World Picks from the Editors: Apr 12— Apr 26

12 April, 2024
TMR World Picks are selected by our editors. We welcome your suggestions:




Filming a dance scene in Bas ya Bahar, Kuwait, 1971. courtesy of Khaled Al Siddiq
Filming a dance scene in Bas ya Bahar, Kuwait, 1971 (courtesy of Khaled Al Siddiq).

The Fluid Gulf: Framing Multicultural Heritage Through Film
Apr 11, The Arab Gulf Institute in Washington DC — hybrid event —more info

Stories of desert landscapes, cutting-edge production facilities, and lavish festivals often dominate narratives about film and digital media on the Arabian Peninsula.

However, the newly released anthology Reorienting the Middle East: Film and Digital Media Where the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean Meet  (Indiana University Press, 2024) reveals a more complicated history between the Gulf, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean. Just as these waters are fluid spaces, so too is the flow of film and digital media between Southwest and Southeast Asia, South Asia, North Africa, East Africa, and the United States.

In this conversation, Alia Yunis, a co-editor of the volume and AGSIW visiting scholar, and Samhita Sunya, a professor at the University of Virginia, will consider the role of Hollywood, Bollywood, and Nollywood in past and current films made in and about the Gulf; the Western oil companies that introduced film to the Gulf in the 1930s; the first Gulf films produced on the Arabian Peninsula in the late 1960s; Dubai’s emergence in global film production; social media as a vehicle for filmmaking; and citizen and migrant amateur films that turn a lens on rarely discussed social issues.

Elixir Festival: celebrating arts, music, and storytelling from the Middle East and North Africa
April 11—May 2, London — more info

Emotions have been running high during the war on Gaza. On Eid, April 10, the echoing voices and chants of pro-Palestinian protestors marching across the bridges of Central London could be heard in the streets of Whitehall, the British government’s imperial quarter, home to the House of Commons and other stately nineteenth century government buildings. On the pristine, white stone Ministry of Defense, someone left a protest against UK arm sales to Israel — enormous splashes of bright, red paint. 

For many, this Ramadan and Eid have been like no other. Every evening, at the end of evening prayers at Whitechapel’s East London Mosque, one of the largest in Europe, the faithful remember Gaza. As people fasted here in the UK and around the world, the rising famine in Gaza has not been far from troubled minds. The East London Mosque has been sponsoring trucks of food aid but like most of the aid for starving Gazans the aid was stopped at the border. 

My computer doctor, a young Muslim, told me when I went to visit him, “You know how men keep their emotions to themselves. Women let it out but never men.” His voice betrayed his own emotion, “Imagine, 2000 men on five floors. Each one of them crying, sobbing for Palestine.”

People are understandably upset by the news and political events, one of the main reasons behind the Elixir Music Festival, from April 12 to May 2, at London’s Grand Junction community and music venue. Arts Canteen, the festival’s organizers, explain the festival’s purpose on the Grand Junction website: Elixir, from the “Arabic word al-‘iksīr (also known as the Elixir of Life), is a symbol of healing.” The festival promises “a rich program of theatre, music, Eid celebrations, workshops, and food, celebrating contemporary arts from the Middle East, North Africa, and Anatolia.”

Tonight the festival kicks off with pop, jazz and Middle Eastern soul from Nazareth-born, Palestinian singer Ruba Shamshoum. Tomorrow on April 13, the festival will host a free community concert and meal, “To the Table Eid Special,” featuring live music by Yaz Fentazi Trio

April 25 sees the return of the Olive Jar, performances, storytelling and music, which draw an important analogy between creative expression and the region’s most important symbol. “The olive tree roots us to our land, on our tables they offer hope as well as food. Like olives, our stories wait, hidden and preserved in their jars, to be shared. Some will be bitter, and others sweet.” 

This performance, featuring a live performance from again, singer Ruba Shamshoum, also includes stories from London’s diverse MENA community, from Iraqi-Assyrian to Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, Iraqi and Algerian. Directed by Elias Matar, the show also comes with a warning about the use of loud sound effects, including sounds of explosions; there will be references to war, bombing and imprisonment and themes of grief and family loss, not to mention flashing lights. The warning makes it sound like an honest appraisal of life in the region and the diaspora.

Performing on April 19, London-based Kurdish-Turkish singer Olcay Bayir, considered one of the most intriguing voices in World music, will perform songs in Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian and Greek. Her music, “from flamenco to rebetiko,” merges the melodies and sounds of Anatolia, the Mediterranean and the Balkans.  

The Scottish Egyptian duo, Ayoub Sisters — Sarah and Laura — will also showcase their distinctive Arabic and Celtic influenced music on violin and cello, from their Arabesque album. It is music the sisters have performed live in London’s Royal Albert Hall to Cairo’s Opera House and Dubai Opera.

Perhaps less highbrow but equally classical will be the Tarab concert by Jamarabia Live Music Sessions (Aleppo Tarab Re-imagined), curated by Syrian violinist Bassel Hariri, also known as Ustavi.

Hariri was born and raised in Aleppo, a city known as the “tarab hub” of the Middle East. Traditionally many people believe Cairo, the home of Umm Kathum, to be the home of tarab. Yet as Hariri explained, Aleppo has a very high standard. “Every big musician in Egypt had to visit Aleppo. People had to go there and get verified by these Sheikhs living in Aleppo.”

The quarter notes of traditional Arabic music and the maqams of tarab are not known in Western music.  Hariri, who is also the founder of Antika Culture & Diaspora, is intent on a meeting of cultures and music that brings something new not only to a traditional music but to the audiences who encounter tarab. He will open his concert on April 13 with a tarab version of “Bolero” by Maurice Ravel.

“It’s very hard to say what tarab is,” Hariri continued, “but if you are in a ‘tarab’ situation you’re touched by the divine force. There is synergy between you and the collective. You feel you are in harmony not just with the music but with the place and the people and the food. It’s a very strong feeling of euphoria when you are touched by these maqams. Much of them come from the lived experience. They are heritage but they have a very strong connection to the every day.”

Sounds like music that could possibly ease unhappiness and offer a new awakening for troubled times. 

—Malu Halasa

Frontline Club discussion on Arming Israel.

Panel discussion: Arming Israel
April 12, Frontline Club, London — more info

Action on Armed Violence will be hosting a panel discussion on UK and US arms sales to Israel since 7th October. The panel, hosted by  will discuss UK and US foreign policy, questioning whether continued support in sending arms to Israel is compatible with international human rights law.

Alaa Albaba from his Instagram (courtesy of the artist)
Alaa Albaba from his Instagram (courtesy of the artist).

Paintings and Photography from Palestine: A Talk with the Artists, Alaa Albaba & Rehaf Al-Batniji
Apr 13—Zoom — more info

The second virtual event of the Palestinian Artists Consortium will host the Palestinian visual artists Alaa Albaba from Ramallah and Rehaf Al-Batniji from Gaza, (based now in France).

The event will explore with Albaba the story behind his collection of paintings (the Refugee Camp) and how his life in the Al-Amari Refugee Camp has shaped his artistic journey. Al-Batniji will also guide audiences through her photography and how it is used to express her life in Gaza, and how she often employs color as a tool of resistance to reflect the vitality of life in Gaza. She has published extensively in print media including Le Monde Diplomatique and other international magazines. Until recently, she trained young adolescents in Gaza City in photography and drawing before she moved to France to pursue an art residency at Cité International des Arts, Paris.

Women’s Film Week
Apr 15 —20, Rainbow Theatre, Amman — more info

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the UN Women Jordan, The Royal Film Commission-Jordan and partners invite you to attend the 12th edition of the Women’s Film Week, curated by artistic director Ghada Saba. There are two shows per day, and entry is free with no reservations needed.

AUC Tahrir CultureFest 2024
Apr 17 —22, AUC Tahrir Square, Cairo — more info

The American University in Cairo (AUC) Tahrir CultureFest 2024 will focus on Cairo, connecting the AUC community with the downtown neighborhood community. The week of activities will include a wide range of events and engaging programs including a book bazaar, exhibitions, panel discussions, workshops, student-organized events, neighborhood tours, public lectures, and performances.

The Book Bazaar offers an enriching experience for book enthusiasts of all ages. It will provide a diverse selection of books spanning numerous genres and topics, including history, politics, children’s books, art, and popular fiction, available in English and Arabic. Visitors will get to engage with authors and fellow book lovers, participate in stimulating panel discussions, and explore great discounts.

The AUC Archives Walkthrough Exhibition is an immersive exploration of the University’s rich history. Through a curated selection of archival images, videos, documents and audio recordings, the exhibition highlights key aspects of AUC’s past, capturing the essence of student life, the architectural beauty and the significant events that have shaped the University.

You can check out the full events program HERE.

Harvard Arab Conference 2024
Harvard Arab Alumni Association (HAAA) hosts a conference Apr 19-21, 2024.

Arab Conference at Harvard: The largest Arab conference in North America
Apr 19—21, Harvard University, Boston, US — more info

Each year Harvard Arab Alumni Association (HAAA), established in 2001, hosts the Arab Conference at Harvard to bring together over a thousand Harvard alumni, faculty, and societal leaders in the Arab World to discuss key issues related to the region, encourage meaningful dialogue and connections, and inspire creative and sustainable solutions.

Throughout the event, attendees will have the opportunity to explore a diverse range of topics, including arts and culture, entrepreneurship, technology, and social impact. Engage in lively panel discussions, workshops, and interactive sessions that foster meaningful exchanges and inspire new ideas.

For tickets and FAQ, click HERE.

Insurgent Transmissions: A monthly Palestine film series
April — July, 2024 — Mizna —Bryant Lake Bowl, US — more info

Insurgent Transmissions is a film series highlighting the varied Palestinian experience. Made by contemporary Palestinian makers, the films depict the many ways that Palestinians resist occupation in their daily lives and filmmaking practices. According to the organizers, Mizna, the films “highlight the works of contemporary Palestinian filmmakers, amplifying their voices through their films and the films they see as most urgent in this moment of cultural erasure and genocide.”

The April screening will feature Annemarie Jacir’s touching family drama, “Wajib,” brilliantly performed by actual father and son Mohammad and Saleh Bakri.

The programming will unfold as a series of transmissions: Jacir chooses the second film, and each subsequent filmmaker selects the next film in the series. Ticket fees will support the featured Palestinian filmmakers. At the screening, there will be additional opportunities to support urgent grassroots fundraisers in Gaza.

For the full film list, see HERE.

Translationship event Apr 24 2024
Translationship, New York.

Translationship: Examining the Creative Process Between Authors & Translators
Apr. 24, Jefferson Market Library, New York —Hybrid event — more info

As global connectivity expands, translated works are highly sought after by publishers in worldwide, particularly in countries with censorship and speech restrictions.

Join Annelise Finegan, Director of Graduate Studies in Translation and Interpreting at NYU; Antonina W. Bouis, award-winning translator and cultural strategy advisor; and Ernesto Mestre-Reed, Guggenheim Fiction Fellow in conversation with Karen Phillips, the Executive Director of Words Without Borders, as they discuss their creative process and how translation promotes greater cultural awareness and representation.

This event is part of The New York Public Library’s World Literature Festival, which celebrates books and writers from around the world and reflects the languages spoken in our communities. Discover what our patrons are reading in different languages, resources the Library offers, free events, book recommendations, and more.

(De)Constructing the Virtual Character in Motion Pictures
Apr 24, NYUAD Campus, Conference Center, Abu Dhabi — more info

Over the last thirty years, virtual characters in motion pictures have grown from a novelty act to a staple of movie-making technology. Luca Fascione examines what goes into designing a movie character that captures audiences in a contemporary feature and also explores the historical development of the corresponding technology and the aesthetic and structural choices that led to the current understanding of what a virtual character is or should be.

Book Conversations (online and in-person)

Fady Joudah and Hala Alyan, poets. Milkweed Transnational series.

Transnational Series: Fady Joudah with Hala Alyan
April 11 — Zoom — more info

Join the Transnational Literature Series at Brookline Booksmith, Milkweed Editions, and AGNI for a virtual event with poet Fady Joudah to discuss and celebrate the release of […]. He will be in conversation with writer Hala Alyan.

Fady Joudah’s powerful sixth collection of poems opens with, “I am unfinished business,” articulating the ongoing pathos of the Palestinian people. A rendering of Joudah’s survivance, […] speaks to Palestine’s daily and historic erasure and insists on presence inside and outside the ancestral land.

Read TMR’s review of […] by Eman Quotah, here.

Salman Rushdie talks with Suleika Jaouad.

Salman Rushdie in conversation with Suleika Jaouad
April 16 — Vimeo — more info

Join Random House Publishing Group and PEN America for an intimate conversation with renowned writer, free speech advocate, and Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie. His latest memoir, Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder, is a gripping account of surviving an attempt on his life 30 years after the fatwa was ordered against him. In unforgettable detail, Rushdie is speaking out for the first time about the traumatic events of August 12, 2022.

Suleika Jaouad will moderate the event and feature an audience Q&A and a closing note from PEN America. When registering for the event, you will have the opportunity to submit a question, which you may see answered during the conversation.

Coptic cultural conversation.
Coptic cultural conversation.

Coptic Culture and Community: Daily lives, changing times.
April 16 — AUC Press — Zoom — more info

The American University in Cairo Press is holding a virtual book discussion with Mariam Ayad editor of Coptic Culture and Community: Daily Lives, Changing Times (AUC Press, 2023).  The discussion will explore the daily experiences of ordinary Coptic Christians from late Antiquity to the present day.

The event will host Mariam F. Ayad, Associate Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo and editor of the book, in conversation with book contributors, Carolyn Ramzy, Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at Carleton University, ON, Canada, and Helene Moussa, Volunteer Curator at Coptic Museum of Canada.

Arab futurism panel.

Three books on Arab Futurism
April 18 — The Arab British Center — London — more info

Hear from the authors and editors of Comma Press’ Futures Past series on imagining the future of Arab nations. At this event, you’ll hear from contributors to three of these collections on their stories and what it means to imagine the future of Arab nations. Editor of Palestine + 100 Basma Ghalayini will be joined by Raph Cormack and Ahmed Naji (Egypt + 100), Selma Dabbagh (Palestine + 100) and Hassan Abdulrazzak (Iraq + 100).

Hisham Matar on "My Friends."
Hisham Matar talks about “My Friends.”

Hisham Matar in conversation with Erica Wagner
Apr. 20 — Cambridge Literary Festival, UK— more info

The Booker-shortlisted and Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Return discusses My Friends, his masterful and intensely moving new novel which follows three friends living in political exile, exploring the emotional homeland that deep friendships can provide.

You can read Adib Rahhal’s TMR review HERE.

Five conversations: How to Write About War.
Five conversations: How to Write About War.

One book, five conversations: How to Write About War
Saturdays, Apr 20 — Jun 15 — Online — more info

Celebrating the publication of the Warscapes magazine anthology, Insurgent Feminisms: Writing War, The Radical Books Collective is hosting five conversations that engage with the book’s rich array of genres and topics, and its many talented contributors.

Insurgent Feminisms: Writing War (Daraja Press, 2024, edited by Bhakti Shringarpure and Veruska Cantelli) advances a new paradigm of war writing by focusing on gender. These feminist and queer perspectives on war come out of regions and positions that disobey the rules of war writing. The book features reportage, fiction, memoir, poetry, and conversations from 60 writers, covering over 20 regions, mainly in the Global South.


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