Arab Canadian Filmmakers and Arab Canadians in Cinema
Seminar organized by Walid El Khachab, University of Ottawa
When: January 6th 2012, 9:30AM – 5:00 P.M.
Where: Room Desmarais 1130
One of the “origins” of modern Canadian cinema in 1970 is Donald Shebib’s Goin’ Down the Road, acclaimed by film historians as one of the landmarks of Canadian cinema direct. However, nothing has been written on the fact that Shebib is only but one among several other filmmakers of Arab descent who made a substantial contribution to Canadian national cinema. It is impressive that some filmmakers from Arab heritage, like Shebib, work within the identity parameters of the mainstream, while others focus on the specific concerns of the Arab Canadian community. The latter case is exemplified by the work of Ruba Nadda, who has masterfully depicted the challenges faced by Arab Canadian women in our society (Sabah). Other filmmakers combined their interest in the local issues of Canadian society with problems faced abroad, all pertaining to the Arab historic experience, as in Tahani Rached’s documentaries (Beyrouth à défaut d’en mourir) and B.H. Yael’s video essays (Palestine Trilogy; Fresh Blood).
Other major issues pertaining to Arab Canadians’ experience -such as the debate over political violence- were discussed in important films by directors who have no cultural or ethnic connection with the Arab world, as in the case of Quebecois filmmakers Denis Chouinard (L’ange de Goudron) and Denis Villeneuve (Incendies). While it is interesting to map the Arab community’s contribution to Canadian cinema in terms of the filmmakers’ backgrounds and of the identity debates, this seminar poses the question of the aesthetic specificity of this contribution. It will also compare the aesthetic concerns of these films with those in films representing Arab Canadians. For example, music and visual religious references bear distinctive marks on the films at stake.
This is the first organized academic effort to survey the contribution of Arab Canadian filmmakers to cinema as well as the representation of Arabs in Canadian cinema. It is conducted within the SSHRC funded research project “Towards an Aesthetics of Transnational Cinema: Arab Filmmakers of the Diaspora”, whose principle investigator is May Telmissany, co-researcher Walid El Khachab.
The seminar will include paper presentations, film screenings and a panel to discuss the films with the contribution of the general public, in the presence of the filmmakers. The choice of films and of papers will include works in the two official languages.
Denis Bachand (University of Ottawa)
Walid El Khachab (University of Ottawa)
Stephanie Schwartz (Mc Gill University)
May Telmissany (University of Ottawa)
Denis Chouinard, filmmaker (director of L’Ange de goudron)
B.H. Yael, filmmaker (director of Palestine trilogy)
L’Ange de goudron, dir. Denis Chouinard, 2001
Palestine Trilogy, dir. B.H.Yael, 2006