Documentary Films

In Association with the Centre for Iranian Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies

From 1pm, Thursday, May 19th

1:00 Back Vocal 55mins (Dir: Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, 2003/ Iran)

This film is an intelligent exploration of the detailed Iranian rules that forbid women to sing solo in public. The director visits producers, singers and composers, who all try to maintain their artistic integrity within the limits of the law – even if it sometimes can be hard to know what those limits are.

2:00 I love Hip Hop in Morocco 80mins (Dir: Joshua Asen & Jennifer Needleman, 2007/ USA/ Morocco)

A determined group of Moroccan Hip Hop hopefuls band together to create their country’s first hip hop festival, a celebration of music, unity and free speech. The film intimately portrays the difficulties this eager cohort of young Moroccans encounter while trying to do what they love. Watch the trailer here.

3:30 Umm Kulthum, A Voice Like Egypt 67mins (Dir: Michael Goldman,1996/ USA/ Egypt)

Narrated by Omar Sharif, ‘Umm Kulthum, A Voice Like Egypt’ takes viewers into her home village and to the streets and cafes of Cairo where she lived and worked. Featuring concert footage, film clips and interviews with the famed singer’s friends and colleagues, Goldman’s documentary places the life and career of Umm Kulthum in the context of the epic story of 20th century Egypt.

4:40 Two Bows 45mins ( Dir: Bahman Kiarostami, 2004/ Iran)

In Rome, Reza Derakhshani infuses his performances of the ancient instrument, the kamancheh, with jazz and electronic rhythms. Meanwhile in Bandar Turkaman, struggling traditional musician Bahram Berdikor despondently contemplates suicide because of the debilitating restrictions the regime has placed on his playing. ‘Two Bows’ does not compare the values of these two artists; rather it facilitates a discourse between modern and traditional points of view.

5:40 Arabic Fusion: The Sound Between the Notes 40mins (Dir: Cyril Eberle, 2011/ UAE/ Lebanon)

Situated at the crossroads of cultures the Arabic world has long been influenced by travellers across its lands. The documentary showcases the scope of modern Arabic music, ranging from traditional, acoustic sounds to contemporary interpretations of Arabic Fusion. The journey takes us through the pillars of Arabic music: percussion, strings and voice and features performances from a range of musicians, including the popular Mashrou’ Leila.

6:30 Breaking the Silence 60mins  (Dir: Simon Broughton, 2002/ UK/ Afghanistan)

Songlines editor Simon Broughton’s film ‘Breaking the Silence’ was filmed just a few weeks after the fall of the Taliban in Kabul. The Taliban’s prohibition of music was the most severe ever imposed and this documentary charts the return of music and the way music has been caught in the crossfire of years of fighting in Afghanistan. 

7:30 Crossing the Bridge 90 mins (Dir: Faith Akin, 2005/ Germany/ Turkey)  LN
Acclaimed director Fatih Akin lovingly depicts the musical, cultural and everyday life of Istanbul. The film introduces the diversity and uniqueness of the historic and recent expressions of musical creativity in the heart of the city.

7:30 Crossing the Bridge 90 mins (Dir: Faith Akin, 2005/ Germany/ Turkey)

Acclaimed director Fatih Akin lovingly depicts the musical, cultural and everyday life of Istanbul. The film introduces the diversity and uniqueness of the historic and recent expressions of musical creativity in the heart of the city.

From 2pm, Friday, 20 May 2011



2:00 Sounds of Silence 52mins (Dir: Amir Hamz & Mark Lazarz, 2006/ Germany/ Iran)

This documentary offers a view inside Tehran and its burgeoning alternative music scene through the eyes of young musicians and their followers. It shows the delicate balance in these young musicians’ lives, between their musical endeavours and the rocky path that is in store for them as progress and conservative traditionalism clash in modern Tehran.

3:00 A Kabul Music Diary 52mins (Dir: John Baily, 2003/ UK/ Afghanistan) 

Ethnomusicologist John Baily returns to Kabul to see what is happening in the world of music one year after the defeat of the Taliban. The film documents a variety of musical activities and implicitly identifies some of the dilemmas facing those seeking to help Afghans rebuild their music culture.



4:00 Muezzin 85mins (Dir: Sebastian Brameshuber, 2008/ Austria/ Turkey)

Since the time of the Prophet Mohammed, faithful Muslims have heeded the muezzin’s call to prayer five times a day. A more recent phenomenon is the Turkish call to prayer contests where each year the country’s muezzins compete. Muezzin follows the dramatic progress of the competition and investigates the phenomenon of individuality within Islamic culture. Watch the trailer here.

5:30 The Singing Barber of Mosul 20mins (Dir: Katia Saleh, 2007/ Lebanon)

It’s not safe to be shaving beards and singing pop songs in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul. Mohamed Yunis is 26 years old. His day job is a barber – but he loves to sing. Living with his mother and feeling stifled by restrictions, Mohamed decides to go to Beirut to perform in the Arabic pop idol competition. He hopes winning this competition will propel him into a glittering musical career.



6:00 Slinghsot Hip-Hop 83mins ( Dir: Jackie Reem Salloum, 2008/ Palestine/ USA)

‘Slingshot Hip Hop’ braids together the stories of young Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank and inside Israel as they discover Hip Hop and employ it as a tool to surmount divisions imposed by occupation and poverty. From internal checkpoints and separation walls to gender norms and generational differences, this is the story of young people crossing the borders that separate them.



7:30 Heavy Metal in Baghdad 84mins (Dir: Eddy Moretti & Soroosh Alvi, 2008/ USA/ Iraq)

‘Heavy Metal in Baghdad’ follows the Iraqi heavy metal band Acrassicauda from the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 to the present day. After Saddam’s regime was toppled, there was a brief moment for the band in which real freedom seemed possible. That hope was quickly dashed as their country fell into a bloody insurgency. While Iraq disintegrated around them, Acrassicauda struggled to stay together and stay alive, always refusing to let their heavy metal dreams die. Watch the trailer here.

All films are in the original language with subtitles.
All screenings are free and open to the public.
Seats will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Khalili Lecture Theatre,
School of Oriental and African Studies,
University of London,
Thornhaugh Street,
Russell Square,
London WC1H 0XG

Tel: 020 7637 2388
Nearest Tube: Russel Square/ Euston

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