The arts are an expressive way to share and communicate culture, especially the art of cinema. The nature of film allows it to educate using entertainment, storytelling and visual creativity, allowing viewers glimpses into lives and worlds far different from their own. It is this kind of education that the University of Arizona Center for Middle Eastern Studies aims to provide with its Spring 2018 Film Series.
Each semester, the Center compiles a program of films that exemplify Middle Eastern cinema, and has featured countless documentaries and fiction features created by and starring people from the Middle East. The free screenings take place on the first Wednesday of each month and are open to the public.
This semester the screenings will be hosted in room 111 at the Cesar Chavez Building beginning 7 p.m. Before each film, a graduate student in the program will briefly share some details about the filmmaker and background information to set up the film.
The students also stick around to answer any questions viewers might have at the end about the film or Middle Eastern cinema and culture.
The concept of “The Artist” is the theme of this semester’s film selection. Each movie focuses on some sort of Middle Eastern artist, whether they be a musician, painter or tent maker.
“Going Up the Stairs” will kick off the Spring 2018 Film Series with an Iranian feature documentary from 2012. Directed by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, the film follows the story of Akram, a 50-year-old painter who is trying to find a way to get to Paris after being invited to host an exhibition of her work.
“She’s trying to get permission to go there because in Iran she needs permission from her husband to leave,” said Megan Young, the program coordinator for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. “The film shows her painting, talking about her life, the journey to try to get to Paris — she’s a very interesting person and her images are quite unique.”
The film is a little under an hour and is an excellent example of Iranian cinema combining the heartwarming and hopeful struggle of Akram to the funny moments interspersed throughout the more serious commentary on life in Iran for women.
The Center for Middle Eastern Studies website dubs it, “An inspiring resource for courses on contemporary Muslim and Islamic studies, women’s studies, art and more.”
Being a documentary about an Iranian woman and the struggles she faces in trying to be an independent person and pursue art, this film greatly supports the Center for Middle Eastern Studies’ mission of educating the public about Middle Eastern culture through telling real stories from those who understand what it’s like to be from the Middle East.
“The Iranian film scene is active inside and outside of Iran,”said Julie Ellison-Speight, the assistant director for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. “As far as documentaries go, a far number have been made about Iran by Iranians to share Iranian culture with the world.”
The other films this semester include “The Tentmakers of Cairo” on March 7, “Sonita” on April 4, and “The Play (Oyun)” on May 2. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about Middle Eastern culture, there are now plenty of free, fun and educational ways to do it!