Pakistan One on One is now on Vimeo

Friends, I am thrilled to share that in addition to The Muslims I Know, you can also watch my second film online. Pakistan One on One (2011) was shot in Lahore. It’s a fascinating series of conversations with a wide range of Pakistanis (including students, shopkeepers, real estate agents, tailors, teachers, and the incredibly gracious Navid Shahzad). We talk about the War on Terror, the Taliban (a hot topic once again as we move closer to the US exit from Afghanistan), and what Pakistanis think of US foreign policy and Americans. Most interviews are shot outdoors, on location, and they shine with the freshness and vitality of Hassan Zaman’s funky music and Liz Phillips’s quirky visuals and transitions. It’s a film I’m very fond of. Pls watch and support activist filmmaking here.

The Warp & Weft Of It All

Karen Faris’s beautiful art object ‘The Warp & Weft Of It All,’ which she created as a response to the Warp & Weft audio archive, is now on view at RIT’s Bevier Gallery. It is truly a gorgeous piece that you can see in person. Congrats dear Karen!

“RIT’s Bevier Gallery is hosting an exhibition celebrating Arena Art Group’s 70th anniversary.

Arena Art Group is a local art collective that fosters interest in exploratory art forms through the exhibition of work and maintaining an active, viable and professional arts presence in the Rochester community.

The show, which features RIT alumni and former faculty among other artists, is on view July 7-Aug. 7. An opening reception is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Friday, July 9.
Bevier Gallery, located on the second floor of Booth Hall on the RIT campus, is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon-4 p.m. on Saturday.”

goodbye dilip kumar

dilip kumar, one of india’s greatest actors, an icon, a legend, loved by many generations of south asian women, passed away at 98. his real name was muhammed yusuf khan, born to a muslim family in peshawar in 1922, before the city became part of pakistan. my mother loved him. there was no one else like him. no one. although i was born too late to fall under dilip’s spell (i preferred sanjeev kumar, and later naseeruddin shah and farooq sheikh) i understood his appeal: the sensitivity with which he approached his craft, less machismo, more intelligence, and that mellifluous voice. he spoke like no other actor. his own cadence, his soft-spoken, almost musical way of delivering dialogue. my mother’s wildest dreams came true when dilip visited quetta at a time when my dad was posted there. my mom got to meet her idol. she couldn’t muster the courage to have a deep conversation with him but she got to shake his hand and tell him what he meant to her. perhaps i should finally watch mughal-e-azam, with dilip kumar and madhubala, a masterpiece i’ve been told many times. something to do with my mom – to think about the good old days and remember dilip fondly. inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.

Watch The Muslims I Know Online Vimeo On Demand

Friends, since people don’t buy DVDs as much anymore, The Muslims I Know (2008) is now available to watch online. Give it a try and let me know what you think of the film. There’s also bonus footage you can watch from interviews I conducted back then with Thomas Gibson and Ruhi Maker, Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, and Edward Kannyo.

Peterson Kamwathi

Born in 1980 in Nairobi, Peterson Kamwathi is part of a generation of young East African artists whose break with the colonial tutelage that for decades defined the region’s art has afforded the exploration of topics both deeply rooted in Africa’s cultural background and engaged with global contemporary issues.

Peterson’s highly codified, symbolic, conceptual works, whose content and concepts go far beyond local relevance, distance themselves from the usual patterns of reception of figurative art from Kenya. Rendered in thick layers of charcoal, pastel, watercolor, stencils and more recently collage, Peterson’s figures are anonymous, static, almost abstract, a physical presence powerfully pushed to the forefront of the picture plane and the viewer’s attention by dense backgrounds devoid of vanishing points.

His practice, fostering the idea of art as a process-based and time-based project, often creates encapsulated visual archives by exploring contemporary themes in series and in layers, each group of works exploring social, political, personal and institutional structures symbolized through the depiction of the human figure.

the great cat ashworth retires

my friend Cat Ashworth retired yesterday, after teaching film at RIT for 32 years. that RIT didn’t have the grace to thank her for her stellar work over three long decades is appallingly egregious. it speaks to the larger issue of how work performed by women is systematically diminished and erased. how women themselves are routinely invisibilized, ignored, or minimized.

i took a class with cat many years ago. it was a hands-on documentary workshop during the course of which i edited my first doc, ‘the muslims i know’ – the film that made me a filmmaker. how lucky to have landed in cat’s class at such a crucial juncture in my life.

filmmaking was a second career for me so i was much older than the other students. i came to the class with a decisive goal in mind – to edit a feature length film in just a few weeks. there was an urgency to my task which cat understood instinctively. she supported me every way she could, even asking her assistant to teach me how to use keyframes and create motion paths in final cut pro.

not having formally studied filmmaking, i came at it from a different angle. sometimes i wouldn’t know the technical jargon or my ideas would be too unconventional or politically heavy and uncool. cat always sided with me. she never made me feel like i didn’t belong. she wasn’t annoyed by my drive. that set the tone for the way the other students responded to me. although they could be ruthless in their critique, cat made them believe i was doing something worthwhile and meaningful.

initially, i was thinking of hiring someone to do the film’s voiceover, but cat urged me to do it myself – not to hide but rather to embrace the personal nature of the project. the muslims i had interviewed were my people. islamophobia touched them just as it impacted me and my family. it was ok to own that and speak from that vulnerable position. and she was right. one of the most common reactions to the doc is the feedback i get about the voiceover – its warmth and ability to pull audiences in. only because of cat.

at the end of the class, when i screened the rough cut for RIT’s film faculty, the responses i got from some of the most prominent male professors in positions of power were disappointing. one particularly important one told me i shouldn’t use western classical music in the film because it didn’t fit all this talk about islam and muslims. i guess he was expecting some sitar and tabla. talk about orientalism. once again, cat pushed back publicly and also in private, encouraging me to stay with my ideas and in fact commit to them even more. it’s like she could predict the effect the film would have.

i’ve made two other films after it, but 15 years later, ‘the muslims i know’ continues to generate abundant viewership. it’s been integrated into college curriculums and i hear from professors who tell me how they use it in their class.

how many stories like this there must be from cat’s students and colleagues who have benefited from her generosity, attention and brilliance for 32 years. i am not even listing the outstanding work she has produced as an astute filmmaker and artist or her behind-the-scenes efforts to diversify RIT faculty.

thank u cat. we love u. enjoy ur retirement and know that u helped shape many lives and careers.

Toni Morrison funded anti-Hamilton play because she hated musical so much

‘Hamilton, the hip-hop-inspired Broadway sensation about Alexander Hamilton’s rise, humanizes the founding fathers in a show that’s considered emblematic of the Obama years. It was viewed through a different lens during the Trump years amid rising racial tensions in America.

…Ishmael Reed has been one of Hamilton’s most ardent critics. In 2019 he told CurrentAffairs.org: “They cast black people in order to defend projects that [black people] might find objectionable. It sort of distracts from the racism of the white historical characters.”’

Entangled Futurities

Beautiful work by Tigre Mashaal-Lively for Entangled Futurities. “Finding mythopoetic inspiration from mycoremediation, Entangled Futurities seeks to disrupt cis-heteronormative narratives of hierarchical reproduction, offering instead an ethic of queer relationality for germinating the futures we desire—where an enduring relationship of mutual aid between multispecies organisms (symbionts) creates the conditions for co-evolution.”

interview with mats grorud and dr. dina matar

had the honor of interviewing filmmaker mats grorud (who directed ‘the tower’) and dr. dina matar (chair of the centre for palestine studies at SOAS) for witness palestine film festival today. a brilliant conversation that we hope to share soon. went for a walk to port jefferson afterwards and got a chocolate ganache raspberry cake from la bonne boulangerie. i’m sold on long island folx. all i need now is for all my friends to move here.

My Palestinian Poem that “The New Yorker” Wouldn’t Publish

Fady Joudah: For the past few years I have rarely “submitted” my work to publications and mostly responded to editors who solicited my work. I live Palestine in English. But in my heart Palestine is Arabic. And Palestine in Arabic does not need to explain itself. Despite setbacks, disasters, revolving conspiracies against it, Palestine in Arabic is self-possessed. It is exterior to English yet born internationalist and shall remain so — neither thinking it is the center of the world nor surrendering to the imperial center as the primary source of its future liberation. Palestine in Arabic is where the overwhelming sacrifice is made. Palestine in Arabic dreams, lives in and with more than 15 hundred years of literary, intellectual, and ecumenical traditions, belongs to 10 thousand years before that. History does not end for Palestine in Arabic.

[…] Palestine in English navigates the gatekeeping English imposes on Palestine, and on itself with regards to Palestine. Gatekeeping is not just for poetry, memoirs, or novels. It affects op-eds all over the United States. The bullying surveillance in academia is endemic. Holding anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab sentiments that range between subtlety and flagrance is a career move. And since hunting Palestinians in the open is seemingly vicious in a democracy like the United States, a whispering campaign is the next best option, and ghosting them is often the honorable choice. Not infrequently the ghosting is internalized by Anglophone Arabs and Muslims who simply stop trying to keep Palestine visible, expressible. But if anyone wants to come out into the light a little, they must comply with normalized stipulations that placate hierarchical structures, editorial controls, and fact-checking rigor, which may or may not apply equally to all writers on Palestine. No wonder Bartleby killed himself.

There are so many gates to unlock that each time one gate is opened or abandoned so that Palestine can speak in English, it feels like a humanist triumph or a revolutionary breakthrough. Some Jewish Americans, softly Zionist or avowedly non-Zionist, struggle to come to terms with their privileged positions. The power dynamic they hold over Palestinian narration and presence in English is staggering. A Jewish American writer or editor who starts out with pro-Palestinian sentiments may go on to secure a powerful career through which they dominate Palestinian voices in English, no matter how progressive and fortified their pro-Palestinian stance may be. The conversation is, by and large, about American Jewry and Zionism, an internal debate in which Palestinians are most often represented, if at all, by a non-Palestinian representative. More here.

my artwork for roco’s 6 x 6 exhibition

happy to share that the two digital collage prints i sent to Rochester Contemporary Art Center’s famous transnational 6×6 exhibition have been purchased! called ‘stepping into spring’ part I and II, they were created earlier this year with dreams of warmer weather, lush color, nature, and long walks on long island. the exhibition/sale is still on! visit www.roco6x6.org to buy wonderful, affordable art!

Mon Plukami par Paul Couturiau

i’d like to share a new story from the warp & weft today – a story that means a lot to me personally.

on feb 1st this year, my favorite teacher left this world unexpectedly. i was heartbroken. the force of my reaction surprised me. there is so much more to us than meets the eye, even our own internal eye.

there are 30 trillion cells in the human body. there are multiplicities, temporalities, and mysteries buried inside of us. there is memory in each cell. we might not remember what someone means to us, until the body reminds us, by reviving thoughts and emotions – the messy, gelatinous stuff we’re made of.

here is a beautiful tribute to our monsieur maurer written by his best friend of 65 years, the wonderful belgian writer Paul Couturiau. pls listen to/read this story of deep friendship.