Cinema Island. 2018


Watch the film 19’19”   Read review by Melissa Gronlund  Hear Conversation with Hammad Nasar

The latest iteration in the Cinema Island series continues to explore cinema as a social space and a machine, which turns private experience into a public expression. As with previous editions (Open Cinema and Cinema Island HK) the project aims at encouraging a wider community engagement with the archive, placing the cinematic reflection at the centre of such an endeavour. The Pavilion’s architecture, a result of a design competition, conveys openness, publicness and intimacy, providing an invitation for the visitors to gather and to acknowledge their own place in the cultural exchange.

The project consists of two integral parts: a cinema structure approx. 20m2 in area accommodating up to 25 spectators and a looped film comprising archival footage and newly recorded soundtrack, screened inside the structure. The film is made up from a sequence of 3 minutes chapters allowing the visitors to enter the screening at anytime.

Inspired by the Arabian Nights edition illustrated by my step-father, artist Janusz Grabiański, published by Jonathan Cape in London in 1964, the project explores the fairy tale as a form of agency. The stories originally narrated by Scheherezade can be understood as a mechanism employed in aid of changing one’s own destiny, in the film version we hear those stories again spoken with Arabic regional dialects by women  involved in cultural institutions of UAE. They can be heard but not seen, it is their voices that provide a soundtrack to the film edited from silent footage obtained through research in BP Media Archive and from private individuals.

The cultural memory embedded in the official sources often lacks female representation.  It was crucial to point to the oral tradition and exchanges between generations of women connecting them with the contemporary technologies of sharing. Collaboratively assembled soundtrack  queries the relationship between repetition and self-determination through greater attention to the mother tongue as a foundational experience structuring meaning.




Commissioned by DCT as part of the Gateway 2018 Exhibition Structures of Meaning | Architectures of Perception Abu Dhabi Art 2018.

Curated by Hammad Nasar with Sophie Persson

Cinema Pavilion designed by MMI Architects (Georges Massoud, Aram Moradian, Summer Islam)

Film 19’19” Arabic with English subtitles

Editor Elodie Fouqueau at Flock.

Sound Luca Nasciuti

Singer Noor Habbab

Voices of Dyala Nusseibeh (Ali Baba), Lana Shamma (Juha and the Donkey), Hind Mezaina (Sinbad), Shaikha Al Mazrou (Poem by Hamad Bin Sougat), Raghda Al Kabani (Scheherazade, Night 55)

Recording Robert Jack

Research and Translation Rim Kalsoum

Assistance Mei Mei Xiao

Archives BP Video Library and the Family Archive of Ahmed Al Areef Al Dhaheri