“LOOKING FOR OUM KULTHUM“
Discussion with Shirin Neshat after the screening
The Egyptian singer Oum Kulthum (1900 to 1975) is still celebrated worldwide as the “Callas of the Orient”, as a timelessly outstanding artist with an extraordinary voice and unforgettable musical intensity. Often forgotten is that Oum Kulthum lived during a politically dramatic era in Egypt – she was and remains a legendary woman for the male-dominated Islamic world.
It was only a question of time until her life and music would become a topic for the Iran-born Shirin Neshat, one of the most important contemporary artists, who was last year’s winner of the world’s most significant art prize, the Praemium Imperiale. In her photos, video installations and films, Neshat – whose works are regularly presented at KINO DER KUNST in Munich – often addresses the solitude of the Muslim woman in a world dominated by men. But instead of simply filming another biopic à la Hollywood and dutifully retelling the life of the famous Egyptian, Neshat introduces autobiographical details and the stylistic concepts of her own art. Oum Kulthum’s life and work become a cinematic artwork that – apart from all chaotic historical and present events – celebrates the strength of a woman and artist in the Islamic world.
Filmed in today’s Morocco, the script by Shirin Neshat and her partner and long-term accomplice Shoja Azari narrates a story within a story, i.e. the attempts by an alter ego of the artist – constantly shaken by doubt and drama – to film Oum Kulthum’s life. Stylistically, however, the film particularly emphasizes the singing and stage presence of the musician, just as it accounts for the videos of the New York-based artist. These include silent dream sequences, sophisticated choreography in the presence of the protagonists, an absence of all psychological simplification, and the beauty of the images and tracking shots typical for Neshat.
An event from NFP marketing & distribution in cooperation with KINO DER KUNST.