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.”


Opening the door to Middle Eastern designers at Dubai Design Week

Updated 14 min 53 sec ago
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Opening the door to Middle Eastern designers at Dubai Design Week

  • This year, five pavilions from Amman, Beirut, Dubai, the Eastern Provinces of KSA and Kuwait City are showing off
  • The Abwab exhibit is just one thought-provoking, Instagram-worthy part of Dubai Design Week

DUBAI: Named after the Arabic word for “doors,” Abwab is an annual exhibition at Dubai Design Week, a creative fair that runs until Nov. 17.

This year, five pavilions from Amman, Beirut, Dubai, the Eastern Provinces of KSA and Kuwait City are showing off their artistic innovations in Dubai Design District, where the event is based.

Two designers were invited from each place to collaborate and produce works related to the theme “Between the Lines.”

The creations are housed in five pavilions at the heart of Dubai Design District, made up of red twigs and newspaper pulp and designed by the firm Architecture + Other Things.

Visitors crowded around the pavilions at the opening of the fair on Tuesday and explored the five spaces with their unique, sometimes perplexing, offerings.

Amman‘s pavilion at the Abwab exhibit is called “Duwar,” roundabout in Arabic, and is described as a representation of the cycle between chaos and order. The exhibit is a walk-through piece featuring moving images on boards suspended from the low ceiling of the circular space. Visitors are encouraged to walk through the dark circular corridor and take in the constantly flashing imagery above them in the piece that was created by multidisciplinary designer Hashem Joucka and architect Basel Naouri.

Beirut’s contribution to the Abwab exhibit is called “Beirut Fillers” and features a series of suspended words in a constructed sensorial environment, complete with audio recordings of the words “euhhh,” “halla2,” “enno” and “fa,” all of which are linguistic fillers commonly heard in Beiruti conversation.  

For its part, the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia is showcasing a fascinating piece of work called “The Sound of the East Coast” that pays homage to the tradition of pearl diving in the area with shaking, jelly-like bowls. The installation even features audio recordings of the traditional song “El Yamal,” often chanted to keep the divers motivated.

While Kuwait City’s offering, called “Desert Cast,” uses locally sourced materials and production methods to explore the idea of identity in the country, Dubai’s piece at the exhibit is called “Thulathi: Threefold” and is marked by a protruding triangular section that breaks the natural form of the rounded pavilion. Each corner of the triangle opens slightly through apertures, revealing video projections and silhouette cutouts.

The Abwab exhibit is just one thought-provoking, Instagram-worthy part of Dubai Design Week, an event that boasts workshops, exhibits and a trade fair.