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Middle East Diasporic

Women's Short Film Weekend Showcases Issues, Talent from the Region

On June 6th and 7th of 2015, the Levantine Cultural Center/The Markaz hosted the Women's Voices Now Film Salon, celebrating the winning short films of the 2014 Women's Voices Now Short Film Festival. The event, co-organized by Women's Voices Now executive director Heidi Basch-Harod and Eszter Zimanyi, Markaz film committee chair, sought to create a dialogue about the numerous issues facing women in Muslim-majority societies by showcasing new films produced in the Southwest Asia-North Africa (SWANA) region. In addition, the Film Salon aimed to connect these issues to those that all women face across the globe.

The fifteen winning films were split into four core themes to encourage discussion and debate. These were "States of Violence," which contained films dealing primarily with state and governmental forms of gendered discrimination and violence; "Conditions of Culture," showcasing films that address oppressive cultural practices; "Body Talk," encompassing films dealing with sex and sexuality; and "Women Without Men," which offered films that hope to inspire a world without patriarchy.

Because the filmmakers are all scattered across various continents, they were not available to come to the Levantine Center/Markaz to discuss their work. Instead, Eszter invited guest speakers to serve on panels and facilitate group discussion after each themed section. These panelists, comprised of young academic scholars and aid workers who focus specifically on the SWANA region, helped to place the selected films within larger social, political, and historical contexts. The panelists included Umayyah Cable (doctoral candidate in American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California), Shadee Malaklou (doctoral candidate in Culture and Theory at UC Irvine), Nausheen Sheikh (graduate student in the Asian American Studies department at UCLA), Zeena Aljawad and Sabreen Shalabi (both activists and aid workers who have collaborated with various organizations).

Women's Voices Now seeks to empower all women living in Muslim-majority societies by promoting their free expression, thereby giving voice to the struggles for civil, economic, political, and gender rights. Learn more at Women's Voices Now.  

The Women's Voices Now Film Salon was an important milestone in terms of inter-organizational collaboration. Both Saturday and Sunday evenings were well attended, and resulted in fruitful and engaging conversations with audience members after the films. Topics such as sexual harassment, Islamic feminism, Orientalism, colonialism, and international solidarity politics were all critically and respectfully explored and discussed. It was collectively felt that the Women's Voices Now Film Salon offered a fantastic and valuable opportunity to challenge people's thinking and to bridge cultural divides between various religions and ethnicities. The response from audience members has been overwhelmingly positive, and the Levantine/Markaz looks forward to hosting more events that emphasize community discussion and women's rights.

—Staff Report 

Meditations on the Oud with Dimitris Mahlis

Event Details
Date/Time: 
Aug 6 2015 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Price: 
$12 general admission, $10 members/students
reservations strongly advised: 323.413.2001
Click here to reserve seats
Where: 
The Markaz
5998 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90035-2657
Between La Cienega and Fairfax
street parking and in the CVS underground lot
Subtitle: 
a Levantine banquet of Greek, Turkish and Sephardic compositions

The Markaz, Arts Center for the Greater Middle East presents a special house concert, Meditations on the Oud, performed by oud musician and composer Dimitris Mahlis, who has created a unique evening of live performance and musical history that connects the rich past of the Middle East/Levant with the broader Middle East region of today.

On August 6th he will present the works of Greek, Armenian and Jewish composers of Ottoman classical music. In the rich mosaic that is this tradition, minorities of the empire played a substantial role both in the composition of Ottoman classical music as well as in the making of the instruments on which it was played. Composers such as Kemenceci Nikolaki, Kemani Tatyos, and Tanburi Isak are well known in the musical circles of Turkey and the Middle East, yet largely unknown in their "own" lands. It is in the spirit of coexistence and collaboration that this music will be presented along with the poetry of one of the most famous Greek poets of the Greek diaspora, Constantine Cavafy of Alexandria, Egypt.

Oudist, guitarist and composer Dimitris "Jimmy" Mahlis has become known in musical circles as an eclectic interpreter of many musical traditions. Having a thorough knowledge of both eastern and western musical theory, he has developed a playing style on several instruments which is both earthy yet intricate. As a composer, his pieces have set a standard in cross cultural pollination. He will perform a "Levantine" repertoire sure to be a feast for the ears. Listen to the artist

The Untold Story of Iran: Nina Ansary, Cyrus Copeland & Sussan Deyhim

Event Details
Date/Time: 
Jul 10 2015 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Price: 
Free to the public
Where: 
The Last Bookstore
453 S Spring St – Ground Floor
Los Angeles CA 90013
213.488.0599
Subtitle: 
an evening of literature and music helps us explore Iran

The Markaz, Arts Center for the Greater Middle East (formerly the Levantine Cultural Center) is pleased to cosponsor The Untold Story of Iran at the Last Bookstore. If you'd like an alternative to the Fox News version of what Iran is all about, this is where you want to be on the 10th of July. The evening features Dr. Nina Ansary (Jewels of Allah: The Untold Story of Women in Iran), Cyrus M. Copeland (Off the Radar: A Father's Secret, a Mother's Heroism, and a Son's Quest) and international vocalist Sussan Deyhim (as special musical guest) in a conversation about "The Untold Story of Iran." Guests will engage the audience in a humanist perspective on Iran—through personal experience, scholarly expertise, and musical expression—and a discussion aimed at shattering long encrusted stereotypes, taking us from the ancient Iran that issued the first charter of human rights to the patriarchal society of the present.

Khaliji and Middle Eastern Jazz Concert

Event Details
Date/Time: 
Jul 25 2015 7:30pm - 10:30pm
Price: 
$25 general, $35 preferred reserved seating, $75 VIP front section & gift bag
Seating limited RSVPs strongly advised: 323.413.2001
Click here to buy tickets
Where: 
Pico Union Project
1153 Valencia St
Los Angeles CA 90015
near downtown Los angeles
Subtitle: 
Naser Musa and Souren Baronian ensembles raise funds for the new Markaz

"Like two chemicals that flare upon touching, [Baronian's] music is a remarkable hybrid of two cultures."
—Boston Herald American 

"From the first rich resonant tones of Naser Musa's oud it is rare to find such an exotic variety of rhythms and songs together...capturing the heart and soul of its cultural source. The [songs] all feature Naser Musa's smooth talent on vocals and each is uniquely different, with many subtleties and changes that make listening a satisfying pleasure." —Mesmera


A beautiful concert for dancers and music lovers...Leave your worldly cares at the door, join us for a magical journey that weaves traditional Middle Eastern melodies and song with contemporary fusion compositions from Souren Baronian. Then travel along the Silk Road to the Gulf and listen to the desert music of the Bedouins known as khaliji, passionate songs of the Gulf Arabs, performed by oud master and vocalist Naser Musa and his ensemble. Naser Musa, Souren Baronian and friends perform to help raise funds for the new arts center for the greater Middle East, The Markaz (the center). One night only! Tickets just $25 General Admission/$35 Preferred, or $75 VIP front row seating plus a gift bag.

This is a benefit concert to support the new Arts Center for the Greater Middle East, The Markaz. Come enjoy the best of the best in Los Angeles and contribute to a worthy cause, The Markaz, fighting bias and intolerance, building a stronger Arab, Iranian, Middle Eastern community center.

NASER MUSA is recognized by critics of Middle Eastern music as a talented singer, a gifted songwriter, an oud virtuoso, an award winning composer, and a versatile studio musician. He has composed, arranged, and recorded numerous projects in the Middle East and in the United States. His recordings include the Arabia sound track; Khaliji, a collection of folk songs from the Arabian Gulf region; and Christmas and Beyond, a collection of Western Christmas carols and Arabic church hymns. Naser Musa appears on dozens of albums, including contributions on projects for Hollywood with John Debney and John Cameron among others. He has recorded with pop stars Shakira, Beyonce and Michael Sembello, and has shared the stage with Lebanese vocalists, Sabah and Ragheb Alame, and Egyptian vocalists, Hani Shaker and Hakim. Naser's oud was heard on the soundtrack of the film The Passion of the Christ by director Mel Gibson. 

SOUREN BARONIAN grew up in Spanish Harlem riding two powerful currents of his creativity: his ethnic Armenian heritage, and jazz. His own music is an authentic organic hybrid of those two idioms. The sound of his band is truly unique, applying a jazz vocabulary and the bebop sensibility of Charlie Parker and Lester Young to Middle Eastern rhythms on traditional instruments such as the oud, qanun, G-clarinet and percussions. 

"Women Bought and Sold" Short Film Salon Weekend

Event Details
Date/Time: 
Jun 7 2015 6:00pm - 10:00pm
Price: 
$15 general, $12 students with I.D. (light dinner/soft drinks included)
Reservations strongly advised: 323.413.2001
Click here to reserve seats for June 6
Click here to reserve seats for June 7
Where: 
Levantine Cultural Center
5998 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90035
Between La Cienega and Fairfax
street parking
Subtitle: 
film, food, conversation and activism with Women's Voices Now at the Levantine!

Women Bought and Sold: Voices United Against Violence—a weekend film salon showcasing short films by women of the Arab/Muslim world—aims to portray a deeper understanding of the worldwide issue of sexualized violence against women. Subjects broached in this film salon weekend include trafficking, slavery, domestic, servitude, forced marriages, sexual harassment, sexuality, and sexual freedom. Join us in viewing and discussing these films in the fight against these obstacles to peace, prosperity, and the dignity of women. 

On the menu and included in the price of the ticket area choice of feta cheese and spinach fatayer, cheese fatayer, beef fatayer, bastilla, grape leaves, falafel, hummus and salmon mousse on cucumber. Catering by Bouchra Azizy.

Women Bought and Sold Short Film Salon WeekendWomen Bought and Sold Short Film Salon Weekend 
Women's Voices Now seeks to empower all women living in Muslim-majority societies by promoting their free expression, thereby giving voice to the struggles for civil, economic, political, and gender rights. Learn more at Women's Voices Now

Your film ticket includes a delicious homestyle meal catered by Bouchra Azizy featuring cheese and spinach fatayer, ground beef and veggie rolls, hummus, falafel, salmon mousse on cucumber a bastilla, a delicious Moroccan speciality, plus for dessert, fruit or baklava. See below for each evening's full schedule.  

Saturday, June 6

Theme: States of Violence

Chronicle of Tahrir Square by Nour Zaki
Final Moments by Shadi Amin
Mohtarama by Malek Shafi'i and Diana Saqeb
Take Care by Afrooz Nasersharif
 

Theme: Conditions of Culture

Breaking the Silence by Rajae Hammadi and Global Girl Media
Vomit II - Celia Elslamieh Shomal
Swap - Sayed Masoud Islami

Shadow of the Stone by Fatemeh Keihani 

Guest speakers: Nausheen Sheikh (UCLA), Zeena Aljawad (Arab Youth Collective), and Sabreen Shalabi (activist / aid worker)

Sunday, June 7

Theme: Body Talk

Blobfish by Urgur Ferhat Korkmuz and Atilla Borutcu
In the Name of Tradition by May El Hossamy
The Reflex by Ali and Hussein Mousavi
Get Along by Parya Vatankhah

Theme: Women without Men

Aabida by Maaria Syed
The Virginity Minarets by Farhad Rezaee
Behind the Wheel by Elise Laker

Guest speakers: M. Shadee Malaklou (PhD Candidate, UC Irvine) and Umayyah Cable (PhD Candidate, USC)  

Reza Aslan on "The Power of the Arts" with the Naser Musa Trio

Event Details
Date/Time: 
May 26 2015 7:00pm - 9:30pm
Price: 
A charitable contribution is requested. RSVPs required, address in Bel Air provided upon registration.
Reservations requested before May 21st: 323.413.2001
Donate Here
Where: 
Private address in Bel Air.
Subtitle: 
dinner, a talk, live music in an exclusive benefit event, select guest list only

Mark Amin & Reza Amin cordially invite you to a Levantine Cultural Center fundraiser and introduction to The Markaz* with special guest speaker Reza Aslan on The Power of the Arts, featuring the Naser Musa Trio. A dinner, talk and live music in an exclusive benefit event, select guest list only.

Reza Aslan, host of CNN's forthcoming new religion series Believer, is the cofounder of BoomGen Studios, producing the upcoming ABC show Kings and Prophets which has a diverse cast (Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese, Indian) and the feature film 1001, just sold to Lionsgate based on the classic tale One Thousand and One Nights.

May is a Time to "Celebrate Palestine"

Each year toward mid-May, communities of people supportive of Palestine or Israel (or both) are confronted by two diametrically opposed holidays: Israel's May 14, 1948 Independence Day and Palestine's Nakba Day May 15th. Our May 2015 series will create positive conditions for discussion and action. Please help us make this series successful with your attendance and support. See video from 2013 Celebrate Palestine series presented by the California Charitable Foundation and the LCC.

Get your all-events festival pass, with dinner and a movie on May 16th, just $100!

"Palestine," a group exhibition

Event Details
Date/Time: 
May 9 2015 7:00pm - Jun 30 2015 6:00pm
Price: 
Free to the public
Where: 
Inside/Outside Gallery
Levantine Cultural Center
5998 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90035
Between La Cienega & Fairfax
street parking
Subtitle: 
Ramsey Chahine, John Halaka, Khalid Hussein, Najat El-Taji El-Khairy, Jodet Shuquem, Rk Shuquem

In "Palestine," visitors are invited to reflect on their own connection to historic Palestine, be it direct, ephemeral or matter-of-fact when reflecting upon the palimpsest (the country beneath Israel) in the making 1948-2015, and the works in the show, by Ramsey Chahine, John Halaka, Khalid Hussein, Najat El-Taji El-Khairy, and father and son artists, Jodet Shuquem and R.k. Shuquem.

RAMSEY CHAHINE Influenced by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Picasso and Marc Chagall among others, Ramsey Chahine is a young and prolific artist whose work is playful yet often profound. His paintings express a love of life, as well as a passionate curiosity about the meaning of things. In 2014 the Levantine Cultural Center's Inside/Outside Gallery presented Chahine's one-man show, "The Poison Is the Cure," featuring more than 25 mixed media paintings and sculptures. A Lebanese-Palestinian American, Ramsey was born in Redondo Beach, California. He currently works in New York City. 

JOHN HALAKA John Halaka is an activist artist whose creative work serves as a vehicle for meditation on personal, cultural and political concerns. He creates images that raise questions, for himself as well as for the viewer, about some of the pressing issues of our time. His experiences as an artist of Palestinian descent shape his pictorial investigations of cycles of repression and displacement as well as the personal and political relationship between desire, denial and instability. His recent work in both painting and documentary filmmaking investigates issues of identity construction from personal, familial and political perspectives. "Through my work, I attempt to initiate a dialogue with the viewer that could hopefully instigate transformation, one person at a time. This effort is best summarized by James Baldwin's eloquent observation. "When circumstances are made real by another's testimony, it becomes possible to envision change."

Nowruz Lost and Found, Director's Screening

Event Details
Date/Time: 
May 21 2015 7:30pm - 9:00pm
Price: 
$12 general, $10 members, $7 students ($20 at the door!)
Seating limited! Reservations strongly advised: 323.413.2001
Click here to reserve seats
Where: 
Levantine Cultural Center
5998 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90035
Between La Cienega & Fairfax
street parking
Subtitle: 
or how a first-generation American rediscovered his Persian family's ancient New Year's custom

A movie, comedy and identity!...How many of us in the United States grow up knowing little about our own cultural heritage? In the drive to come to America and integrate, parents often urge their children to assimilate, and as a result, sometimes native languages and traditions fly out the window.

Until recently, this was the case for comedian Kayvon Moezzi, best known by his stage name, K-von, whose Iranian father taught him little about his unique heritage. All that changed not long ago, when K-von discovered the truth about...NOWRUZ. Join K-von at the Levantine Cultural Center for a special screening event, as he ditches the comforts of Hollywood to discover the meaning and traditions behind Nowruz (Persian New Year). Performing stand-up comedy at each stop along the way and with the help of some recognizable celebrities, scholars, and friends, the ancient holiday that K-von almost lost has now been found.

Enjoy film, live comedy and lively discussion with director K-von Moezzi and friends—this film is 100% in English, featuring actor/comedian Maz Jobrani, international vocal sensation Andy, the comedian Iron Sheikh, actor/comedian Ahmed Ahmed, novelist Firouzeh Dumas and others.

Mimouna Moroccan Festival

Event Details
Date/Time: 
Apr 11 2015 8:00pm - 11:00pm
Price: 
$20 in advance, $25 at the door
includes food, event, refreshments; members/students $18
RSVP to 323.413.2001
Click here to reserve seats
Where: 
Levantine Cultural Center
5998 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90035
Between La Cienega & Fairfax
street parking
Subtitle: 
End of Pesach, Rite of Spring Celebration

Traditionally in Morocco the Jewish Moroccans would celebrate Pesach or Passover culiminating in Mimouna, which is like the Rite of Spring (in Iran it's called Nowruz or new year). Prior to the last day of Pesach and the Mimouna celebration, they observe the holiday for a week, and do not eat bread or anything with yeast (thus, no cake, beer etc). At the end of the Passover holiday, everybody gets together to celebrate. Moroccan Muslim neighbors come over with flour, sugar and other ingredients, to make mofletas (large homemade donuts). There is a celebratory table—quite similar to the Iranian Zoroastrian Nowruz table setting, or Haftsin—with items representing the Spring and abundance, like pomegranates, a whole fish, chocolate coins, sweets, fruit and more. Read more about the traditional Mimouna.

Traditional attire welcome (optional), also a full selection of Hamsa (Hand of Fatima) and other evil eye jewelry from Gulnur. Moroccan catering by Bouchra Azizy.

Mimouna: Moroccan Festival is an occasion for us all to be Moroccans, for Arabs, Arab Jews, Jews and their friends to celebrate together. Enjoy the beautiful dance of the striking Rosa Rojas and her group Guedra, with the authentic gnawa music of Youssef Iferd and guest performer Fella Oudane. Everything is included in the price of the ticket: live music, dance, Mimouna table, mofletas, sweets, Moroccan tea and good fortune for the year!