Al Ghorba: Be:Longing in Britain

19 May 2019

Glasgow Film Theatre
12 Rose St, Glasgow
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Ashtar Al Khirsan, 'Abdullah and Leilah', 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Resource Productions

Al Ghorba’ is an Arabic word that can be translated to the state of being a stranger,’ when one is surrounded by strangers and is a stranger to them. This screening, guest curated by Samar Ziadat, Director of Dardishi Festival, explores states of exile, alienation and longing, stemming from a nostalgia for the past and an ache for the present.

Slipping and sliding in time, the films dissect the intergenerational pain that is woven between the chasms of hauntings past, a present that is lost, and a future that is indeterminable. Memories, language, and space serve as tools that can be used to both heighten and heal the tremendous disorientation and sense of loss that comes with colonial trauma.


Alia Hijaab, الغربةAl Ghorba, 2018. 6 min 07 sec, HD video.

Mona Hatoum, Measures of Distance, 1988. 15 min 34 sec, SD video.

Ashtar Al Khirsan, Abdullah and Leilah, 2017. 19 min 32 sec, HD video.

Amrou Al-Khadhi, Run(a)way Arab, 2017. 12 min, HD video.

Total running time: 54 min

Samar Ziadat

Samar Ziadat is a freelance curator, educator and activist based in Glasgow, Scotland. She is the Director of Dardishi Festival, a festival of Arab and North African womxn’s art. Currently, she is also a film and art programmer at Glasgow Zine Library and the Scottish Queer International Film Festival. Her community-focused practice centres on issues of decoloniality and queerness; presenting talks, delivering workshops, producing zines and programming events that explore the hidden histories and narratives of marginalised and underrepresented communities.

Alia Hijaab

Alia Hijaab is a Vancouver-based artist currently pursuing a Bachelor of Media Arts in Animation at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. She is of mixed Syrian/​American heritage and has spent most of her life living in the Arabian gulf. Hijaab is a storyteller at heart and her work explores issues of her Syrian identity, immigration, loss, social justice and examining what it means to be an Arab woman in a contemporary context. Al Ghorba addresses feelings of longing to be home in a country that has been uprooted by war and violence. Hijaab likes to think of this film as a way to reach out to other people, and an extension of her cultures tradition of oral history- as if the film is a conversation between old friends sharing a meal together and telling stories of home.

Mona Hatoum

Mona Hatoum, a Palestinian born in Beirut in 1952, was stranded in Europe at the outset of civil war in 1975 (the municipal airport in Beirut was closed for nine months), and decided to study art in London, where she has subsequently lived most of her adult life. Measures of Distance, 1988, superimposes Arabic script — taken from a series of letters between the artist and her mother — over the filmed image of her mother taking a shower. The screen both frames and obscures her mother’s body. In both the literal sense that it was made during a visit home, and in a broader sense as well, Measures of Distance is one of the few examples of Hatoum’s work to employ direct reference to the artist’s exiled condition. In the video’s soundtrack, as well as in the graphic image of text layered over flesh, Hatoum explores how degrees of proximity and separation can be conveyed by employing both concrete examples (her mother taking a shower), and more formal abstractions (text, paper, voices, a trip to Beirut).

Ashtar Al Khirsan

Ashtar Al Khirsan is a writer and director working across documentary and fiction film. She recently completed a Wellcome Trust funded short drama film, Abdullah and Leilah. Haunted by the memories of his childhood in Baghdad, Abdullah has dementia and struggles to communicate with his daughter. As his mind fluctuates between his past and his present, he no longer remembers the life he’s lived in London for the last 60 years and the fluent English language he’s spoken. His daughter Leilah, who speaks only English, needs one last moment of connection with her father before she also fades from his memory and he no longer remembers who she is.

Amrou Al-Kadhi

Amrou Al-Kadhi is a queer British-Iraqi writer, performer, and director. Run(a)way Arab, follows Queen Za Dream, a 26 year old Middle-Eastern drag queen, who is preparing for a show with an outfit evocative of an Egyptian deity. Nazeem is a gender-queer 8 year old boy, who has a close bond with his Iraqi-Egyptian mother, Halima. Whilst flamboyant and in many ways a drag queen herself on the surface, Halima is governed by the strict expectations of gender in Arab society. When a young Nazeem transgresses these boundaries, Halima reacts in a way that is utterly confusing to him. Only though his drag, as Queen Za Dream, is the adult Nazeem able to keep sacred the memories of his mother before this painful moment, and hold on to their connection.