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Mead 2016: Music and Murals

by AMNH on

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In Yallah! Underground, which makes its New York premiere at the 2016 Margaret Mead Film Festival, filmmaker Farid Eslam follows more than a dozen Lebanese, Egyptian, Jordanian, and Palestinian musicians as they strive to express themselves despite potential repression before and during the upheavals of the Arab Spring.  

An exuberant Jordanian rapper known as Ostaz Samm chants, “I write what I feel and paint what I see.” Lebanese singer Mayaline Hage yearns for equal respect for women pop artists, while Egyptian Maii Waleed Yassin sings of her fears of the “dark wave coming.”

Such art isn’t without its risks. In 2011, Lebanese singer/songwriter/producer Zeid Hamdan was arrested for lyrics considered insulting to the Lebanese president. Released within a day, he explores the pressures on Arab artists to conform, recalling the murder of a Syrian singer who had criticized the government and was found with his “throat cut as a message.”

Still, there is an undercurrent of hope. “The politicians are stealing our dreams,” says Palestinian visual artist Amer Shomali. “Artists can bring [them] back.”

While Yallah! Underground depicts music and art as a challenge to tradition, Mele Murals, directed by Tadashi Nakamura, follows two Hawaiian graffiti artists who use art to rediscover their roots.

After achieving international recognition, graffiti artist Estria Miyashiro returns to his native Hawaii and meets up with graffiti legend John Hina, aka Prime, who had left his art behind him when he became a father. The two launch a mural project designed to teach schoolchildren about Hawaiian culture—and find themselves on a spiritual journey to reconnect to their Hawaiian identity.

There is a physical journey, too, as the artists travel for inspiration to sacred sites in the mountains and by the sea. There, a whale appears in the distance, waving its tail in the air says Prime—just like a “shaka,” a Hawaiian hand greeting.

“Everything came full circle,” says Prime, adding, “[The sky] had every color that we’re going to use in this mural.” 

For more details and showtimes, visit the Margaret Mead Film Festival homepage.

To learn more about the 2016 Margaret Mead Film Festival, keep up with our previous coverage here.