Young Syrian refugees learn the joys of analog photography

Young Syrian refugees learn the joys of analog photography
Sirkhane (which means Circus House) school, was founded in 2012. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 05 August 2021

Young Syrian refugees learn the joys of analog photography

Young Syrian refugees learn the joys of analog photography
  • ‘Their first reaction is they think it’s like magic,’ Sirkhane Darkroom project leader Serbest Salih says

DUBAI: Since Syria’s civil war began nearly a decade ago, thousands of refugees have crossed the border into Turkey. The city of Mardin, 30 kilometers inland from the Syrian border, is currently home to more than 80,000 displaced Syrian refugees, including children. 

One homegrown non-governmental organization is on a mission to put a smile on those children’s faces by teaching them analog photography through the ongoing, mobile project Sirkhane Darkroom, led by Syrian photographer and refugee Serbest Salih.

The project is an offshoot of the Sirkhane (which means Circus House) school, which was founded in 2012 and — aside from offering photography and music workshops —specializes in teaching young adults circus arts including acrobatics, juggling, and theatre performance. More than 3,000 youngsters in the Mardin Province have so far participated in Sirkhane’s various programs. 




Ilava while taking photos. (Supplied)

Salih, who is in his late twenties, says the idea for the photography workshops came from a trip he took with a friend to the city of Istasyon in 2017.

“It’s a very poor area and has never been reached by any humanitarian organization,” Salih tells Arab News. “We saw families from different backgrounds — Syrian, Iraqi, and Turkish. They speak the same language, whether Kurdish or Arabic, but they don’t talk to each other. We thought of using photography as a language. Analog photography can be like a key — a way to empower and bring together many communities in one place.” 

While Sirkhane has a few centers around the province, it is its caravans — which drive out to small towns and villages without any such cultural centers — that have made perhaps the greatest impact in the lives of child refugees, eliciting the same joy and curiosity as an approaching ice-cream truck.




Printing inside darkroom. (Supplied)

Inside the darkroom-like caravans, Salih teaches the children how to handle negatives and develop and print photographs the old-fashioned way. The children are given simple compact cameras and, for a couple of weeks, are free to photograph whatever they like, including sensitive subjects such as child marriage and child labor. 

“I show them all kinds of cameras — digital and analog. After that, I teach them composition,” Salih explains. Such a detailed activity can, in one way or another, grant children a sense of confidence and possibilities, especially the girls.

“Often, parents would say that girls (shouldn’t) participate in the workshop. Just boys. But after seeing that the girls are talented, they’ve started supporting and believing in them.” Most of the children will likely never have held a camera before, so they are amazed by what it can do through the click of a button. “Their first reaction is that they think it’s like magic,” remarks Salih. 

A selection of the children’s black-and-white snapshots are currently being shown by Gulf Photo Plus (GPP) in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue as part of its “Chemistry of Feeling” exhibition, which runs until September, displaying works that highlight the resurgence of analog photography. Photographers from all over the world submitted nearly 100 images.




 More than 3,000 youngsters in the Mardin Province have so far participated in Sirkhane’s various programs. (Supplied)

“The children were very happy,” Salih said. “They’ve never heard of Dubai, but it’s great to see the pictures in an exhibition in the Arab world.”

“Sirkhane,” reads a label at the exhibition, “is based in a region where it is difficult to be a child.” And yet, looking at the pictures, there’s something innocent, pure and universal about them. Two boys are photographed playing football, two girls are holding their cameras, a group of boys take a selfie, and a girl wanders in a field in the far distance. 

In an age where digital cameras, filters, and instant gratification rule, what makes shooting on film appealing?

“The anticipation is thrilling, waiting to see your work unfold,” said the Emirati artist Lamya Gargash in a GPP post on Instagram. “It’s not instant and that’s what I love most about it. Patiently you wait to see your vision and feel it’s come to life.”




Some of the children’s shots are out of focus or grainy, with white flash spots, but ultimately that simply adds to their intimacy, charm, beauty and humanity. (Supplied)

Salih says it helps children gain experience and go with the flow.

“When you give a digital camera to a child and he doesn’t think it’s a great photo, he will delete it (immediately). With analog photography, he’s just shooting photos and doesn’t know what will happen. But after seeing the results, he, or she, becomes self-confident,” he said.

The pictures from Sirkhane Darkroom bear little resemblance to the glossy, perfectly edited images we are most-accustomed to today. They are reminiscent, in a way, of Dorothea Lange’s powerful photographs of the Great Depression during the 1930s. Some of the children’s shots are out of focus or grainy, with white flash spots, but ultimately that simply adds to their intimacy, charm, beauty and humanity. 


Bella Hadid celebrates niece Khai’s birthday with never-before-seen snaps

US-Palestinian-Dutch model Bella Hadid took to Instagram on Sunday to celebrate her niece’s first birthday. (File/ Getty Images)
US-Palestinian-Dutch model Bella Hadid took to Instagram on Sunday to celebrate her niece’s first birthday. (File/ Getty Images)
Updated 20 September 2021

Bella Hadid celebrates niece Khai’s birthday with never-before-seen snaps

US-Palestinian-Dutch model Bella Hadid took to Instagram on Sunday to celebrate her niece’s first birthday. (File/ Getty Images)

DUBAI: US-Palestinian-Dutch model Bella Hadid took to Instagram on Sunday to celebrate her niece’s first birthday, and paid special tribute to Gigi Hadid and her partner Zayn Malik on their daughter’s big day.

“Happy Birthday to the greatest gift our family has ever been blessed with… I didn’t know my heart could grow this big!!!” Bella posted on Instagram, alongside a carousel of photos featuring the now-one-year-old.

Although baby Khai’s face was blocked by emoji stickers in all the shots, for privacy reasons, Bella managed to gush over the family’s bundle of joy.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

“You make me smile when I’m sad and make me cry of happiness just because (you’re) alive. I can’t wait to watch you grow into the most perfect specimen of all. @gigihadid @zayn thank you for my forever best friend,” the model aunt added.

The couple announced the birth of their daughter in September 2020, with Gigi sharing the exciting news with her 58.5 million Instagram followers.

“Our girl joined us Earth-side this weekend and she’s already changed our world,” she said at the time.

For his part, proud father and British signer Malik write: “Our baby girl is here, healthy and beautiful. To try put into words how I am feeling right now would be an impossible task.”

“The love I feel for this tiny human is beyond my understanding. Grateful to know her, proud to call her mine, and thankful for the life we will have together,” he added.


Review: ‘Schumacher’ is a touching, if unsatisfying, portrait of a legend

Review: ‘Schumacher’ is a touching, if unsatisfying, portrait of a legend
Updated 20 September 2021

Review: ‘Schumacher’ is a touching, if unsatisfying, portrait of a legend

Review: ‘Schumacher’ is a touching, if unsatisfying, portrait of a legend

LONDON: Michael Schumacher will always be an iconic figure in Formula 1 — widely regarded as one of the most gifted racers of all time, with a work ethic hitherto unseen in the sport, and a drive for perfection that left his rivals staggered by his laser focus. And while this documentary, created with the blessing and cooperation of the Schumacher family, offers an incredible look at the personal and private life of the German driver, it does little to expand on what most people already know about the seven-times world champion.

Now streaming on Netflix, a procession of famous faces from the world of F1 — Ross Brawn, Flavio Briatore, Jean Todt, Eddie Irvine, David Coulthard and many others — offer their recollections of Michael, and those interviews are expertly combined with archival material from Schumacher himself, home videos released by the family, and interviews with his wife and children.

Michael Schumacher’s documentary offers a look at the personal and private life of the German driver. (Motorsport Images)

But while directors Hanns-Bruno Kammertöns, Vanessa Nöcker and Michael Wech do a skilled job of stitching everything together, they rarely take the chance to take “Schumacher” into new territory. Subjects such as Schumacher’s aggression-fueled lapses in racing judgement, or his insistence that he simply couldn’t be in the wrong in any crash, get little more than lip service — perhaps understandably, given that the film was created in such close cooperation with his family. But it does beg the question of what “Schumacher” hopes to achieve. Anyone who follows F1 knows that his was a generation-defining talent, and hearing that same sentiment reflected by a series of notable interviewees simply rings a little hollow.

What’s more, the movie steers clear of offering up any glimpse of Schumacher today. At the end of 2013, Michael suffered a significant brain injury during a skiing trip and hasn’t been seen since. He is, his family insists, continuing to live his life as privately as possible. And while that privacy is important, and absolutely his right, it makes for a strange juxtaposition with a film billed as offering such an intimate portrait of a racing legend.


Luxury label Jean Paul Gaultier celebrates Saudi National Day with new film

Luxury label Jean Paul Gaultier celebrates Saudi National Day with new film
Updated 20 September 2021

Luxury label Jean Paul Gaultier celebrates Saudi National Day with new film

Luxury label Jean Paul Gaultier celebrates Saudi National Day with new film

DUBAI: French luxury fashion label Jean Paul Gaultier is celebrating Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day, which falls on Sept. 23, in its first-ever launch dedicated to a Middle Eastern country.

The brand has brought to life the traditional card game of baloot through a film shot by an all-Saudi production team in Riyadh. 

The brand is also celebrating the country’s heritage and culture with the baloot box. (Supplied)

The film features a host of Saudi personalities, including actress Sarah Taibah, emerging fashion model Domie Alsalim, fashion and beauty multi-hyphenates Yara Alnamlah and Faisal Alghazzawi, as they compete in the game. 

The brand is also celebrating the country’s heritage and culture with the baloot box — a luxe green reimagination of its signature perfume case which comes in velvet stamped with gold details.

 

The celebrity-loved fashion house created a deck of cards exquisitely designed by Saudi artist Raghad Al-Ahmad. 

Al-Ahmad merged Jean Paul Gaultier’s signature iconography with cultural motifs rooted in the identity of Saudi Arabia through the art form of collage. The queen, king and jack of the deck are reimagined to represent the regions and cities in the Kingdom. 

The queen, king and jack of the deck are reimagined to represent the regions and cities in the Kingdom. (Supplied)

The baloot box is packed in a green bag with gold-embroidered straps, patterned after the intricate gold trimming of the traditional Saudi bisht.

The bag was designed and created by traditional Saudi tailor Salman Alhamad and Atharna, a social enterprise dedicated to the preservation and celebration of Saudi crafts and culture.


Egyptian actress Rosaline Elbay to star in Netflix drama 

Egyptian actress Rosaline Elbay to star in Netflix drama 
Updated 20 September 2021

Egyptian actress Rosaline Elbay to star in Netflix drama 

Egyptian actress Rosaline Elbay to star in Netflix drama 

DUBAI: Egyptian actress Rosaline Elbay is set to star in Netflix’s upcoming heist action drama “Jigsaw” alongside US actor Giancarlo Esposito, she revealed this week. 

The series centers around a large heist that is loosely based on the $70 billion in bonds that went missing in New York’s downtown Manhattan when Hurricane Sandy struck the city in 2012.

Elbay, who is also a writer, will play the role of Judy Goodwin, the crew’s demolitions specialist who is clever, talented and independent.

The eight-episode series, which ranges from 24 years before the heist to one year after, also casts Spanish actress Paz Vega, British star Rufus Sewell, US actors Tati Gabrielle and Peter Mark Kendall, Australian talent Jai Courtney and Iranian actress Niousha Noor.

Elbay is famous for her role as Amani in Hulu’s award-winning series “Ramy,” which stars US-Egyptian Golden Globe winner Ramy Youssef. 


Director Mounia Akl’s ‘Costa Brava, Lebanon’ wins award at Toronto Film Festival

Director Mounia Akl’s ‘Costa Brava, Lebanon’ wins award at Toronto Film Festival
Updated 20 September 2021

Director Mounia Akl’s ‘Costa Brava, Lebanon’ wins award at Toronto Film Festival

Director Mounia Akl’s ‘Costa Brava, Lebanon’ wins award at Toronto Film Festival

 

DUBAI: Lebanese director Mounia Akl this week won the Network for the Promotion of Asia Pacific Cinema (NETPAC) award at the 46th Toronto International Film Festival for her feature “Costa Brava, Lebanon.”

Her impassioned debut is an eerie family drama set amid a raging climate crisis in near-future Lebanon.

The film stars actors Saleh Bakri and Nadine Labaki. 

Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri plays Walid and Lebanese star Nadine Labaki plays his wife, Souraya. (Supplied)

“Costa Brava, Lebanon – an exquisite intergenerational family story – is an ode to sustainable futures by visionary new talent, Mounia Akl from her precious and troubled country,” said the NETPAC jury, that included Spanish filmmaker Gemma Cubero del Barrio, Beijing based film producer Isabelle Glachant and BAFTA-nominated producer Elhum Shakerifar, in a statement published in Deadline.

The 32-year-old filmmaker’s haunting and upsetting feature was originally meant to depict a dystopian Lebanon in 2030 at its worst.

“I tried to imagine this dystopian future where none of our problems had been solved and the country was an extreme version of itself,” she told Arab News at the festival.

“It was somehow a way for me to imagine the worst for myself in the same way you sometimes want to explore your trauma in a cathartic way. It was a way for me to imagine the worst in my mind as a way of avoiding the worst happening in my mind and in life.”

The film follows a family who move out of Beirut. (Supplied)

But Lebanon’s crisis deepened as Akl and her team got closer to shooting the movie. “The reality of Lebanon became more tragic and more dystopian than even the dystopia that I imagined in 2030,” she said.

In the film, the now trash-filled surroundings of Lebanon’s “Costa Brava” had meant to be the free-spirited Badri family’s getaway utopia from the pollution and social unrest of Beirut. But their dreams were trashed when construction of a landfill site started next door to the family’s home.

Costa Brava is an actual landfill in Lebanon that opened in April 2016 as one of two sites advertised by the Lebanese government as a solution to the eight-month trash crisis the country had experienced the year before. However, within two weeks of its opening, residents and activists launched protests at the site demanding its closure.