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A section of a wall bordering Israel and Palestine.

Route 181: Fragments of a Journey in Israel-Palestine, a controversial epic documentary about the state of relations between Israelis and Palestinians, is among the films featured in the three-day "Cinema and Society in the Arab World" symposium on the Twin Cities campus.

A peek at the Arab world

March 21, 2006

From Morocco to Iraq, the Arab world has been a cradle for world traditions, from art to philosophy, which have contributed to and shaped global civilizations. What is less known, though, is that the Arab world is home to some of the earliest and most dynamic cinematic productions.

From March 24 to 26, the University of Minnesota Institute for Global Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, and Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature will present a symposium examining "Cinema and Society in the Arab World" at Nicholson Hall on the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis. In addition to a series of panel discussions, each day will feature film screenings and talks at the Oak Street Cinema by noted Arab filmmakers Omar Amiraley (Syria), Inas Al Degheidy (Egypt), and Michel Khliefi (Palestine).

"The goal of this conference is to foster a thoughtful and critical reflection about the principles of innovative aesthetic practices, social foundations, and cultural expressions in Arab cinema," says conference organizer Hisham Bizri. "The conference will approach Arab cinema as both a social and artistic institution that affirms, contests, and reflects Arab realities in the 20th century. In order to highlight how Arab cinema expresses but potentially also challenges dominant ideologies--literary, artistic, political, and historical--in Arab societies, the conference will focus on three themes: cinema, literature, and the arts; cinema and nationalism; and cinema and gender."

Bizri, a filmmaker and University of Minnesota assistant professor of cultural studies and comparative literature, adds that the topic of Arab cinema is timely as "the U.S. is engaged in war in the Arab world."

Arab cinema has been responsible for more than 4,500 feature-length films and a host of documentaries and short films by the end of the 20th century, says Bizri. "However, like many other cultural and artistic productions from the Arab World, few studies and little attention have been devoted to this topic."

For more information about the event, including the schedule of free films, see "Cinema and Society in the Arab World."

(You can read more about Bizri and the art of filmmaking at "Notes from the Underground: The Art & Physics of Film").