In December 2009 no.w.here was invited to participate in Arab shorts.net a festival held in Cairo of independent feature films and documentaries, animations as well as experimental films and video art from the Arab World. A network of nine film curators from nine Arab countries selected a wide range of exciting young Arab film productions in order to make the versatility and quality of independent Arab film-making visible. These works are now available to view online.
The project Arabshorts.net is funded by the Goethe-Institut Cairo, its concept was developed by the German film curator Marcel Schwierin. The films, full curatorial statements and cultural context and conditions of production can be found at:
The invitation for Karen Mirza and Brad Butler to participate in this context was through Transmediale 2010 and we are grateful for their support in this:
Arab shorts - contextual extracts:
Independent film in Egypt – curated by Emad Mabrouk
"... To start off, the term “independent cinema” refers to a movement that emerged in the US in the early 1970s as a rebellion against the US studio system, which represented dominant artistic and intellectual traditions and did not allow departing from the norm. This movement presented a range of original artistic works that in put into question existing modes of production and the economic conditions of cinematic production.
Independent cinema emerged as a resistance of sorts against the common understanding of artistic and aesthetic ideas. It set the stage for alternative aesthetic values and singular artistic experiments characterised by creative ideas, formal innovation, and new cinematic sensibilities, as well as a new world vision of humanity and the human condition..."
Independent film in Morocco – curated by Bouchra Khalili & Hicham Falah
"... All these stories reveal once again a return to the origins of Moroccan cinema: a cinema marked by restless wandering, displacement and immigration. But what forms the specificity of today’s Moroccan cinema is that it has crossed its own borders to be a part of a circular nomadism on two sides of the Mediterranean. If Moroccan cinema was born in modernism (because it was organically a part of post-colonial and avant-garde cinematography), its revival went through a redefinition of the basis of this same modernity: a cinema of the border, of the gap and of the intervening period..."
Independent film in Syria – curated by Orwa Nyrabia
"...On a Saudi Television network, possibly one with the widest reach in the Arab region, three women, an independent girl, an independent mother, and a veiled woman, daily embark on what is called the “mirror challenge.” One can tell they often failed it; but now, as one of the multi-national distribution giants has introduced skin-bleaching products to the Gulf market, and subsequently to markets enchanted by Gulf trends (i.e. Syrian and Egyptian markets), their lives have changed forever. Now, with their lighter skin, they can successfully pass the mirror challenge every day.
In the early 1970s, Saadallah Wanous, the late Syrian playwright, made a wish in his text Declarations for a New Arab Theatre to install a giant mirror at the theatre’s firewall so when curtains are open, the audience would find themselves faced with their own reflection..."
Independent film in Gulf – curated by Haig Aivazian
"... The discourse around the lack of cultural infrastructure within the Middle East has become so common that it seems to have grown tired before even becoming productive. So-called independent filmmakers pose an interesting dilemma with regards to the need for such infrastructures in the first place, as they are by definition meant to function outside of these systems.
But perhaps it is best to address general social conditions prior to addressing the industry, or to be more precise, the practices of cinema; especially as we focus on the Gulf, which is – to say the least – a special case, even within the rest of the Middle East..."
Independent film in Tunisia – curated by Ikbal Zalila
"... The most interesting films of this program distance themselves from the naturalism which has historically hurt Tunisian cinema. Their formal quest (even if not always successful) is the sign that something is happening. Experiments are still in their infancy and would have been impossible in a classical production context. Not only would they have not have found a producer, but they would have remained totally misunderstood by the Ministry of Culture and the scene over which it has a hold. In the current context, the trends seem to say that the more marginal the film, the higher the chance of making a cinema which proposes a true alternative. Motives for hope exist. But the risk persists that even the most promising will be lured into quietude in order to reach the controlling subsidies of the state..."
Independent film in Palestine – curated by Lara Khaldi & Yazan Khalili
"... The question of what an independent cinema in Palestine means is somewhat different from the same question in other places. A mainstream cinema industry does not exist for there to be an independent one, but this question is intricately tied in with other aspects of “independence.” Rather, “independent Palestinian cinema” conjures up the Palestinian occupation with the overall Palestinian search for independence as a political project.
In other words, cinema of independence is not an independent cinema. It takes its authenticity from being related to a political project, its identity, and in a way its Palestinianity..."
Independent film in Jordan – curated by Ala' Younis
"... It is still too early to judge the impact of filmmaking’s awakening in Jordan. Classical filmmaking with 35mm cameras remains a farfetched dream for Jordanian directors, as there is no laboratory for printing and development, although the Royal Film Commission provides the required papers and permits to move raw films to and from Jordan. Although documentary practices have taken wide strides towards the production of stronger and longer films, fiction is still a challenge for filmmakers. But the greatest challenges will be in financing productions, as is the case in many Arab countries..."
Independent film in Algeria – curated by Mounes Khammar
"... It is wrong to think that we should rely on the state for the full funding of productions, for in most countries cinema funds itself like any other economic sector.
During this transitional period, pending the development of a favourable climate for the consolidation of a real film industry, Algerians have the possibility of financing through local official funds and private sector contributions, and internationally from coproductions as Algeria is strategically located between Arab, Mediterranean and European countries..."
Independent film in Lebanon – curated by Rasha Salti
"... Fifteen years into the post-war, it will soon be necessary to accommodate for a new post-war generation of filmmakers and works. Film schools have been training young directors, cinematographers, editors and producers. They populate film sets, snatch small grants here and there to make short films, work as free-lancers in the thriving advertising business or as tireless labourers at television stations. Their films herald new turns, motivations, and approaches. They were two, three or six years old when the war ended, and their coming of age came during the tenuous crises of the post-war. They have lived and witnessed another kind of injustice and violence, but also other kinds of joys and enchantments. Furthermore, they, in contrast to their slightly elder peers, are not averse to comedy, humour and sarcasm. Might they release Lebanese cinema from the legacy of the civil war and burdens of mourning?..."