It won’t have escaped your notice that summer has arrived – but while much of the cultural calendar is slowing down as the heat soars, in terms of cinema, things are hotting up.
We don’t mean the multiplex mayhem of Hollywood’s summer blockbuster season – we’re talking about a healthy serving of inventive, reflective cinema to look forward to over the sweaty months, largely thanks to a programme of screenings hosted by Cinema Akil and Alserkal Avenue.
The independent cinema platform has launched a three-month programme of interesting, arty and classic films, all of which relate in some way to the sun.
Co-founder and managing director Butheina H Kazim says the Here Comes the Sun screenings aim to provide a “cinematic shelter” during the summer.
“The idea of the sun was our ‘guiding light’ – pun intended – in the selection,” she says, “along with, of course, a desire to showcase some of the most important works of cinema through this programme.”
The programmers have taken the theme and run with it, riffing on the role of the sun, broadening the canvas to include everything from moody documentaries to horror, Westerns, sci-fi, road movies and more.
The programme includes the 1922 silent classic Nosferatu – in which the vampire Count Orlock (aka Dracula) is threatened by the sun – and Roberto Rossellini's The Rise of Louis XIV, which documents a power-hungry leader intent on controlling the sun, as well as Hollywood classics such as Empire in the Sun and Sunset Boulevard.
“We’re inviting people to tuck themselves away from the scorching heat of the UAE summer sun into a world of films inspired by the feared and loved sun,” says Kazim.
Cinema Akil was founded last year with the aim of fostering an interest in the cinematic arts. Defined as an independent cinema platform, it has hosted pop-up screenings across the emirate, including the Market OTB event at Downtown Dubai and outdoor screenings at Meet d3, the launch of Dubai Design District. Last month, Cinema Akil hosted a special fundraising programme of Nepalese cinema.
Here’s the full line-up of films in the summer series Here Comes the Sun:
The Sun (Solntse)
Russian master director Aleksandr Sokurov followed Moloch and Taurus, his portraits of dictators Hitler and Lenin with 2005's The Sun, a film depicting the life of Emperor Hirohito, who led Japan during the Second World War, ultimately surrendering to the United States and denouncing his divine office of "the sun".
Wednesday, June 17, 7pm; June 18 and 19, 9pm
Duel in the Sun
Described by Cinema Akil as "thoroughly enjoyable trash", this hare-brained 1946 Western was writer-producer David O Selznick's fanciful attempt to outdo the success of his own epic, Gone With the Wind. Selznick's wife, Jennifer Jones, plays the heroine, who is torn between the love of two brothers. Notoriously silly.
June 25-27, 9pm
The Quince Tree Sun (El Sol del Membrillo)
This slow, symbolic art-house favourite exposes the compulsion of artist Antonio López García (playing himself) to annually paint the quince tree in his garden. A meditation on nature and the creative process, director Victor Erice won two awards at Cannes in 1992, including the Jury Prize.
July 1-3, 9pm
Little Miss Sunshine
This kooky American indie comedy – about a crumbling family’s cross-country road trip in a VW bus – was a surprise hit at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Charmingly offbeat, the star-studded cast includes Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin.
July 8-10, 9pm
Widely regarded as one of the best Hollywood films ever made (it ranked 12th on the American Film Institute’s top 100 list), Billy Wilder’s 1950 noir is essential viewing. Hoping for a break, a budding screenwriter, played by William Holden, moves in with a half-crazed star of the silent-movie era (Gloria Swanson, who was herself a silent movie star). A portrait of broken dreams and the dark side of celebrity, it was a film decades ahead of its time.
July 15-16, 9pm
Burnt by the Sun (Utomlyonnye Solntsem)
Winner of the 1994 Cannes Grand Prize and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Burnt by the Sun is the masterpiece of writer/director/producer/star Nikita Mikhalkov. A tragedy set in 1936 Soviet Union, it depicts a single day in the life of a Red Army officer in Stalin's country. It was released only three years after the collapse and break-up of the Soviet Union.
July 22-24, 7pm
The Rise of Louis XIV (La Prise de Pouvoir Par Louis XIV)
Italian neorealist pioneer Roberto Rossellini shifted operations to Versailles for this 1966 historical drama, which tells how the 22-year-old French monarch audaciously styled himself as “The Sun King” to maintain an unprecedented 72-year reign – unbeaten to this day.
July 29-31, 7pm
Renowned as the first "proper" vampire film – earlier portrayals, such as 1913's The Vampire, didn't feature an undead bloodsucking fiend – F W Murnau's influential silent classic was nearly lost. Even though the word "vampire" is never used in the film, the estate of author Bram Stoker sued over its appropriation of his 1897 novel Dracula and a court ordered all copies of the movie to be destroyed. A few prints survived and this screening will include an the original orchestral score, composed by Hans Erdmann for the film's initial German release
August 5-7, 7pm
Empire of the Sun
Steven Spielberg’s classic movie adaptation of J G Ballard’s novel tells the semi-autobiographical story of the British author’s childhood in Shanghai during the Second World War. Christian Bale, who was 13 when the film was made, plays Jim, who finds himself facing the horrors of a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.
August 12-14, 7pm
Sans Soleil (Sunless)
An acclaimed documentary from France's principal essayist of cinema, Chris Marker, Sans Soleil is meditation on memory. Letters written by freelance cameraman Sandor Krasna are read by an unknown woman, reflecting on the representations of the world he encounters while travelling the globe. The film will be preceded by a screening of the director's celebrated 1962 short La Jetée, which was the inspiration for Terry Gilliam's 1995 film 12 Monkeys.
August 19-21, 7pm
The Runner (Davandeh)
Perhaps the best-known film from the renowned Iranian director Amir Naderi, The Runner was shot in and around the filmmaker's hometown of Abadan. It tells the story of Amiro, an orphan raging against the injustices life has dealt him.
August 26-28, 7pm
• Here Comes the Sun runs until August 28 at the A4 Screening Room, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai. Free entry, on a first-come basis. For more information, go to www.cinemaakil.com