Ammiel Alcalay is poet, translator, critic, scholar and activist; he teaches in the Department of Classical, Middle Eastern & Asian Languages & Cultures at Queens College and is a member of the faculties of American Studies, Comparative Literature, English, and Medieval Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center where is also Deputy Chair of the Ph.D. Program in English. He was the first holder of the Lannan Visiting Chair in Poetics at Georgetown University and has been a visiting professor at Stanford University.
By Mischa Geracoulis
Maria Callas, un artista avanguardia, definitive diva, and arguably the greatest opera singer of modern times, is currently the subject of a dramatic presentation at the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles. The exhibit is an array of Callas' stage costumes and jewelry, rare photos and film, books, letters, and a special screening of the Maria Callas Biography documentary (courtesy of the BIOGRAPHY® channel)—making it a must-see for lovers of art, music, opera, culture, fashion, and design.
This presentation also includes the release of The Young Maria Callas, a previously unpublished diary of her dreams as a young woman, enhanced by the recollections of close friends who knew her throughout her life's victories, hardships and heartbreaks. The book is published with the combined support of the Italian Cultural Institutes of America (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, and New York), and with whose assistance the exhibit is made possible.
From Maria Gueriera
By Mischa Geracoulis
Levantine Cultural Center presents an exclusive screening and discussion of the critical hit that took France by storm in 2008, winning a César for Best Film, from writer/director Abdellatif Kachiche (Tunisia).
In this complex and moving portrait of a North African immigrant family in a southern French city, aging protagonist Slimane Bejii is a divorced father down on his luck who seeks to change his fortunes by opening his own restaurant, serving his ex-wife's famous fish couscous. The family rallies around this common cause, despite the financial hurdles they must overcome, and the racial and class discrimination from local officials.
"The Secret of the Grain" is an extraordinary film from Tunisian-born writer/director Abdellatif Kachiche whose cinematic eye successfully enters into the most intimate parts of his characters in a style akin to Italian Neo-Realist films of the 1940s and 1950s. Little wonder the film picked up a César for Best Film and appeared on numerous critics' top ten lists for 2008, including that of A.O. Scott of the New York Times.
A post-film audience discussion will be led by Levantine Cultural Center's artistic director, Jordan Elgrably, whose family emigrated from Morocco to France, and Pani Norindr, Associate Professor of French & Comparative Literature, and Chair of the department of Comparative Literature at USC. Dr. Norindr received his doctorate in Romance Languages and Literatures from Princeton University. He is the author of Phantasmatic Indochina: French Colonial Ideology in Architecture, Film, and Literature (Duke University Press). He focuses his research on French, Francophone, and Southeast Asian cinema. He has recently published an essay on Rachid Bouchareb's "Days of Glory" in Yale French Studies.
Tickets available here online, or at the door but subject to availability (space is limited).
"The Secret of the Grain" is the first in Levantine Cultural Center's series this year, "New Voices in Middle Eastern Cinema", which takes place the third Thursday of each month. The February selection on Feb. 19, 2010 is Amin Matalqa's "Captain Abu Raed."
Read a review of this highly-lauded film in the Levantine Review.
The precarious status of North African immigrants in France grounds the complex family drama that is "The Secret of the Grain." Taking its title from the savory fish couscous that is a signature dish of North African Arabs and Jews, the movie enters into the difficult world of one family led by a broken patriarch named Slimane.
Slimane works on the docks of an unnamed French city where his time as a laborer is about done. After working for over 30 years at the same place, he is now being moved out as labor costs are being slashed and he is now over 60 years old. We quickly learn that Slimane is divorced from his wife Souad and has a whole bunch of children and grandchildren. The film shows us a paterfamilias who is worn out, his family bursting at the seams and tensions everywhere. Souad complains that he is late with the alimony checks and his daughter Karima is fighting mightily with her two-year-old daughter to get her potty trained.
By Tamim Ansary
Review by Tara Marie Good
In 1940 Walter Benjamin wrote, "To articulate what is past does not mean to recognize ‘how it really was.' It means to take control of a memory, as it flashes in a moment of danger." For the German-Jewish Marxist philosopher that moment of danger was the Nazi march on Europe. The moment of danger that inspired Afghani born Tamim Ansary to articulate Islamic history in Destiny Disrupted was September 11th.
Destiny Disrupted is a historical narrative of the Islamic world addressing the chasm seen to separate Western and Middle Eastern histories. The main thesis presented by Ansary is that the history of Islam and the West are two parallel histories, which overlap at points, but are fundamentally separate. Claiming to represent a general Muslim perception, Ansary charts Middle Eastern history from the ancient world to the western colonial and economic expansion in the modern era.
This program includes a brief review of roles in film and television, followed by a spirited dicussion, and questions from the audience. Panelists include Ahmed Ahmed, comedian and actor, Reza Aslan, author of No God, but god and How to Win a Cosmic War; John Tehranian, attorney and author of Whitewashed: America's Invisible Middle Eastern Minority; Maz Jobrani, actor and comedian ("Axis of Evil Comedy Tour"; "The Interpreter"); and Shiva Rose, actress ("David & Layla," "CSI Miami"), activist and playwright.