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Laboratory of Arts Programme 2022: ٍSupported Projects


 

Cinema and Animation

Jafra Younes – This is My Night

Feature-length film situated in Damascus, where Rouba and her father live. Rouba’s world collapses with her mother's death, who was her only refuge. One day, at noon, she tells her father that she will end her life – a revelation that leads them to explore the themes of the past, family, and death. All this occurs while Rouba and her father usually are going about their day, preparing food and listening to music, until the moment when Rouba is set to act on her decision.

Sara Kontar – 3350 Km

The short animated documentary offers an intimate glimpse into the Syrian reality through the relationship between the director and her father, between those in Syria and those abroad, between home and exile, by means of an intermittent voice trying to reunite them. The film consists of a series of phone calls between the director and her father over the past years, accompanied by animations that recreate the scenes and the erased memories fading away day after day.

Zaina Erhaim – Our Feminist Wars

Feature-length documentary about the director who returns to her old camera, seven years after she had left Syria, to meet the four women she had filmed in Idlib and Aleppo, but this time in new environments and cities across the United States, Canada, and Syria. Will this reunion help them face the trauma of their feminist wars?

 

Visual Arts

Abdulkarim Majdal Albeik – Negative

A series of visual art installations tackling the crisis of oriental communities in their diaspora countries, in an attempt to reconcile two identities (local and western), by reviving and grafting two distinct sets of memories to create a third memory/identity (third identity). The project uses black and white photographs portraying two different geographies (one local and Syrian, and the other foreign and western), which are reproduced in light of new and diverse contexts and artistic visions.

Ameen Abo Kaseem – My Short-term Memory

Photography project addressing the impact of war on memory and the extent to which this impact persists after the war. What can we remember in the post-trauma stage? How can the foggy memories that start to come back after the war transform the latter into a hard-to-believe nightmare? After one loses their intimate relationship with the city, can they still believe that those events took place indeed?

Michael(a) Daoud – Do Not Cross the Bridge Before You Drown

An individual visual art installation on a barge in Berlin uses the story of Noah and the flood as a narrative framework to address the extreme lengths one goes to in order to survive, in light of contemporary issues. The multi-disciplinary installation explores various types of migration (geographic, animal, personal, and gender) and subsequent integration processes, as well as the human fear of change and the forced migration foreshadowed by climate change research.

 

Creative Writing

Modar Monther – Tales of Displacement

This novel follows in the footsteps of Oday and Razane as they document their journey of displacement in a diary, which they eventually lose. As fate would have it, the diary eventually falls in the hands of another Syrian refugee in Berlin. But what happened to Oday and Razane? How did their journey end? The young man tries to search between the lines of the diary for answers, but to no avail. He decides to publish the contents of the diary in a final attempt to find its owners.

Noha Hussin – Salvador Dalí Makes Me Breakfast

The short story collection consists of 14 breakfasts that Salvador Dalí prepares for the author. The themes of the story seem to relate to the “here and now,” but that is not quite the case. The collection tackles the fluidity of time, free choice, love as the calm amid the storm, and the digital sadness affecting us all. The stories also explore the question of how geography imposes itself on our consciousness and how poetry becomes a necessity amid the harsh, concrete-like reality.

Nour Abo Faraj – I Came but Didn’t Find You

A novel that analyses the complex and conservative relationship between two women who are both passionate about cooking, their sons, and telling each other about their dreams. This relationship forces them to rethink their views on women/motherhood. The work reflects the changing roles of the three characters when the son becomes a boyfriend or father, when the mother becomes a daughter, and when the girlfriend becomes a mother. As the story progresses, the young woman asks herself: When will her boyfriend overcome his feelings of disgust and satiety? When will he love her?

 

Performing Arts

Farah Hawarneh – Calm

Theatrical performance is based on a condensed version of daily discourse and falls within the Theatre of the Absurd genre. The performance tells the story of a young man and woman whose house was destroyed in the Beirut Port explosion. It addresses the disaster (explosion, bombardment, arrest) as a recurring event that does not end with once the main shockwave subsides. The performance also explores the human, psychological, individual, social, and political dimensions of such events in an attempt to deconstruct the feelings of fear and isolation imposed on us, as individuals, by the political and health crises we endure.

Nawras Othman – In The Box

Dynamic physical performance is based on the intellectual, sexual, and political quarantine we are currently living, each within a different-sized box, rendering out lives more akin to the lives of chickens. This metaphor constitutes the physical and visual basis for the performance, which also relies on improvisation in line with the expressive body theatre and the idea of the tamed human.

Lina Al Rawas – Things Slip but Don’t Fall

Theatre script tackling the stagnation in the life of the Syrian youth, where things are suspended before their eventual collapse. This affects young people’s hopes, future, and intimate relationships. Friends and siblings gather amid an environment struggling to recover after the war has ripped it apart and dispersed it geographically. This gathering proves to be a critical turning point in the life of each and every one of them.

Mohammed Al Rashi – Up There

The theatrical performance integrates the time and symbolic setting of Ibsen’s dramatic theatre and the political charter of two women previously detained in Syria who are now refugees in France. These themes come together in the artist’s on-stage character – a refugee artist holding on to his right to practice his art, already detached from its context, during and after the pandemic, who asks the following question: What is the political and artistic purpose of recreating this event or portraying it in a theatrical work today, 30 years later and in exile, far from the place where it occurred?

 

Music

Abo Gabi – Damascene Moon

Musical album including 7 songs and mawwals, which sheds light on the popular music memory of Ghouta and Rif Dimashq from the early 1970s until the late 1990s, mainly led by popular signer Abou Riyah. The album presents new songs that pay homage to musical and lyrical heritage, with a modern arrangement that highlights the unique identity of this musical genre.

Amir Almuarri – Underground

Rap songs and videos portraying the experiences of detention, which is still depriving Syrians of their lives and forcing them to endure feelings of fear, worry, and uncertainty. The work’s rhythm mimics the atmosphere of prison and detention to create an immersive experience for the listener.

Souhir Saleh – Hybrid

Documentary musical album deriving its genre from the lullabies of southern Syria, sung by women to express both cheerful and sad life events and social issues. The project revives some of these lullabies by preserving and documenting them, before reproducing them in a new and modern format.

Mohamad Kahwati – Walls

Rap album addresses the experience of going into hiding and losing one’s freedom and sense of self between four walls due to draft evasion, whereby vocal and musical notes become the only solace to escape the restrictions of the outside world.

 

Jury Members:

Cinema and Animation: Diana El Jeiroudi (Syria/Germany), Hania Mroue (Lebanon), Soumaya Bouallegui (Tunisia)

Visual Arts: Fadi Yaziji (Syria), Tamara Abdul Hadi (Iraq/Canada), Thana Faroq (Yemen/Netherlands)

Creative Writing: Iman Mersal (Eygpt/Canada), Rana Issa (Lebanon/Norway), Samar Yazbek (Syria/France)

Performing Arts: Hanan Choucair (Syria), Leila Sleiman (Eygpt), Nancy Naous (Lebanon/France)

Music: Bushra El-Turk (Lebanon/UK), Maryam Saleh (Egypt), Noma Omran (Syria/France)

 

Jury Statement

The project selection process included two stages. In the second stage, the five jury members met together in August to select the projects to be supported. Below are the main criteria considered by the jury upon selecting the projects:

Cinema and Animation: The evaluation process was an enriching and delightful opportunity to discover the films being produced by male and female Syrian filmmakers from different age groups and learn about their experiences and the places where they are producing their films. Today, after 11 years, the theme of war still constitutes the background of most films. While these films tackle internal, intimate, and subjective topics related to Syria, they also have a universal character in the way they analyse those topics and address a broad audience. The filmmakers have been brave in their choice of topics in general, but those producing films inside Syria have been particularly bold, despite the cruelty and pain depicted in their works. The jury noticed that those working on these projects suffer from loneliness, isolation, and a high degree of self-reliance, which makes the task of cinematic production much more complex and difficult. Therefore, the jury recommends experimenting with joint production mechanisms and exploring collective work opportunities, which could enrich these films and facilitate their production.

Visual Arts: The jury examines several innovative and inspiring projects, characterized by the artist's ability to express themselves and discuss their projects and their diverse ideas. These projects encourage us to reflect on the idea of how one can talk about war or trauma without directly mentioning them. The artists have common concerns that largely intersect with other Arab projects by people who have also experienced war and asylum. Therefore, the jury recommends exploring other projects developed by peers at the regional and international levels, in order to avoid repetition and build on what others have achieved. Photography projects have received a large share of support, as artists have tried to experiment with this medium through many different and unique approaches. The applications were highly ambitious, and a sizeable proportion of projects were shortlisted, which were all special and had positive and inspiring ideas to share. As such, the jury encourages those who did not receive support in this edition to develop their projects and broaden their horizons.

Creative Writing: It has been remarkable to see the large number of authors developing their works in Syria, not to mention the considerable and promising female participation. These works have attempted to tackle the Syrian reality in a new way, by challenging the patriarchal system and its role in the war and trying to understand the dynamics of patriarchal society. The jury noticed that fewer authors have addressed the theme of asylum, although the war has remained the primary background. Ideology is no longer the main entry point to address these topics, as authors have taken a more subjective view and have humanized war, love, and all the other themes they discuss. Novels have been the main literary genre, and short stories have also had a substantial share. Meanwhile, the number and quality of poetry and children’s literature have declined. Many projects focused on the descriptive and stylistic aspects of the text, which slowed down their rhythm and reduced their chances of receiving support. However, this does not mean that these works are not serious or special in other respects.

Performing Arts: The jury commended the diversity of topics that the artists have tackled in their works, most of which use their personal stories as a starting point to discuss broader issues at the social and artistic levels. Dance and physical theatre represent a large portion of these projects. However, the majority of projects remained firmly rooted in classical forms and lacked innovation or experimentation, as most artists tended to use the script as the main foundation of their work. The developmental, artistic, and interactive aspects were often confused, without a clear separation between each dimension. The projects did not propose a new or interactive form of relationship with the audience. Therefore, the jury calls upon the applicants to explore this area in their future projects.

Music: The projects have been characterized by their high sensitivity, bravery, bold ideas, and relevance to the artists’ current psychological, political, and social reality. At the musical level, the projects have been diverse, but most have featured a return to heritage, either by documenting it, reviving it, or presenting it from new perspectives. The jury commended the projects focusing on heritage, but it recommends conducting in-depth research and reviewing what others have produced before delving into the rich and complex world of heritage. The jury also recommends that artists focus more on their projects’ budgets and implementation plans. Although most projects proposed promising ideas, but their budgets and implementation plans were inconsistent with the required volume of work and the time and effort needed to achieve it while abiding by the highest possible standards.

This edition of Laboratory of Arts is launched with the support of the Ford Foundation, Mimeta and RRLI Initiative, in collaboration with Mamdouh Adwan Publishing House.

 

 


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