Rapping for Hope: Hip Hop and Arranged Marriages

Bobby Gulshan
“Sonita” tells the story of a young Afghani girl living in Tehran. From the outset of the film, Sonita is beset with the problems of an immigrant, having no status, insufficient identification and too little money. In the case of this young aspiring rapper, this may also include a dream too big for her world. 
In a scene early in the film, the teacher asks Sonita and the other immigrant Afghan girls who attend her class to make imaginary passports, which involves choosing their parents and place of origin. Sonita’s “passport” says her name is “Sonita Jackson,” and when asked by the teacher why she chose that, Sonita replies that she wants her imaginary parents to be Michael Jackson and Rihanna.

“Nefertiti’s Daughters”: Using Street Art to Foment Revolution

By Nada Ramadan Elnahla

The documentary, “Nefertiti’s Daughters,” chronicles women’s endeavors during the Egyptian Revolution in 2011 and how street art reflected their unprecedented revolutionary efforts. Street art, a powerful tool in itself, proved especially adept at highlighting the ongoing battles of these women against social, political and religious oppression, battles where “The voice of women is a revolution.”

“Nefertiti’s Daughters”
Directed by Mark Nickolas and Racha Najdi
Icarus Films, 2015

The Songs Linger Long After the Names Are Erased

By Lynne Rogers

In Melborne, Australia, when Iraqi exile Majid Shokor decides to look into his musical history, he discovers, much to his surprise, how much Iraqi music owes to the country’s former Jewish population. The film, “On the Banks of the Tigris, the hidden story of Iraqi music,” documents Shokor’s global journey to meet a variety of Iraqi musicians and hear their stories. (Photo caption and credit: Yair Dalal and Majid Shokor, courtesy of Fruitful Films)

On the Banks of the Tigris: The Hidden Story of Iraqi Music
Directed/Produced by Marsha Emerman
Fruitful Films, 2015. 79 minutes

Syrian Refugee Drama Troupe Seeks to Heal Traumas

Al Jadid Staff

It is no accident that the "Love Boat" theatrical sea journey ends in Shakespeare's "King Lear," as more and more Syrians die either under assault from Assad and Russian bombs or by drowning, desperately taking to the seas in hopes of escaping genocidal policies.

Unrelated to an American TV series under the same name, “Love Boat,” directed by Nawar Bulbul and performed last April in Amman, weaves together a charming fictional story about members of a theatre troupe who have fled Syria in the midst of war and reunited in the Mediterranean. The characters in the story band together to perform a new play in each of the countries they cross as they inch towards Germany seeking refuge.

Reckoning with Darkness: Looking Back on Algeria’s Dark Decade

Bobby Gulshan
The Algerian Civil War began in 1991 and ended in 2002. Known as the Dark Decade, the period began with a coup to nullify the imminent takeover of government by Islamists and was followed by 10 years of brutality, violence, and fear. With the emergence of Da’esh (or the Islamic State), we now witness contemporary scenes that feel all too familiar for those who remember the earlier terrors. As too often happens, the geopolitical lens obscures the human element, abstracting suffering into discussions about strategy and policy. Salem Brahimi’s film, “Let Them Come,”1 takes us back to the Dark Decade, with a vocabulary and tone  so reminiscent of our present moment, providing us with a poignant and at times chilling window into the lives of ordinary Algerians.

Women of the Revolutions: The New Faces of Arab Feminism

Angele Ellis

“Nada’s Revolution” follows the tale of the 27-year Nada Ahmed, an Alexandrian woman looking to make decisions about marriage and career in the years after the revolutionary wave of the Arab Spring. In “Feminism Inshallah: A History of Arab Feminism,” Feriel Ben Mahmoud, the film’s director, traces the beginnings of feminism to male feminists such as the Egyptian Qasim Amin (1863-1908), whose nationalist aspirations for Egypt fueled his assertion that the Quran supported women’s rights—essential to throwing off the yoke of colonialism and joining the modern world.


Feminism Inshallah: A History of Arab Feminism
Directed by Feriel Ben Mahmoud
Women Make Movies, 2014

Nada’s Revolution
Directed by Claudia Lisboa
Women Make Movies, 2014


(Un) hyphenated Complexities?

Angele Ellis

The son of an Iraqi Muslim father and a Palestinian mother, Alshaibi immigrated to the United States as a child in the mid-1970s. Though he did not become a U.S. citizen until 2002, he is in many ways American – a lover of punk and metal music, a director of music videos, and the husband of a white Midwesterner. In his youth, he found solidarity with a group of American experimental filmmakers, musicians, and artists, and identifies himself as an atheist, who nonetheless feels respect for the “Mother Mosque” in Iowa City and its thoughtful imam....When his mother encourages him to change his name from Usama as part of his new citizenship, Alshaibi – who can be quite humorous – says, “At least now people know how to pronounce it.” 

A Subtle Approach to Unmasking the Assad Regime

Bobby Gulshan

I struggled a bit to know what to say about PBS Frontline's “Inside Assad's Syria.” Searching the internet for reviews of the film, I found a rather uninteresting piece in a Hollywood business daily, as well as a blogger who felt that PBS had finally abandoned any pretext of truth in favor of outright propaganda in order to sell Assad to the American people. Clearly, they weren't paying attention to the fact that Smith registers his frustration throughout the program, wearing a purposefully tired expression while being carted along on an obvious pro-regime tour. Their inability to identify this clue made me wonder if the blogger and his approving commentators proved equally oblivious to the fact that Frontline obviously recognized the dog and pony show being provided by the regime, and could see just how easily people could fall for such tactics. 


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