By Dick Platkin
The other night I happened to catch a screening of the documentary The Suffering Grasses at the Levantine Cultural Center. The 1-hr film directed by Iara Lee (Cultures of Resistance) primarily reveals the Syrian civil war from the viewpoint of non-government forces, including the Free Syrian Army. A major point of the documentary is that Syrian civilians, particularly children and women, have suffered the most during this armed conflict, largely at the hands of the Assad regime.
A year and a half on, with more than 30,000 dead and counting, the ongoing conflict in Syria has become a microcosm for the complicated politics of the region. Against the backdrop of the Arab Spring, this film by Iara Lee (Cultures of Resistance) explores the Syrian civil war through the humanity of the civilians who have been killed, abused, and displaced to the squalor of refugee camps. In all such conflicts, large and small, it is civilians—women and children, families and whole communities—who suffer at the leisure of those in power. Read an op-ed on Syria by Iara Lee. This screening event is cosponsored in part by CODE PINK Women for Peace and repeats on Thurs., Dec. 6 at 7:30 pm. Syrian exiles, actor Jihad Abdo and artist Fadia Afashe will join us to speak about the film and realities on the ground. Read a new view of The Suffering Grasses.
The Inside/Outside Gallery presents a new one-woman show by Syrian artist Fadia Afashe. At a time when thousands of lives have been lost in the struggle for Syria's future, Afashe's paintings express the desire for peace and hope.
By Eve Chayes Lyman
Was that the heart of Syria that came beating into a small hushed room in West LA's Levantine Center on July 15? I felt it throbbing inside of me, ushered in by the ringing words of Dr. Mohja Kahf, a Syrian American poetess from Arkansas, who read her work in a benefit performance as part of an initiative to raise funds for a brave new project, Syrian Freedom Waves, a radio station that will broadcast from a ship in International Waters off the shores of Syria, attempt to penetrate the media censorship and counteract the propaganda and lies churned out by the Syrian State media.
Directors Julia Meltzer & Laura Nix will present the L.A. premiere of their film (58 minutes, 2012) The Light in Her Eyes, on Thurs., June 14, 7:30 pm (7 pm doors) at the Levantine Cultural Center. The screening includes a panel with Meltzer, Nix Maria Khani and Jennie Pasquarella (ACLU). The film was completed just prior to the beginning of the Syrian uprising after the filmmakers spent time in Damascus. This special screening will benefit MATAR*, a Syrian women's group. Seating limited, RSVP to 323.413.2001.
Samir Twair, Syrian activist, journalist and correspondent for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, spoke at the Levantine Center on Sunday, November 6, 2011, about the history of and current situation in Syria.
The talk was one in the series "Progressive Conversations on Israel/Palestine and U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East," sponsored jointly by the Levantine Center, LA Jews for Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Friends of Sabeel Los Angeles and Orange County.
Omar Souleyman is one of Syria's most popular street singers. The timing couldn't be better for this rare US tour. His latest album "Jazeera" is getting attention even as protesters are changing Syria's image abroad. The Arabic word "jazeera" means "island" or "peninsula" in English, but it seems unlikely that the people at Souleyman's label, Sublime Frequencies, were going for something as Malibu breezy as "Island Nights" for the title of this compilation.
Even though many Americans and Europeans are aware of the distortions and exaggerations some Western media outlets have made about Arabic news network Al Jazeera, the bugaboo surrounding the word feels as if it will limit this album's audience. That's unfortunate, because Jazeera Nights: Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria is probably the most dynamic collection of Omar Souleyman's work that Sublime Frequencies has yet released.
Bana Hilal and the Orange County Friends of the Levantine Cultural Center present Syrian American poet/novelist Mohja Kahf, who makes a rare Southern California appearance in support of the Levantine Cultural Center at the Woman's Club of Laguna Beach, on Tuesday, September 28, where she will read from, sign and discuss her books The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, and E-mails from Scheherazad. As the New York Times wrote, "Mohja Kahf, an Arab-American writer, draws sharp, funny, earthy portraits of the fault line separating Muslim women from their Western counterparts."
A portion of the proceeds benefits the LCC, a nonprofit that champions a greater understanding of the Middle East and North Africa by presenting artistic and educational programs that bridge political and religious divides.