When Mahmood Fazal approached us with the idea of Purdah, a new monthly screening program of rare Middle Eastern cinema, we knew we were on to something special.
We caught up with Mahmood to find out more about this exciting new program which began its life in a suburban Melbourne backyard.
This film program had a very unusual beginning. Tell us about that?
The idea started at my friend Nick’s house a couple of years ago; he was throwing a party and had recently got his hands on a projector. I brought Paradjanov’s film Sayat Nova and played it to a room full of tipsy first year art students. The room was reduced to silence with everyone lost in Paradjanov’s portal into a culture of fantastic beauty. We decided to start screening films in our backyards to friends as a reaction to the media’s veil and to explore Middle Eastern ideas.
What is it about Middle Eastern cinema that you are so passionate about and why is this genre so important for Australian audiences?
I suppose Middle Eastern cinema now is important for all audiences as it provides insight and alternative perspective on a culture that has been shrouded by the media. I think Australia in particular depends on art as a source for integration. This country was built on multiculturalism so the coexistence of different cultures and the exploration of them helps to create a progressive society.
If you could direct a film placed in any era of Middle Eastern History, what would it be and why?
I think I would like to make a film set in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that explores Afghanistan after the soviet withdrawal, as a reminder of how global politics generated fundamentalism in that country. In the seventies, Afghanistan was arguably the most tolerant Muslim country in the Middle East, with a pro-western technocratic king and a strong local communist party. The way in which culture and history can deconstruct the present is the central concept of Purdah and hopefully the people that come to see these films will react to them in the same vein.
– Kate Fitzpatrick, Events Coordinator, ACMI