Centers of Gravity

Wed 28 Oct 2015 7.00PM-9.00PM University Center, Room L104
The New School
65 5th Ave
New York, NY 10011
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Filmmaker Mohammad Ali Atassi presents for this New York Premier screening of his film Waiting for Abu Zaid and post screening discussion with Jason Fox and Charif Kiwan.

This screening features works by the renowned Syrian filmmakers Joude Gorani and Mohammad Ali Atassi. Gorani's Before Vanishing presents a portrait of a dying ecosystem, tracing the changing social and ecological life of the Barada, the river that cuts through the heart of Damascus. Ali Atassi's Waiting for Abu Zaid offers an intimate portrait of the prominent Egyptian scholar in exile, Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid. Both, in very different ways, illuminate fault lines that shape a region on the verge of war, and both gesture towards ways of framing common ground.

"I was looking for an intellectual father."
• Mohammad Ali Atassi

Joude Gorani, 2005, 12 minutes

The filmmaker travels from the beginning to the end of the Barada river that surrounds the capital city of Damascus. Often deemed iconic of nature's wondrous beauty, the film reveals how the Barada river has suffered from exploitation, neglect, pollution and unplanned urbanization. The film also uncovers the transformation of the river's social life and provides an intelligent measure of the distance between ideology and reality in contemporary Syria.

Mohammad Ali Atassi, 2010, 81 minutes

"Nasr Hamed Abou Zaid is not Godot, and the wait promised by the title is misleading: this tall gentleman is present in almost ever shot. Who is he? A theologian and an Egyptian Muslim of international renown, he has published exegeses of the Koran that resulted in his being condemned for apostasy. Exile, forced divorce with his wife Ibtihal Younes since his marriage fell under a statutory annulment, separation with his son: these are the consequences of his writings. But Abou Zaid has not given up; he resides in Leyden in the Netherlands, where he continues, constantly on the road, to give conferences and to explain with a great serenity his positions in public debates, on television, etc. It is this particularly impressive devotion that Mohammad Ali Atassi's camerawork has recorded over a period of six years. This film is thus the portrait of a thinker in action and the occasion of fascinating lesson of Islamic studies. But it is also, as in the sequence where there is an encounter with a Beirut audience, or on a set of Al Jezeera, a document on a society animated by theoretical debates."

- Adapted from the FID Marseille catalog, where the film won the 2010 Georges de Beauregard International Prize.


Mohammad Ali Atassi is a Syrian journalist, documentary filmmaker, and human rights activist currently living in Beirut. After receiving a DEA in history at Sorbonne Paris IV, Atassi returned to Syria and, since 2000, has been writing for several Arab and international newspapers on dissidents and human rights violations in his country. Atassi's other documentaries include Ibn al Am (2001), about the Syrian dissident Riad al-Turk, and Our Terrible Country (2014), co- directed with Ziad Homsi, which won the Grand Prize of the International Competition at the Marseille Festival of Documentary Film in 2014.

Charif Kiwan is co-founder of and spokesperson for the anonymous film collective Abounaddara.

Jason Fox is a filmmaker and professor based in New York City. He has taught at Vassar College, Cooper Union and at CUNY Hunter College. As well, he has worked as a documentary programmer in conjunction with The American Museum of Natural History, The Flaherty Seminar, and Maysles Cinema, among others. He also serves on the Board of Organization for Visual Progression, an organization that partners with social justice organizations to provide training on using visual media in their advocacy efforts. He holds an MA from New York University and and MFA from CUNY Hunter College.

Curated by Jason Fox, this screening is organized by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, The New School, in conjunction with the exhibition and conference Abounaddara. The Right to the Image, presented at Parsons from October 22 through November 11, 2015.