Looking for Oum Kulthum
The parallels between an Iranian filmmaker and her subject, the legendary Egyptian diva, Oum Kulthum, both of whom struggle to achieve their artistic visions in male-dominated societies are explored through a unique film within a film structure by visual artist Shirin Neshat.
"Dreamlike visions, archive images and reconstructions of the most important moments in the history of Egypt (the revolution, the feminist marches, the end of the monarchy) are intertwined and mingle with the trials and tribulations of Mitra and her work on set." Vittoria Scarpa - Cineuropa
This film within a film chronicles the experience of a contemporary Iranian filmmaker aspiring to tell the story of the legendary Egyptian diva, Oum Kulthum. Eschewing a more conventional approach, acclaimed visual artist Shirin Neshat accesses one woman's story through the other's. In a movie about two icons, one a director, the other a singer, Neshat explores the struggles and sacrifices in succeeding as a woman artist in male-dominated societies. The filmmaker journeys back in time to depict the singer's childhood in the rural Nile Delta, her rise to fame during Egypt's independence, and a career that lasted half a century and made her a star—the "Star of the East"—across the Arab world. Meanwhile in the present, Neshat faces her own challenges: a sexist actor, producers who doubt her vision, and the guilt she feels over the competing demands of her family and her career. In seeking to understand the experience of Oum Kulthum, the woman as well as the artist and the legend, she seeks to better understand her own. The film recreates the songs sung by Oum Kulthum, re-recording them in Cairo, with musicians who played with her in her later years, using vintage microphones and period recording techniques in a studio where she used to work, to share her magic with a new generation.
Born in 1957 in Qazin, Iran, Shirin Neshat is a contemporary Iranian visual artist who has done work in film, art, and photography. She left Iran before the 1979 Revolution and began studying at the University of California, Berkeley. Her films tend to be abstract and left to interpretation, revolving around themes of gender, identity, and society. Her artwork has been included at the Tate Gallery in London, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. She currently lives and works in New York.
Sponsored by KEXP 90.3 FM, Anonymous, Sinikka and Babak Parviz, Baabak Nassirian at FYF Productions, American Iranian Business Council, Nima Foroutan DDS, Shadi Araghi/ Highlands Kids Dentistry, Mike Moghaddas with Avenue Properties, Naini Family Foundation, Radio Iranshahr, Professional Copy 'n' Print, Sanaz Namdar, Ali Ahmadi, Orchideh Raisdanai, Persian & Iranian Studies at UW Near Eastern Languages & Civilization Department, and UW Iranian-American Faculty
- Director: Shirin Neshat
- Principal Cast: Neda Rahmanian, Yasmin Raeis, Mehdi Moinzadeh, Kais Nashif
- Premiere Status: Seattle
- Country: Germany, Austria, Italy, Lebanon, Qatar
- Year: 2017
- Running Time: 90 minutes
- Producer: Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul, Bruno Wagner, Antonin Svoboda, Martin Gschlacht
- Screenplay: Shirin Neshat, Shoja Azari
- Cinematographers: Martin Gschlacht
- Editors: Nadia Ben Rachid
- Music: Amine Bouhafa
- Website: Official Film Website
- Filmography: Women Without Men (2009)
- Language: English, Arabic, Farsi
- Has Subtitles: Yes
- Format: DCP
- International Sales: The Match Factory