skip to Main Content

Gulf in Focus: Contrast & Conformity

Shorts programme + Q&A | 97′

Who by fire, who by water
Who in the desert, who lost at seas
Who for his bloodlust, who for her dreams
Who by broken promises, who by his own accord

Haunted by the specters of its pasts, impoverished by scant narration as parched as its landscape, the Gulf holds fantasy, darkness and mysticism close to the crevices of its heart. Seeking refuge from its attributed meanings and manufactured images, we encounter instead the elements of magic, dreams, mysticism and mystery which have long seduced the shores and hinterlands of the (Arabian) Gulf.

More dreamscape than lineup, in this programme we live inside the bodies of its subjects, possessing them and flirting with their souls. Traveling, spiralling and drowning… we shall journey behind their eyes.

Through the burdened eyelashes of Bahrain’s racing donkeys we witness a father-and-son bond painted through the director’s own lived tragedy. In Mohammed Hammad’s flight of psychedelic fancy, we’re enchanted to Jeddah on a dizzying journey through a kaleidoscopic declaration of one man’s lovesick worship of cinema and the promise of witchcraft. As the sun sets over Maitha’s aquatic dreams, we look out to the shores of what was once “The Trucial Coast” seeking to fulfill a simple promise. Darkness befalls us as we swallow grief standing in the tightness of Aljadel’s chest somewhere in Saudi Arabia, we burn at the fire through her eyes. We wade the marshlands for our final port of call, in Chibayish, standing neck
deep in the shared silent traumas of the Gulf inflicting Southern Iraq and Kuwait’s ecological and social fabric.
In jarring contradictions, the cadence of dreams rise and fall, scream and whisper; a neverending cacophony.

Who by silence? Who by scream?
Who in the marches? Who at the stake?
Who by distant glory? Who bitten by a snake?
Now, who shall we say is calling?


Bar Saar (dir. Mohammed Jassim, 2023, 33min)

This documentary explores the life of a small Bahraini community through the eyes of Abu Ahmed and his son, following their journey into the fascinating local pastime of donkey racing.


Yallah Yallah Beenah! (dir. Mohammad Hammad, 2023, 19min) 

Mohammed Hammad writes, directs, produces and music composes as M.F.Hammad in this experimental, short, comedy, horror, musical extravaganza, where all rules are sent out the window in this fun journey through cinematic history and Jeddawi nostalgia.


A Small Dream (dir. Saraa al Shehhi, 2022, 15min) 

Maitha, a young woman has a small and seemingly simple dream of swimming in the sea. She encounters
various obstacles and struggles to find a balance between fulfilling her dream and her fear of judgement.


Chibayish (dir. Alia Farid, 2023, 14min) 

Alia Farid’s Chibayish examines how nature in southern Iraq has been viewed as both an accomplice and
harbourer of political resistance. Filmed at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Chibayish records the artist’s interactions with three young marshland residents: Riad Samir and Jassim and Qassim Mohammed. It includes footage of the children caring for a water buffalo, describing their geography, naming members of the community, and traversing a marsh engulfed by oil infrastructure and industrial waste. Chibayish is part of a larger group of works that Farid has developed since 2018 focused on the impact of extractive industries on southern Iraq and Kuwait’s ecological and social fabric. Like her installation
Palm Orchard (2022), Chibayish is an exploration of cultural identity, history, colonialism, and the right to remain.

The Last Dismissal (dir. Jowaher Al Amri, 2023, 15min) 

Aljadel, a grieving Saudi teenager, refuses to participate in a chant with her middle-school choir honouring her deceased best friend. Meanwhile, the power hungry Main Teacher, rejects their permission to chant and decides instead to order the students to participate in an activity to re-enact the shrouding the dead. When Aljedal watches her friend being shrouded, her anger boils over and she rises to action, leading the rest of the girls to do the same.

About the curator

Butheina Kazim is the founder of Cinema Akil, the only independent arthouse cinema in the Gulf region programming repertory cinema programs at their flagship home in Alserkal Avenue, at their new outpost in 25 Hours Hotel in Dubai and through the nomadic cinema across the GCC. She was awarded the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture and was named by Fast Company Middle East as one of the Most Creative People in Business in 2023. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the Network of Arab Alternative Screens where Cinema Akil is a member. As a Fulbright Scholar, Kazim obtained an MA in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University and  lives and works in Dubai. Instagram @butheinahk | Twitter @butheina

COUNTRY: Various countries


London – ICA

Sun 23 June 20:45

Dates & Tickets coming soon 

Back To Top

Join Our Community

Stay in touch with SAFAR and get the latest news on films, screenings and so much more!
Skip to content