Middle East

Out of the mouths of rural boys, finding the incomparable Mulla Nasrudin in Afghanistan.

Subtitled "The Refusenik", "The Zealot", and "The Father", this video takes us on a journey where Germans, Turks, Israelis, Palestinians, fathers, grandmothers, daughters and animals are together for 13 minutes.

One of Zaatari’s earliest experiments in documentary video, All Is Well on the Border emerged from the filmmaker’s desire to understand Israel’s occupation of Southern Lebanon following the 1982 Lebanon War. The video presents a series of testimonies by Lebanese citizens who were detained during the occupation, each presenting an image of resistance that falls outside the dominant narrative of liberation and solidarity promoted by the Lebanese left.

In this interview, Basma Alsharif (b.1983) examines the multiple ways in which her work engages with the notion of nomadism. Beginning with a discussion of how she initially came to video through photography, Alsharif describes how this transformation of her practice required a translation of artistic sensibilities. The artist feels this displacement between media gave her the tools to critically engage with the displacement she felt as a Palestinian-American.

Ashura, 2013

The Battle of Karbala (680) resulted in the death of Hussein, the grandson of prophet Muhammad and all his supporters. This battle is central to Shi'a Muslim belief in which the martyrdom of Hussein is mourned by an annual commemoration, Ashura. Artist Köken Ergun has worked with Istanbul's Shiite minority, documenting their preparations for the Ashura day.

Note: This title is intended by the artist to be viewed in High Definition. While DVD format is available to enable accessibility, VDB recommends presentation on Blu-ray or HD digital file.

B & B, 2005

UK, November 26th 2005

The perception of an Anglo-American hotel room is coloured by new revelations about 'The War on Terror' and 'The Special Relationship' that exists between Britain and the USA.

B & B is the fourth episode in the Hotel Diaries series, a collection of video recordings made in the world’s hotel rooms, which relate personal experiences and reflections to contemporary conflicts in the Middle East. 

BAGHDAD IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER is an ambient video essay of life in Baghdad before the invasion and occupation. Men dance, women draw and sufis sing as they await the coming of another war. In seven languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish).

Notes, gifts, promises, paintings, trash, and other ephemera from the city which is now hardly a city. What if Walter Benjamin didn’t kill himself, learned html, bought a camera, and thought himself useful enough to work in an impending war zone?

"I, Soldier is the first part of a video series in which I am dealing with the state-controlled ceremonies for the national days of the Turkish Republic. The nationalistic attributes attached to these large-scale ceremonies are underlined in a non-descriptive and almost voyeuristic point of view. I, Soldier was shot at the National Day for Youth and Sports; the day that marks the start of the independence war of the Turkish public under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, against the Allied Forces back in 1919.

Chic Point was shot in a fictional location: the occupied catwalk. Employing all the elements of a fashion show, models reveal their abdomens in outfits designed especially to suit Israeli checkpoints. For Israelis in the present time, the individual Palestinian body is the most dangerous weapon there is, and it is therefore the subject of ongoing and humiliating surveillance.

This title is only available on Radical Closure.

This piece investigates the possibilities and limits of writing a history of the Lebanese civil wars (1975-1991). The videos offer accounts of the fantastic situations that beset a number of individuals, though they do not document what happened. Rather, they explore what can be imagined, what can be said, what can be taken for granted, what can appear as rational, sayable, and thinkable about the wars.

In the midst of the 2011 revolution in Cairo, a few beduins listen to their car's radio near Jericho, a place which looks like the end of the world. Within moments this desolated landscape transfers into a busy tourist attraction as a bus full of Polish Pilgrims enter the landscape.

Note: This title is intended by the artist to be viewed in High Definition. While DVD format is available to enable accessibility, VDB recommends presentation on Blu-ray or HD digital file.

Detail, 2004

Detail is indeed a detail. It is an excerpt from Mograbi’s feature film Avenge But One of My Two Eyes, where human conditions face military situations. This is a detail of the reality as lived by Palestinians and Israelis daily in Israel and the Occupied Territories. This “detail” is what makes life unbearable.

This title is only available on Radical Closure.

Palestine, April 15th-16th 2007

Moving from one hotel in Bethlehem to another in East Jerusalem, the filmmaker encounters a series of problems involving a ceiling, a video camera and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Dirty Pictures is the seventh episode in the Hotel Diaries series, a collection of video recordings made in the world's hotel rooms, which relate personal experiences and reflections to contemporary conflicts in the Middle East.

The Earth Is Young takes as its starting point a series of interviews conducted with Young Earth Creationists, who find evidence of a six-day, six-thousand-year old creation in their reading of the fossil and geological record. The film frames these encounters with depictions of the slow and patient work of young paleontologists, and the strange, shimmering life in a drop of pond water, both of which point toward a world far older and more complex, if no less fantastic.

The film centers on the images of the Gulf War, which caused worldwide outrage in 1991. In the shots taken from projectiles homing in on their targets, bomb and reporter were identical, according to a theory put forward by the philosopher Klaus Theweleit. At the same time it was impossible to distinguish between the photographed and the (computer) simulated images. The loss of the 'genuine picture' means the eye no longer has a role as historical witness. It has been said that what was brought into play in the Gulf War was not new weaponry, but rather a new policy on images.

"How can the distinction between "man" and "machine" still be made given today's technology? In modern weapons technology the categories are on the move: intelligence is no longer limited to humans. In Eye/Machine II, Farocki has brought together visual material from both military and civilian sectors, showing machines operating intelligently and what it is they see when working on the basis of image processing programs. The traditional man-machine distinction becomes reduced to "eye/machine", where cameras are implanted into the machines as eyes.

Artist Rabih Mroué looks back at old audio recordings, which were made by him and his parents to be sent as audio letters to his brother while he studied abroad. The old recordings become the site of a political critique of the packaged values of communism, resistance and martyrdom.

This title is only available on Radical Closure.

A woman recounts her story of the mass exodus of Palestinians from Jerusalem. Beginning with the arrival and ending with the departure, the tale moves backwards in time and through various landscapes. The events are neither undone nor is the story untold; instead, Farther than the eye can see traces a decaying experience to a place that no longer exists.

Fences Make Senses re-stages and interrogates international barriers and borders using the bodies of non-refugees. Through a series of rehearsals, Barber aims to have privileged bodies experience the themes, situations, and ideas that refugees frequently face. This video was produced in response to the great number of documentaries the artist witnessed that interviewed the unfortunate in their impoverished conditions. Kept in limbo and squalor for years, these refugees are casually disliked by their "host" country.

The Flag, 2006

"The Flag is the second part of a video series about the state-controlled national day ceremonies of the Turkish Republic. Shot during the April 23rd Children’s Day celebrations, which mark the establishment of the new Turkish Parliament, and hence the official demise of the Ottoman Empire back in 1920, this split screen film documents a pompous patriotic performance devised by elders to be performed by children.

Forbidden to Wander chronicles the experiences of a 25-year-old Arab American Christian woman traveling on her own in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the summer of 2002. The film is a reflection on the complexity of Palestinian existence and the torturously disturbing “ordinariness” of living under constant curfew. The film’s title reflects this, as the Arabic words used to describe the imposed curfew “mane’ tajawwul” literally translate as “forbidden to wander”.

This installation is based on the re-enactment of Franz Kafka’s allegory "Before the Law", interpreted live over a telephone line by Katharine Gun. Gun was a translator (specializing in Chinese to English translations), working with the British secret service, who chose to leak information compromising the U.S. and U.K. governments in their push for a U.N. resolution for the invasion of Iraq. Gun disclosed their plans to illegally wiretap the delegations of the Security Council holding the balance of power at the U.N.  She was acquitted when it became clear to the government of the U.K.

H2, 2010

Nurit Sharett visited the city of Hebron over the course of a year, teaching video art to a group of young Palestinian women. Over time the artist established firm relationships with three of her students and their families. The video documents everyday life in that microcosm, dissimilar to any other city.

A portrait of a studio photographer, Her + Him VAN LEO also examines the photography of the 1940s and 50s from a critical perspective rather than a nostalgic one. This documentary utilizes traditional portrait photography and video in a dialogue between two media: crafted black and white print, and the electronically colored and manipulated screen. This dialog comments on the transformations in art practices and terminologies, and evokes some of the social/urban/political transformations that took place in Egypt over 50 years of its recent history.

A Palestinian filmmaker is writing a script in his New York apartment during the first Gulf war. As much as he tries to shut himself off from the exterior world, images of past wars in the Middle East come back to haunt him.

This title is only available on Radical Closure.