The Fresh Perspectives of ‘Middle East Now’
April 2 – 7, 2019: MIDDLE EAST NOW FESTIVAL. Cinema La Compagnia, Stensen Cinema, Teatro Cantiere Florida, Studio Marangoni Foundation and other public spaces.
A vibrant collection of art, cinema, music, food, theatre and talks merge together in the festival’s representation of Middle Eastern culture, one designed to stride beyond stereotypes and prejudices.
The theme of the 10th annual festival is “Middle East Now: REMIX,” which centers on presenting a new, real viewpoint of the Middle East to audiences while exploring the area’s relationship with culture and the arts. Over 40 films make up the set list, with entries from Iran, Iraq, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, the UAE, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Syria, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.
Many talks, presentations, events, and meetings are scheduled throughout the week. Journalists, writers, and Middle East experts will be given a platform to discuss current cultural and political elements. For the full program, visit the website.
A major focus of the event will be on the Iranian Academy Award winner Asghar Farhadi. He is known as one of the most important directors worldwide for his portrayal of contemporary Iranians. Farhadi will be in Florence for the premiere of Fireworks Wednesday (April 3), “About Elly” (April 4) and Nader and Simin, A Separation (April 4), followed by a master class (April 6) open to the public, where actor Babik Karimi and several others from his films will join him.
Middle East Now opens at 9 pm on April 2 with Love and Revenge, a live concert and video show combining the talents of hip hop musician and singer Rayess Bek and visual artist La Mirza at Cinema La Compagnia (via Cavour 50/r). The two Lebanese performers will incorporate Arab music and scenes from popular movies from Egyptian and Arabian cinema’s “Golden Age.”
Immediately following Love and Revenge will be the 2018 film Kabul, City in the Wind with both English and Italian subtitles. Directed and cinematographed by Aboozar Amini, it gives “intense and intimate portrait” of the Afghan city through the eyes of two young boys and a bus driver. Set in the violence of political and religious unrest, the story follows their dreams, fears, and daily lives in Kabul. Both events come with a single admission ticket, generally priced at € 6 full and € 5 reduced.
On April 3, a selection of 11 short films and previews will be presented, beginning at 4 pm with the international premiere of I Stay, a documentary of a lonely man on the Caspian Sea who begins to train wild horses on the island for racing. Other previews include Waterfolks, which recounts stories of the daily lives of fishermen on the Persian Gulf, and High Drive, where a child faces both his bullies and fears. At 6 pm a showing 199 Little Heroes will preview in Italian with its director, Sigrid Klausmann, in attendance. At 7:30 the theatre will provide free entrance to a showing of Flowers of Iraq, a collection of shorts about the country’s history. Right afterwards, with an admission ticket, the 10th anniversary festivities will kick off at Cinema La Compagnia. Guests will be offered cake, followed by the debut of the Persian film Fireworks Wednesday with English and Italian subtitles at 8:45 pm .
On April 4, another selection of films will be screened both at Cinema La Compagnia and Cinema Stensen (via Don Minzoni 25c) starting at 6 pm. At 6:15 pm a documentary titled “Humanity on Trial,” is featured at Cinema La Compagnia with English and Italian subtitles. It depicts the refugee crisis in Greece, specifically a young volunteer who saves lives and ends up wrongfully on trial for human trafficking. Both the director Jonas Bruun, and the protagonist Dane Salam will be present to meet the audience. Humanity on Trial will be shown again on April 5 at the Cinema Stensen (4:30 pm).
April 4 also marks the inauguration of “Until We Return,” an exhibition by Lebanese photographer Dalia Khamissy at the Fondazione Studio Marangoni (via San Zanobi 19r), documenting Syrian refugees. The works portray the lives of men, women, and children escaping war, kidnapping, attacks, and dealing with loss. Khamissy’s photos touch on the endurance of refugee people and their dreams of returning home. The show is open 10 am to 1 pm, and 3 pm to 7 pm Monday through Saturday with free entry through May 31. Opening night there will be a talk with the artist at 6:30 pm.
Continuing the arts is a piece of contemporary theatre called “I Dareen T.” premiering April 4 at 9 pm at Cantiere Florida Theatre. This production by an Israeli actress and author is based on the story of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour. Tickets are on sale at ticketone.it for €16.
Later that night at Buh! Culturale is a Middle East Now party starting at 10 pm.
One of the highlights of the festival is a celebration of Middle Eastern food with Anissa Helou, a Syrian-Lebanese chef, author, food blogger and teacher with presentation of his cookbook “Feast: Food of the Islamic World.” The talk will take place April 6 from 10:30 am to 1 pm at the Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School. Reservations can be made at email@example.com.
Another exhibition called “Flavors of Iraq” will be hosted by the Fondazione Studio Marangoni (via San Zanobi 19r) beginning April 5 at 6 pm, continuing through May 31. It will be open from 10 am to 1 pm, and 3 pm to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday, and with free admission. A multimedia experience of videos, images, scents, and tastes, the show will appeal to all the senses. Leonard Cohen of France tells the story of the Iraqi-French reporter Feurat Alani, and his time spent in his country ravaged by war. Alani and Cohen work together with 20 short films, and combine the flavor of apricot ice cream with the smell of gunpowder and noise from the attacks. The message tells a story about the family, one’s home country, and the persistence of hope and love, even amidst the destruction and terror of war. An artist talk is on the program for the opening night, April 5, at 6:30 pm.
Cinema La Compagnia is also hosting a pop up shop with items such as jewelry, shawls, and more that can be purchased to support the makers: artisans in countries affected by war.
Admission at Cinema La Compagnia & Cinema Stensen: afternoon screenings: € 5 full price – € 4 reduced (under 30 – over 65); evening screenings: € 6 full price – € 5 reduced (under 30 years – over 65); festival subscription: € 30; dinner-tasting + projection: special single ticket € 15; only evening screening € 6 and € 5 reduced. (nicole grant)