FEN in 2011: Artists to Watch //
2010 was a year of great growth and discovery for Arab-American art. We watched as our predictions for the year came true — Eyad Zahra surprised crowds with Taqwacores, which we knew would be a success; the cast of Aftermath received a Drama League Award and took their show to England and Ireland among other places; Annemarie Jacir filled theaters with the U.S. premiere of Salt of This Sea; Omar Offendum came through with his solo debut, SyrianamericanA, breathing fresh air into something old, while giving us something meaningful and new. The Arabs Gone Wild crew put Arab America on Broadway for the first time and they’re taking the comedy scene to new places all over the world. We could go on with highlights, but in short: it was an amazing year for Arab-American art and artists.
We watched as more organizations dedicated to promoting our community of artists popped up in the U.S. and Canada. We read, saw and listened to the works of emerging artists, while celebrating the continued success of those whose work we already know and love. With all of this positive growth in the scene, we can’t help but look ahead with eagerness. This is our list of artists to watch in 2011 — by no means definitive. Tell us which artists inspired you in 2010 and who/what you look forward to in 2011, in the comments below…
New on the scene is photographer Ibi Ibrahim. He has the singular talent of making the spiritual provocative. 2010 was his breakout year, and we’re not the only ones who think so. This multi-talented photographer is also an actor, writer and film student, so you’re bound to run into more of his work in the near future.
Alsarah, Alsarah…if there is a new artist on our scene who is worthy of a mononym, it is Alsarah. We’re still beating ourselves up for not having heard of her sooner. And we want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake. She is in one word: phenomenal (live and recorded). Okay, so that was four words — evidence we can’t say enough about her. She has rejuvenated all the things we love about the music of where we’re from >>
Cherien broke ground for Arab-American film with Amreeka two years ago and we’ve been anxiously awaiting her next move since. We haven’t seen or heard anything about May in the Summer except that it’s another family dramedy, this time about a Palestinian-American woman who seeks romantic healing in Amman over the summer — but we expect and hope to be touched the same way we were with Amreeka.
Jennifer’s plans to take her Bay Area-based, one-woman show around the country just might be perfectly timed. Production, booking and attention to Arab-American theatre is on the rise, and she’s got a fresh approach. Thus far she’s planned stops in LA and NYC, so find out when she’s on a stage near you — you’ll want to see for yourself.
After winning the Best Narrative Award at Tribeca’s All Access Lab last year, Ghazi Albuliwi (West Bank Brooklyn, 2002) and his team spared no time in getting to production. They wrapped on sets in NYC and Amman, Jordan by the end of the summer and are sure to make waves with their romantic comedy starring Hiam Abbas. We just missed a private screening in the fall, but we hear the film is brilliant and can’t wait to see it.
Still-photographer, DP and editor, Laith Majali is above all else a documentarian and ambassador of the culture through art. He’s been dubbed the Middle Eastern arm of the eclectic music collective Mochilla, he’s shot and edited a number of your favorites, is working on a book documenting our hip-hop culture as he shoots it, and is wrapping what is sure to be a brilliant editing job on the 365 AM documentary. With such an incessant stream of production, watching for Laith should be easy work in 2011.
More plays, more actors, more stages and more theatre-goers. Everything has been looking up for Arab-American Theatre and we expect more of the same in 2011. If collectives like Noor keep launching and plays like Aftermath keep touring, the scene will continue to grow and produce brilliant work — we hope you’ll join us in the front row.
Winner of the Arab American Book Award in the category of Adult Non-Fiction, Gregory Orfalea’s Angeleno Days is sure to move you. His essays tell a fascinating and conflicting tale that are ultimately about being American, while subtly commenting on what it means to be an Arab in America. If you missed it in 2010 — make sure to get your hands on it in 2011 >>
Academy Award nominated director Rachid Bouchareb strikes again with Outside the Law. The New York Times describes it as a “..mixture of righteous politics and family turmoil, [a] didactic, unashamedly manipulative film [that] wants to be something like a cross between Army of Shadows, Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 classic of the French Resistance, and The Godfather.” But don’t read their review. Listen to us: this film might be historical but it is still relevant. And you won’t be let down by the cinematography, action and great performances. If you haven’t seen it — put it on your queue for 2011 >>