Tag Archives: documentary

My Conversation with Lebanese Filmmaker Mae Abdel Sater

 

 

 

Mae Abdel Sater BIO, Im a Beirut based Visual artist and Documentary maker.
I have a bachelor in Theatrical Cinematographic and Audiovisual Studies, from Saint Joseph University of Beirut.
I manifest “Beirut” and its hidden testimonies as the main inspiration to my canvas.
“Milk Tea” is my first official documentary, where i take you on a nostalgic journey down Beirut’s memory lane though a political artistic lens.
This documentary pays tribute to Beirut’s reminiscence. By taking a trip down
my family’s memory, guided by my father, who has always been the eyes I
see this city with. My story narrates the tales of three generations;
immigration to Brazil, the bitterness of the civil war and nowadays. These are
the stories that embroidered my memory of Beirut.
Milk Tea has won “Best Lebanese Short Film” award, In Lebanon’s International Short films festival, December 2016.
It has been screened 3 times in Beirut, twice in Denmark and it had one very special screening in Cairo last January.
I’m preparing a new documentary in Egypt, i’m still in the research phase. Egypt is such an inspiring place for filmmakers, its so rich and diverse, and this is why i keep on coming back there whenever i need inspiration.
immigration to Brazil, the bitterness of the civil war and nowadays. These are
the stories that embroidered my memory of Beirut.
Milk Tea has won “Best Lebanese Short Film” award, In Lebanon’s International Short films festival, December 2016.
It has been screened 3 times in Beirut, twice in Denmark and it had one very special screening in Cairo last January.
I’m preparing a new documentary in Egypt, i’m still in the research phase. Egypt is such an inspiring place for filmmakers, its so rich and diverse, and this is why i keep on coming back there whenever i need inspiration.

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BelAhdan Movie Night Hosted by, The Film Society of MPLS/St.Paul

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BelAhdan invites you to our night of film and friends…
Free Showing of a film documentary by Abdel Messeh,
a French filmmaker of Egyptian origin.
“The Virgin, the Copts and Me”
A kick Start event for Ahmed Tharwat’s project
New Film Documentary “The Coptic Grave”….

The Program

Carolyn Greene, MC (Marketing Plus International)
A poem by Sid Ahmed
A guest of Honor (Surprise)
A word from Ahmed Tharwat /The Coptic Grave project
BelAhdan TV piece “The Bread”
Q&A from audience
Egypt Trivia
Game and Prizes
The Virgin, The Copts, and Me
Post Film Discussion
Sweet & Tea
The showing is free, but to guarantee your seating please reply by Yes and indicate how many people in your party.
Please share and spread the flyer

For more information contact Ahmed at ahmediatv@gmail.com

Thank You…
Sponsors Programs available (if interested contact Ahmed at ahmediatv@gmail.com)
Volunteer Needed (if interested please Contact Mark Dezile) at mark@dezielstaxservice.com

Our Special Thanks to St. Anthony Main Theater for hosting our event

Thank You..

 

 

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BelAhdan at Arab Film Festival , 2013, featuring documentary film, ” in Search of Oil and Sand

Arab Film Festival featuring film documentry In Search of Oil & Sand,
About the Filmmakers
Wael Omar : Wael’s fascination with cameras started at a young age having been born to a painter and a photo-hobbyist who himself had produced two films in a brief and whirlwind career.
Many visits to Kodak later, he was determined to make a career out of being behind a camera in one capacity or another. In 2005, after earning his MA in Film Arts and having spent several years as an apprentice, Wael shot State of Emergency as part of the Democracy 76 Project -series of short documentaries that logged the peak of Mubarak’s brutal policed state and the beginnings of the social and political undercurrents that would sweep the country into revolution six years later.
Wael’s work has previously aired on BBC Storyville, AlArabiya, France 3, and ITVS as well as being featured in various international film festivals and expert panels on digital activism.
With an eye to strengthen and expand the documentary movement in the region, in 2008, he co-founded Middle West Films, an incubator and co-production house for feature projects. He currently resides in Cairo.

Philippe L. Dib : Philippe L. Dib is an independent filmmaker of Franco-Lebanese origin currently residing in Cairo. With a background in film production from UCLA Extension’s Film Department, he has explored various avenues of cinema such as a scriptwriter and actor in short films in London, L.A.
and Cairo. He has also conducted underwater cinematography in Sharm El-Shiekh for promotional purposes (1994-5). In 1996 he co-wrote and directed his first feature film, Welcome Says The Angel, filmed during the outbreak of violence following the case of Rodney King’s in L.A., starring Ayesha Hauer (daughter of Rutger Hauer).
In 2006 he wrote and directed El Tanbura that got him the Golden Turon in the Etnofilm Festival in Cadca(2008) and the Jury’s prize award in the Sawi documentary film festival in Cairo (2006). In addition to his film career, he has also participated in numerous projects of the world music circuit.
These include forming Zuweira in 1999, a Cairo-based multi-ethnic band with the accompaniment of Moudou of Senegal, and Karima Nayt of Algeria. Participation in the music score of Omar Shargawi’s Ma’ salama ya Jamil (winner of the Rotterdam festival) and Buddha Bar XI by Ravin as well as other countless music and film projects.

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My home journey to the family grave!

Standing at Garden of Eden Islamic Cemetery, located in a remote corner of a Christian cemetery in Burnsville, Minnesota mourning the death of one our friends, I couldn’t help reflecting how Muslims in the United States, unlike European Muslims who usually live in isolated “ghettos”, are free to choose where they want to live, and actually do, however, when a Muslim dies in the U.S. there is only one choice: the Muslim “ghetto” cemetery located inside a remote section of an existing Christian cemetery.

I never understood the religious proximity taboo between the Muslim and Christian dead, and no amount of interfaith dialogue could bring the dead ones together; it is hard to argue that much when you are dead.

I remembered to more than 40 years back the one Coptic-Christian family grave in the heart of my primarily Muslim village cemetery in Meet Swaid, Egypt. We never questioned it, and we never thought of as something peculiar or unusual.

So what is the story of this Coptic family? How did they live as a minority in my small village?

As a hyphenated Muslim American living in the US, I wondered how it would be as a Christian living in a majority Muslim village. After all the years since I left my village, I decided to go back to find out more about the history of this Christian family and why my village was immune from the rift between Coptic and Muslims that periodically surfaced on the Egyptian scene, especially in upper Egypt. I took my camera and decided to find out the story of the Coptic grave in my village cemetery.

Driving along the freeway through the heart of the Nile delta, the road was surrounded by massive orange orchards with fruit peddlers lining the road. They dotted the neglected freeway side with a burst of color displaying their oranges and tangerines in shapes of pyramids ambivalent to the ominous piles of trash everywhere you looked

When I arrived to my village, it was evident that much has changed since I left it 40 years ago—people seemed to have moved on and it was becoming more of a crowded town. As I remember it, my village was a small, unassuming place in the Egyptian Nile delta. Many people’s lifestyles hadn’t changed that much since the time of the pharaohs, and local demographers couldn’t find any dramatic census changes for a long time.

Before CNN and Al Jazeera, villagers lived the simple life of a farming community, and their interest in the outside world went only as far as the edge of their fields. The men left with their animals for work at dawn and came back at dusk, while their wives stayed home, busy preparing hearty meals and raising kids to work in the farm as soon as they mastered their first step.

People consulted the same tailor or seamstress, prayed at the same mosque, celebrated the same holidays, eat the same food, and for generations, villagers kept the gene pool very much confined to the area’s families. But I was interested to know more about that Coptic family among us and how they lived within the village dynamic.

I found the Christian family’s lifestyle peculiar and intriguing—in fact, it was a breath of fresh air to invigorate the monotonous village life. Unlike other villagers who worked on the farm, the Christian family was still “in the hunting-and-gathering age, making their living chasing wild wolves lurking on the village outskirts,” explained, Hajj Abdullah, a village elder .

“The Coptic family would drag the dead wolf around in the streets for show-and-tell, describing the grave danger they had just faced and the heroic adventure they had encountered, and earned them considerable admiration from villagers,” Abdullah added.

“I never thought of them as Christian or Coptic, just my neighbor,” my brother Abdel Rafaa said.

Growing up in my village, I liked to spend time with Sameer Kariaquos, one of the Coptic brothers, known simply as ‘the Coptic.’ Although I had the privilege and perks that came with being of the majority religion, my alliance with him was personal, and possibly resulting from our both being somewhat social outcasts by most other villagers.

Both of our families had chosen a career other than farming. My family members were the educators who ran the only village elementary school for years, and his were hunters. Sameer was in my class, and I always envied him for being a Coptic during our religion class; he was free to choose, stay or leave to the playground. I wished I could, too, sparing myself the abuse of our religion teacher. Besides his great personality, Sameer had a unique skill: he was a sharp shooter, exceptionally good at using the BB gun and I was good at using the slingshot. In the summer, hunting small birds was our pastime. We both left the village early in the morning and spent the whole day roaming the field hunting for these “asafeer”, or sparrows. The solitude of the field greenery and the empty roads gave us the emotional space to be close and good buddies; we talked about anything, kissing girls and other dreams.

But one day, Sameer’s father suddenly died and neither his family nor the rest of the village was prepared for planning his burial.

Although the cultural tradition of the Muslim villagers accommodated the Coptic family, the religious burial traditions were not flexible enough to accommodate the mixing of their dead in the same cemetery.

My Uncle Abd Elhafeez had told me that the Kariaquos family wanted to bury their father at the Coptic Cemetery, much farther from the city, though customary among Copts. However before he died, the father asked my uncle to be buried in the Muslim cemetery, and while there was initial hesitation from the villagers, my uncle honored the request.

My family was not known for religious zealotry, but for kindness and generosity.

“If the Coptic family had lived in peace with the rest of us all these years without any trouble, there shouldn’t be much trouble while they were dead,” my uncle said. My brother Nasser mentioned that our family didn’t consult anyone in the village on this, and the burial ceremony was completed quietly in my family cemetery grave.

Now, after all these years, like every Muslim grave, his does not bear any religious symbol, just his family name, date of birth and death: “Kariaquos, Born 1911, Died 1962.”

What is so amazing today is that with all the rifts between Christians and Muslims, and Islam and the West, and also periodic flair ups between Egyptian Copts and Muslims, this has never translated into any hostility toward the Coptic family grave; no act of defacing or graffiti on the unfenced Coptic grave can be found, which is remarkable in the age of the internet and global village and religious fundamentalism.

All those years ago, in my village, Muslims and Copts had lived together and died together in peace and harmony.

As my brother Abdel Rafaa put it, “No diversity programs were required, no axis of evil was declared, and no crusade or jihad was launched.”

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Im gay & Muslim … not what you think!

Im Muslim and not gay!
This week I was invited to OUT Twin Cities Film Festival, that according to their website has a mission “… to connect and celebrate the diversity of the community through the art of cinema by producing a provocative annual festival showcasing Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer filmmakers”.
The reason I was invited, … they were showing the film “I Am Gay And Muslim:, by filmmaker Chris Belloni . The screening was at Crooked Pint Ale House; near downtown Minneapolis, a movie about gay Muslim screening in a Ale house, I didn’t expect the place will be swarming by Muslims there, however, research shows that the majority of Americans ( 62%) would rather having a gay neighbor than a Muslim, so having a gay Muslim as a neighbor would be troubling for most Americans. “this festival should be the safest place for a Muslim” , explained Chris Durant the festival organizer. And he was right, at least you aren’t going to find Michele Bachmann or even anyone voted for her there. A welcoming place so was the people there, from the GLBT community. Mostly men, not overly gayish looking place, not really different than any Hookah places in the city, where Arab men go to drink tea and smoke Hookah all night. So I fit right in, as I was looking for a place to sit, a gracious man who was sitting in the far corner alone invited me to his table.. “you can sit here,… I wont bite” he says with a smile… so I did. “I saw your interviewed with Chris, I recognized you, he says. I thanked him and we chatted for a while. The program started with a short entrainment by Mrs. Smith, , she/he (not sure) was engaging and entertaining. And finally the screening of the film started. I came to see the film with an open mind, believing that Islam has a place for everyone, even for those who denies it even ever existed, we call them the people of the book, let the judo/christen folks try that for inclusiveness. I also know that contrary to what most people think, Islamic history is long enough for anyone to have a monopoly on its attitude on homosexuality. Slate magazine reported that; the French thinker “Foucault’s , argued that many Western languages had words for homosexual acts, but not for homosexuality, until very recently. If these theorists are correct, then the Islamic world was about 1,000 years ahead of the West on this issue.” Classical Arabic texts have several words for homosexuals and homosexuality dating back to the ninth century”.
The film started with a panorama shot of the gorgeous Morocco city, as the call for prayer blasting from the far distant mosque. I don’t know why western moviemakers, when making films about Islam or Muslims, insisting on shooting during the call for prayers… , it is only 5 times a day. A few years back, I was with an American crew shooting a documentary about the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Egypt, and the call for prayer actually blasted through the window of novelist Dr. Alla Elaswani’s office where we were shooting, the producer asked to take a short break. “Now I can take a smoke” said Dr. El Aswani. As he was relieved. I jokingly asked him, was that a call for praying or for smoking. We both laughed. Im gay and Muslim film is a documentary where Mr. Balloni, focuses on three Moroccan gay men, who spoke fairly good English and seem to live comfortably in upper middle class area. The film never got into the culture, the people, the history, the experts, or any context in which those young gay men live. Just 3 gay men talking to a sympathetic western about how they feel of being gay living in Morocco. Without hearing anything about Morocco, or the culture of Moroccans. So the story might be as will be happening in Beirut, Cairo, or even Taxes. The dramatization of the film is troubling, the silhouette profile picture of hooded gay man on the beach whispering, , the phone conversation under the danger of police eavesdropping, Mr. Balloni acted as a gay dedicative with artificial chase and suspense . I know how hard it is to make a film in a foreign country, let alone in a such topic, but Morocco is the most liberal Arab countries, with huge gay community, and gay friendly culture; where gay men come from allover the world to celebrate and have fun. Arab men in general are socially gay, where they hold hands and hugs excessively in public, so it is easier to blend in as a gay men if you keep you sexual relation checked. Why a western cares about Arab Muslim gay and their lives . Joseph Massad, associate professor of modern Arab politics at Columbia University, talks in his book “Desiring Arabs” of a “missionary” crusade orchestrated by what he calls the “Gay International”. Which, he says, came partly from “the white western women’s movement, which had sought to universalise its issues through imposing its own colonial feminism on the women’s movements in the non-western world”. I asked My friend Enas Ahmed, a French teacher who lives in Egypt, about this film. “… he seems to opened a closet and looked in, then quickly closed the door” … never came up with a new insight or any solution… I didn’t learn anything from this film”!I don’t want to give the movie away, Mr. Balloni’s film raised a very important question, a question that Mr. Balloni himself asked over and over again to those Arab gay men, a question that should be dazzling all Arab Muslim men at one point or another in their life, “Would you rather to go to pilgrimage or to have a love relationship with another man”. In the Arab culture, Every Arab man basically is having a love relationship with another man, the real question is, should it be a sexual one?

Ahmed Tharwat, freelance writer, public speaker, host of Arab/Muslim American TV, ahmediatv
Lives in Minnesota,
/ www.ahmediatv.com email ahmediatv@gmail.com

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