So much to celebrate – Arab film, Sydney sacred music and Aboriginal dance

Arab FF - When I saw you 2014Now in its 14th year, the annual Arab Film Festival screens at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, from Thursday, August 14 to Sunday, August 17, before touring to Melbourne and Canberra. When I Saw You, left, opens the festival on Thursday evening. The 2013 award winning film is set in 1967 in Jordan. After several years in a refugee camp, a Palestinian mother and son long for reunion with their family in the midst of war. In his quest to find his father, Tariq makes some surprising discoveries and finds hope in the changing spirit of the times.

The following night, Scheherazade’s Diary documents the process of a 10 month drama therapy and theatre project developed with women prisoners in Baabda Prison. Facilitated by Lebanese actress, director and drama therapist Zeina Daccache, the project required extraordinary tenacity and commitment. Some of this is recorded in a complementary film also directed by Zeina, Schererazade in Baabda, which Arab Film Festival screened a year ago at Riverside. Zeina was present to answer questions. The women inmates, described as “murderers of husbands, adulterers and drug felons”, reflect on their personal experiences of drugs. sexual abuse, forced marriage and domestic violence and reach for the opportunity to change their lives. In the tragi-comic documentary the women challenge societies that oppress women.

On a different note, The United is a film for those who love football and dream of a united Arab world. In this film, a legendary Egyptian football coach trains a team of pan-Arab misfits to compete against France. Sponsored by the Asia Cup 2015 and the Western Sydney Wanderers. It screens on Sunday 17 August, 5pm, Riverside Theatres.

Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra - 6 of 14 membersOn September 5, Riverside Theatres hosts the launch of the fourth Sydney Sacred Music Festival developed by Cultural Arts Collective, under the direction of Richard Petkovic. This year, they are taking a step further by establishing a non-profit organisation, Sacred Currents. It aims to steer the festival to international renown in the next few years with an innovative program of events throughout the year.

Richard says, “This year, two new cross cultural music performances at Parramatta and Campbelltown are taking on the challenge of working with the ‘moment’ to produce new Australian work, using different approaches. One showcasing established and international legends of world music and the other sharing the hidden musical talents of Western Sydney.

“At Parramatta, the debut performance of the Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra and their ‘sacred symphony’, the Three Sides of Love and Death, will use world instruments to bring a new life to the classical music form, while at Campbelltown, Simon Barker’s ‘Mujing’, inspired by the art of Chinese Bonsai, will craft and meld Buddhist chants and instrumentation into improvised song cycles.”

The photo above is of the first six members of the Sydney World Music Chamber Orchestra, who have now expanded to 14. The Sydney Sacred Music Festival travels to Mosman, Blacktown, Sydney CBD, Campbelltown, Bondi, Parramatta, Blue Mountains and several places in between and ends on September 21.

Ce1-Wagana after Glasgow on NITV Newslebrating their recent successes at the Glasgow International Youth Dance Festival preceding the Commonwealth Games, are the Wagana Aboriginal Dancers. The senior members who travelled to Glasgow are pictured with younger members at Wentworth Falls – all glad to be back on Wiradjuri and Darug land in the Blue Mountains. They assembled for performance and conversation with NITV News earlier this month.

Director and choreographer Jo Clancy conducted 15 workshops for 400 young people from other Commonwealth countries. Wagana Dancers were thrilled to find keen international interest in their work. They felt very proud when some of the other dancers, like the English, expressed the wish that they could have the connection to culture that the Aboriginal dancers experienced.

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