DUBAI: Butheina Kazim has brought the magic of art-house movies to Dubai, through her project Cinema Akil.
Having worked in television, radio and film acquisitions, Butheina Kazim founded Cinema Akil in 2014 as a platform for independent cinema. For Kazim, who has also produced her own film “Letters to Palestine,” the project is about more than just watching films, it’s also for building community.
She introduced the concept with pop-up screenings, but since last year Cinema Akil has a permanent theatre in Dubai’s art district on Al-Serkal Avenue. Step into the 133-seater theater, and you are transported to an old-school picture house.
“The permanent space allows us to release films every single night of the year. The programming is often exclusive and can’t be seen elsewhere,” said Kazim. But the pop-up format will always be part of Cinema Akil. “Our nomadic life allows us to reach different communities by bringing free public cinema to people.”
Kazim works closely with special events such as Dubai Shopping Festival’s Market Out of the Box and Fashion Forward initiatives and has screened over 350 films across Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
In summer, the cinema space’s robust line-up continues. “There’s a mythical Dubai exodus that everyone speaks of as soon as summer hits,” said Kazim. Some of Cinema Akil’s August highlights include “Straight Out of Berlin,” a series of eight films in collaboration with the Goethe Institut, which explores the many faces and tunnels of the German capital city.
There was even a “Cat Weekend” on International Cat Day earlier this month, when films that celebrate all things feline were screened.
Kazim has been encouraged by the region’s response to art cinema: “We’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm. Films we never expected to succeed, such “Cold War” by Pawel Pawlikowski and “Capernaum” by Nadine Labaki, had a wonderful response. It’s magical when that happens.”
Kazim’s next goal is to expand the Cinema Akil concept from Dubai to the region, giving cinephiles all over the Gulf a chance to enjoy independent films.