Art presents Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from the 1960s to Now, Part II, on view October 5–23, 2011.

Beginning October 5, the second installment of the film series Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from the 1960s to Now premieres in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters at MoMA. The works selected for the second part of the series hail from Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, Qatar, and the UAE, and reflect a diversity of voices and a richness of imaginative visual languages.

Stars in Broad Daylight. 1988. Directed by Oussama Mohammad. Courtesy National Film Organization, Syria. Pictured: Sabah es-Salem

Beginning with Lakhdar Hamina’s majestic The Chronicle of the Years of Embers (1975), an epic tale of sons and daughters forging their destiny and struggling for liberation from colonial rule, this film series aims to map a largely unknown heritage of personal, artistic, and sometimes experimental cinema from the Arab world. From the 1960s onward, Middle Eastern 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. Several of the films here achieve this through personal histories constructed in the first-person singular, such as Akram Zaatari’s Al-Yaom (This Day) (2003), a voyage through geography and memory based on the circulation of images in the Arab world; Yto Barrada’s Hand-Me-Downs (2011), the filmmaker’s exploration into her family history, recounting 16 myths based on unreliable narrators and unverifiable stories; and Hakim Belabbes’s Ashlaa (In Pieces) (2009), an unflinchingly intimate chronicle of the filmmaker’s family in Morocco, made from footage collected over more than a decade.

Audiovisual archives are a repository and chronicle of memories and lived moments, and are therefore as much a part of the fabric of collective imagination as cinema. Rania Stephan’s film Ikhtifa’aat Soad Hosni el-Thalaathat (The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni) (2011) is a rapturous homage to a rich and versatile era of film production in Egypt, constructed from the work of one of its most revered stars, Soad Hosni. Néjib Belkadhi’s VHS Kahloucha (2006) tells the story of an ordinary man’s appropriation of film classics, while Ali Essafi’s Ouarzazate, the Movie (2001) uncovers the alternate reality of film production on location. Mohamed Soueid’s Tango el-Amal (Tango of Yearning) (1998) 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. Mohamed Soueid will also present his lecture-performance Written in the Dust on October 17 as part of the Museum’s weekly showcase for innovation in film Modern Mondays.

Tales of sons with dreams for a better life—building their destinies and enduring a rupture between generations—inspired a number of the films, including Ahmed el-Maânouni’s Alyam! Alyam! (Oh the Days!) (1978), the story of a young peasant whose dreams of a prosperous future lead him to apply for immigration to France, and Oussama Mohammad’s Nujum an-Nahar (Stars in Broad Daylight) (1988), a tale of a double wedding, where one bride runs off in the middle of her wedding and the other refuses to get married.

Mapping Subjectivity, Part II, is co-organized by The Museum of Modern Art and ArteEast, and presented in association with the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. On October 13, Glenn Lowry, Director of The Museum of Modern Art moderates Archives, Appropriation, and Montage: Rewriting History and the Personal in Arab Film, a roundtable discussion between filmmakers, artists, and scholars considering the use of found footage to illustrate various perspectives in Middle Eastern film.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 708-9400

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