A series of international films, which explore the idea of tolerance in different ways, will be screened in four sessions at Cinema Space, Manarat Al Saadiyat.
The Tasaamuh Film Series: Paths of Tolerance, a Zayed University initiative as part of the UAE's Year of Tolerance, opens on Sunday, October 27, with a screening of Distant Thunder (1973), Indian director Satyajit Ray's award-winning film about the famine in Bengal in 1942-1943.
This will be followed in the coming weeks by Haxan (1922), a Swedish film about medieval witchcraft; Counting Tiles (2018), a Lebanese documentary that follows a group of clowns as they travel to a Greek island to entertain refugees; and Embrace the Serpent (2015), Colombian director Ciro Guerra's epic about the search for a healing plant in the Amazon.
After each screening, there will be a discussion about the film led by professors from Zayed University and their guests. Following Counting Tiles, Italian actor and clown Francesca Bizzarri will give an educational performance. All events are free and there will be food available that relates to the film.
“We wanted to do something on tolerance, a nuanced event that pushes discussion, that emboldens the debate,” says Nezar Andary, filmmaker and Associate Professor at Zayed University, who has co-curated the series with Ximena Cordova, Chair of the Department of Social Sciences at Zayed University.
“Each event will be special in its own way, too. The professors are not giving a lecture, it will be something a little more interactive, a little more connected to the film and the issues of the film. We’re including the community in different ways.”
Distant Thunder looks at the ways in which people respond to tragedy. While local farmer Gangacharan (Soumitra Chatterjee) seeks to protect himself from famine, his wife Ananga (Babita), sets out to help the community. "That famine is an interesting topic because who do you blame?" says Andary. "Is it the former colonisers? Is it the people? There's a whole debate around that famine in Bengali society. Famines and migration – we're still talking about [these things] to this day."
Haxan, which Andary describes as "one of the most unique visions in cinema", interrogates why societies ostracise certain groups, an idea that is also explored in Counting Tiles. Director Cynthia Choucair travelled with a group of clowns to the Greek island of Lesvos, where she finds barriers put up, both to the clowns and the refugees trying to get into Europe. The film, explains Andary, asks questions about the relationship between "humour, the image of the clown and tolerance".
The final film in the series, Embrace the Serpent, tells the story of two scientists who in the early 1900s worked with a shaman in the Amazon, hoping to find a sacred plant. "Colonialism, anthropology, the social sciences – what's their relationship to tolerance?" says Andary.
He hopes that the Tasaamuh Film Series will help people look at tolerance “from a new angle” and wants to reach out to people who may not have come across these films before.
“This issue of tolerance is not a one-way paved street,” says Andary. “It’s not a two-way highway, it’s not even the 12-lane highway from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. It’s a lot more complicated and we want to explore its labyrinth.
“The more people think in this new way about tolerance, the more tolerance leads to acceptance.”
Director: Satyajit Ray
Date: Sunday, October 27
Director: Benjamin Christensen
Date: Wednesday, October 30
Director: Cynthia Choucair
Date: Friday, December 6
Embrace the Serpent
Director: Ciro Guerra
Date: Saturday, December 7
More information is available at www.cinemaspace-abudhabi.splashthat.com