U.Va. Panel Oct. 18 Explores Middle East Turmoil Through Film

October 14, 2013

Viola Shafik, author of two books on Arab cinema, and a panel of University of Virginia experts will explore the background to recent events in the Middle East as seen through film. Shafik will speak following Friday’s presentation of two films in Clark Hall, room 107, starting at 1 p.m.

“Ms. Shafik will talk broadly about the ways in which the revolutions have failed the people, but have sparked a revolutionary movement in the arts,” said Elizabeth Thompson, an associate professor in the Corcoran Department of History specializing in the Middle East, who will moderate the discussion.

Shafik, author of “Arab Cinema” and “Egyptian Popular Cinema,” will present two films: her controversial 2011 documentary, “My Name is Not Ali,” about an Arab actor and his relationship with noted German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder; and “It Was Better Tomorrow,” a  2012 documentary, directed by Hind Boujemaa, about a homeless woman during the Tunisian uprising in January 2011. Shafik will speak following the films.

Her talk will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Hector Amaya, an associate professor in U.Va.’s Department of Media Studies and a scholar of revolutionary film in Latin America; Hanadi al-Samman, an associate professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures specializing in modern Arabic literature and literary theory; and Alison Levine, the Horace W. Goldsmith Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of French Language and Literature, who has published a book on French documentary film.

“Viola Shafik is one of the most prominent scholars and filmmakers from the Arab world today,” Thompson said. “She brings a practitioner’s eye to her histories of Arab and Egyptian film, and a scholar’s eye to the camera lens in her documentaries. She offers us a view of the ordinary people ignored by CNN and al Jazeera during the ‘Arab Spring.’”

Shafik, who holds a Ph.D., is a freelance filmmaker, film curator and film scholar. She grew up in Egypt and Germany and obtained higher degrees in Middle East studies and cinema studies at the universities of Stuttgart and Hamburg. Between 1998 and 2005, she taught film studies at the American University in Cairo.  

She has worked as a consultant for international film festivals and film training programs, including La Biennale di Venezia, the Dubai Film Connection and the al-Rawi Screenwriters Lab. She is also a member of the selection committee of the World Cinema Fund (Berlinale).

The films and panel discussion are free and open to the public. They will be held from 1 to 7 p.m. in Clark Hall, room 107. Shafik’s appearance is sponsored by the Buckner W. Clay Endowment, the Center for International Studies and the Corcoran Department of History.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications