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Special Collections

Middle East Studies and Middle Eastern Diaspora Collection

Presenting challenging alternatives to mainstream representations of the peoples of the Middle East and the Middle East Diaspora, the titles in our collection document struggles against colonialism, occupation, gender oppression and unfair media representations.

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Brigid Maher
2005, 20 min., Color, US/Iraq
Keisha Johnson, an African American soldier, goes AWOL in Iraq after she flees a violent incident. On her "walkabout" journey, she encounters children who decide to help her. Keisha and the children grow to understand each other despite the political barriers that have torn their lives apart.
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Mai Masri
1990, 50 min., Color, Palestine
This film offers a rare view of the Intifada as seen through the eyes of Palestinian children. At age five, Fadi is already throwing stones, while for Hana, 11, the Intifada is a new way of life which, 'has taught us to depend on ourselves.' Through deeply moving interviews we learn what a tremendous psychological impact the curfews, house demolitions, night raids, expulsions,school closings and death and destruction have had on the children.
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Mohammed Soueid & Tele Liban
1994, 28 min., Color, Lebanon
A documentary on the life and ambitions of a young Lebanese cross-dresser. The video follows her journey from soldier to cabaret dancer in an effort to raise funds for her sex change operation. Shot in Beirut, Cinema Fouad weaves a complex and multi-layered story of sexuality, identity and desire and paints a compelling portrait of its subject.
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Konrad Aderer
2003, 9 min., Color, US
The late Farouk Abdel-Muhti was born in Ramallah, Palestine in 1947. His mother died when Israeli Occupation forces refused to let his family through a checkpoint to reach a hospital. He came to the U.S. in the late 1970s. A well-known figure in the activist community who has worked hard for the cause of human rights, Farouk was one of several Palestinian activists across the country who have found themselves in immigrant detention after protesting Israel's military operations in the West Bank and Gaza. Farouk was arrested April 26, 2002 by a team of task force officers as a result of a January 2002 Justice Department initiative directing agents to arrest immigrants with outstanding deportation orders, specifically targeting those from the Middle East and Pakistan.
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Susan Youssef
2003, 35 min., Color
FORBIDDEN TO WANDER chronicles the experiences of a young Arab American woman traveling on her own in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the summer of 2002. The film is a reflection on the complexity of Palestinian existence and the disturbing ordinariness of living under constant curfew. The film's title reflects this, as the Arabic words used to describe the imposed curfew "mane' tajawwul" literally translate as "forbidden to wander." This film is also the journey of personal discovery for the filmmaker, the wanderer who falls in love with a Palestinian man in Gaza.
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Marjan Tehrani
2004, 57 min., Color, Israel
A documentary that follows three women, a Jewish-Israeli, a Jewish-Ukranian and a Palestinian, through their daily lives in the bustling microcosm of TelAviv/Yafo. HER ISRAEL presents a much-needed humanistic and objective eye into the lives of these three women as they struggle to find resolution with their own identities and self-realization in oppressive, chaotic and precarious circumstances.
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Akram Zataari
1994, 33 min., Color, Lebanon
This series of shorts documents the lives of Beiruti women. "Make-up" (8 min) is a meditation on age, death and the cycle of life as a widow who lives overlooking the Bashoura Cemetery reflects on the circumstances of her life. In "The Fountain (10 min), the family of an Egyptian carpet maker living in the ruins of an old mansion gather round and tell stories. As the father repairs the fountain, they talk about the memories the mansion holds for them. In "Motorcycle" (8 min) a noble and wealthy man had no children to inherit his wealth - a woman who had worked as his servant is now the only one left to tell his story.
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Tanaz Eshaghian & Sara Nodojoumi
2002, 27 min., Color, US
From the Iran hostage crisis of '79 to the WTC attacks, images of hostile Iranians and Middle Easterners have been well-ingrained in the American psyche, but no informed images come to mind representing Iranians living on American soil. The Iranian Revolution took place in 1979, after which over one million Iranians fled the country. Since then hundreds of thousands of Iranians have been living in the United States. "I Call Myself Persian" lets Iranian-Americans speak of how their identities are affected by being made to feel like outsiders in a country they now call home.
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Peter Barbosa & Garrett Lenoir
Producer: Peter Barbosa
2003, 56 min., Color, US
“I Exist” is a documentary exploring individual journeys of Lesbian and Gay people of Middle Eastern cultures living in the United States. The cultural and religious challenges that many Lesbian and Gay Middle Eastern people endure are unparalleled. This documentary shows the journey many take in learning how to join both their cultural heritage and sexual identity. Even with these challenges, stories of hope emerge and show that a family's love can always win over hatred and ignorance.
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Elia Suleiman & Jayce Salloum
1990, 45 min., Color
Using clips from feature films, cartoons and network tv, this unique video provides a rare critique of the portrayal of Arabs in Western media. Collaborating images of Valentino, Barbara Eden, Golda Meir, Elvis Presley and Mr. Magoo, lead a barrage of found footage that is juxtaposed with text and location footage shot on the West Bank and in Gaza. It also points to the negative influence of Arab stereotypes on U.S. views and foreign policy.
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Tina M. Bastajian
2001, 19 min., Color, US
Jagadakeer is an Armenian word meaning fate, or literally, what is written on one's forehead. Memory, nostalgia, displacement, absence and reconnection are explored using the Armenian genocide as a point of reference and a visual/aural backeams op. Nuance and gesture are accentuated by stories and sounds, which take us backwards to the past and forward to the future simultaneously. These stops and starts form a complex series of transitions to revisit both real and imagined sites to evoke a sense of homeland, a lost and enigmatic landscape.
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Clifton Watson
Producer: Third World Newsreel
2005, 11 min., Color, US
An alternately serious and humorous "day in the life" of Ralph, a Palestinian-American grocery store owner, whose Brooklyn store is the neighborhood drop in center. As the 2004 election approached, Ralph reflected on being a Palestinian and on voting for the first time, while the neighborhood chimed in. A short that wrecks the western media stereotype of Palestinians, and a display of a truly multicultural neighborhood.
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Sedika Mojadidi
2000, 46 min., Color, US/Afghanistan
KABUL KABUL documents the filmmaker's journey back to Afghanistan after a 23 year absence. She recounts her struggle to reconcile the different levels of loss that many like her have experienced from the war. Her piece wrestles with the irreconcilable impulses of memory, home, representation, loss, and desire in the face of a 10 year occupation and civil war that has left Afghanistan and its people devastated.
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Jason DaSilva
2003, 80 min., Color, US
Through critical lenses, this film explores a lesson that history has forgotten in a country that is alienating its citizens and violating their basic rights. During World War II it was Japanese-Americans, now it is brown skin, Muslims and people of Arabic and South Asian descent. Can America survive this perpetration of gross injustices yet again? This documentary follows the events post-9/11, examining the roundups and racial attacks that continue to occur in the name of national security. The film contains stories told by individuals who have felt the severity of wartime racism in America and explores the sullied past in the hopes of creating lessons for a different future.
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Tanaz Eshaghian
2000, 26 min., Color, US
After the Iranian Revolution took place in 1979, after which 80,000 Persian Jews fled the country. Since then, thousands of young women have grown up in Iranian homes in the United States, where they negotiate the contradictions of their conservative, traditional world at home and the America that lies outside their front doors. This documentary follows the filmmaker as she attempts to reconcile her own independence with the expectations of her parents, extended family and the occasional matchmaker.
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Norman Cowie, Ahmed Damian & Dan Walworth
1986, 58 min., Color
Surrounded by settlements and the encroaching Jewish city of Nazareth Elite, the life of Nazareth's 55,000 Arabs remains a daily struggle. This documentary shows Palestinian Arabs living as Israeli citizens and their efforts to gain equal rights. The video presents many of the issues that led to the Intifada in 1988 as Arab and Jewish officials, activists and workers analyze the conflicts between Palestinian and Israeli sovereignty.
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Vatche Boulghourjian
Producer: Rebus Film Production
2002, 39 min., Color, Lebanon
NOBLE SACRIFICE explores the nexus between mourning and militancy as expressed in the annual Shiite observance of Ashura. Participants in the procession engage in self-flagellation, bloodletting and other forms of self-inflicted torture to express the depth of mourning for the martyrdom of Shiite leader Imam Hussein in 680 AD. The history of the Imam related by preachers to crowds of lamenting worshippers is that of a just person suffering at the hands of heartless oppressors. In the contemporary context of war and occupation in south Lebanon, Ashura has been interpreted as an allegorical reflection of the present.
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Nir Nader, et al
Producer: Video '48
2000, 50 min., Color, Palestine/Israel
In 1991, Israeli authorities attempted to evict the Arab residents of the Galilean village of Ramia, telling a district court that the land was needed in order to build homes for Jewish immigrants. The Jewish city of Carmiel, founded in 1964, is now taking over the village's land. Public pressure delayed the eviction, but today Carmiel has all but swallowed up the village. Huge apartment houses have sprung up, while the people of Ramia, prohibited from building, have had to remain in crowded tin shacks as if time had stopped for them. With both legal and financial prowess, Carmiel has been put to the test by the popular struggles of Ramia.
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Sonja de Vries
2005, 55 min., Color, US/Israel
REFUSENIKS uses stunning archival footage, still photos and interviews to document the stories of Israeli men and women who refuse to serve in the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
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Sam Pollard
Producer: Third World Newsreel
2005, 4 min., Color, US
Sajda Abdul-Rahim, a college student living in New York City, talks about her religious upbringing as a Muslim and her quest for a less traditional and more personal spiritual connection with God. Part of the Call for Change Series.
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Jayce Salloum
1994, 49 min., Color, Canada/China
A personal essay on the popular misrepresentation of Lebanon and Beirut which documents the filmmakers own experiences while working in Lebanon. Working with its own conceptual baggage, the video situates itself between genres in order to better expose commonplace assumptions. The examination is thus the actual complexities of the identities of artist and subject. The result is a critical engagement of the disparities and disjunctions arising on site.
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Janice Ahn
2006, 8 min., Color, US
In the months prior to 9-11, an Afghan woman named Samira Rahman narrowly escapes from the Taliban, losing her family. After settling down in Long Island and beginning a new family, Samira is taken away by Homeland Security agents in the middle of the night. Her husband Abdul, who runs a coffee cart in South Ferry, and their two young boys await news of her fate.
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Jayce Salloum
2006, 11 min., Color, Canada
In this video essay about dystopia in contemporary times, Jayce Salloum presents raw footage documenting the 1982 massacre of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon. Working directly, viscerally, and metaphorically, untitled part 3b provides an elegiac response to the Palestinian dispossession.
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Jayce Salloum & Walid Ra'ad
1993, 60 min., Color, Canada/Lebanon
An oblique, albeit powerful experimental documentary which examines the politics and economics of South Lebanon against the backdrop of the Israeli occupation. This video focuses on the social, intellectual and popular resistance to the Israeli occupation, as well as conceptions of "the land" and culture, and the imperiled identities of the Lebanese people. A not so straight forward documentary, this video bitingly critiques the traditional documentary genre.
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Shara K. Lange
2008, 60 min., Color, France
"I thought that in France life would be easier—it’s the land of liberty. But it wasn’t like that at all." --Fatima Rhazi
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Yun Jong Suh
Producer: Third World Newsreel
2001, 12 min., Color, US
This short is a poignant and revealing document of the thoughts, hopes and fears of Muslim, Arab-American and South Asian children in the milieu of a country calling for war and unconditional compliance after the events of September 11th. Anxiety gives way to determination and perseverance as each of the children refuse to submit to popular sentiment and prejudice.
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Simin Farkhondeh
2009, 41 min., Color, US/Iran
Inspired by the work of Sara Gomez and Cuban Imperfect Cinema, Who Gives Kisses Freely From Her Lips, weaves together fiction and documentary to tell the story of a filmmaker determined to make a film on temporary marriage, a taboo subject in Shia Iran. Salomé, conducts documentary interviews with real Iranians who have engaged in temporary marriage. They speak frankly about the pros and cons of this type of union as apposed to permanent marriage. In the process of learning about Salomé's alienation from the customs of her homeland, we learn about the complexities of the Shia' Islamic institution of temporary marriage.
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Juliana Fredman & Dan O'Reilly-Rowe
2006, 57 min., Color, US/Palestine
This documentary follows ordinary people’s efforts to overcome extraordinary obstacles in pursuit of routine health care in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Shot on location with patients and health workers over seven months, this film offers a thought-provoking, compassionate perspective on life in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
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Sedika Mojadidi
Producer: Third World Newsreel
2002, 12 min., Color, US
An experimental portrait of an Afghan woman in Los Angeles in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center and the war in Afghanistan. Exploring the relationships between image and voice, trauma and memory, the piece focuses on an interview with Zulaikha Wardak, an Afghan shopkeeper who shares her reactions to the bombings and her own memories of war in Kabul.
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