Art of film comes alive in basement of Iraq aficionado

Abdel Qader Al-Ayoubi has scoured Iraq for old films and archive materials. (AFP)
Updated 04 August 2018
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Art of film comes alive in basement of Iraq aficionado

  • The cinema experience in the country is now restricted to multi-screen theaters in the shopping malls of Baghdad and the main southern city of Basra
  • Foreign films are also on the program, such as the Spaghetti Westerns whose posters plaster the walls of his small museum that is open to the public on weekends and public holidays

KIRKUK: From black-and-white musicals to action movies, Abdel Qader Al-Ayoubi screens films and exhibits paraphernalia of the art form in his basement in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a cinema-free zone.
Ayoubi has scoured the country to collect 8 mm, 16 mm and 35-mm reels of old films, projectors, screens and archive materials from second-hand dealers, sometimes at exorbitant prices.
In the 1970s, the city of Kirkuk was home to five cinemas: The Khayyam, Hamra, Alamein, Atlas and the Salaheddin, said the educational adviser and longtime movie enthusiast.
The silver screen pulled in audiences in towns across Iraq until 1980 when war broke out with Iran, marking the start of decades of conflict.
It was only in December that Baghdad declared victory after a three-year battle against Daesh.
While the level of violence has declined sharply, the rich cultural life long associated with Iraq has struggled to make a return.
More than a decade of sanctions following Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, as well as long periods of militia and terrorist dominance after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled the dictator, ensured an end to the golden age of cinema in Iraq.
The cinema experience in the country is now restricted to multi-screen theaters in the shopping malls of Baghdad and the main southern city of Basra.
In Kirkuk, which is home to Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities, “all the movie theaters have closed, for different reasons but mainly because of security concerns,” said 59-year-old Ayoubi.
Only in the basement of his home can a Kirkuk cinemagoer experience the whir of the film reel and the purring of the projector’s fan.
Ghassan Hawwa, an oil-sector worker who remembers the days of the Atlas and Hamra cinemas, is a regular in the audience on leatherette seats at the weekly rendezvous in the basement.
“Today, everybody watches DVDs or goes on the Internet,” sighed Hawwa, who along with a cluster of co-enthusiasts aim to bring cinema back to life in Kirkuk.
Action and horror flicks are a hit at Ayoubi’s cinema but his personal favorites are Arabic movies, the musical comedies of the 1950s and 1960s, and the good old-fashioned love stories.
Foreign films are also on the program, such as the Spaghetti Westerns whose posters plaster the walls of his small museum that is open to the public on weekends and public holidays.
Ayoubi guides visitors around his museum, giving the history of the reels, projectors and other cinema paraphernalia to a new generation “who know nothing of the cinema world of old.”


The Six: Louvre Abu Dhabi set to host ‘Big in Japan’ weekend

The Louvre Abu Dhabi. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 October 2018
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The Six: Louvre Abu Dhabi set to host ‘Big in Japan’ weekend

DUBAI: The Louvre Abu Dhabi is set to host a “Big in Japan” weekend from Oct. 25 – 27, featuring a range of activities inspired by the ongoing “Japanese Connections: The Birth of Modern Décor” exhibition.
Innovative music
On Thursday, Japanese Turntable Symphonograph Orchestra will reconstruct classical music by spinning vinyl records, using turntables and mixers as their instruments of choice.
Spoken word
On Friday, award-winning Emirati spoken-word artist Afra Atiq will perform a poem inspired by the artworks in the “Japanese Connections” exhibition space.
Homemade cartoon
“Emara,” a series featuring a hijab-wearing crime fighter, will be screened on Friday, followed by a discussion with voiceover artist Maryam Al-Atouly.

(Image supplied)


Mural magic
On Friday, visitors can enjoy the big reveal of the first-time collaboration between Abu Dhabi-based students and renowned street artist Myneandyours as they add the final strokes to their murals.
Anime screening
Fan favorite “Big Hero 6” will be screened on Saturday. The comedy-adventure, which has some seriously emotional moments, tells the story of the bond between an inflatable robot and a boy.
A Japanese tale
Set to be screened on Saturday, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya” tells the story of a bamboo cutter who finds a miniature girl and raises her as his daughter.