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Akram Zaatari

‘Twenty Eight Nights and a Poem’


3 – 31 December 2020

As we approach the end of a difficult year, we are happy to share a final online viewing opportunity – a chance to see Akram Zaatari’s remarkable film ‘Twenty Eight Nights and a Poem’ (2015). We originally presented this film at Glasgow Film Theatre in 2016, at the time of Akram’s exhibition with us ‘The End of Time’. The film is available to watch here until the end of December.

At 105 minutes, ‘Twenty Eight Nights and a Poem’ is a striking work that expands Zaatari’s ongoing engagement with the work of photographer Hashem el Madani (1928–2017), who ran a commercial studio for more than six decades in southern Lebanon. It is a film about image-making and people’s desire to be seen, as much as it is about the specific location and time. It seems all the more timely now, when we are all still living with varying degrees of restrictions due to the pandemic, with so much of our lives filtered through a screen.

Partly a study of a photographer’s studio practice in the mid-twentieth century and partly an exploration of the essence of archives today, the film tries to understand how this mode of producing images functioned in the lives of the communities it served, and how it ceased to exist. It is set between the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut (of which Akram is co-founder), where most of Hashem el Madani’s collection is preserved today, and in Studio Shehrazade in Saida, where the photographer worked surrounded by his old machines, tools, photographs, negatives and what remained of millions of transactions that took place there. It is a reflection on making images, on an industry of image-making, on age and on the life that is preserved but nevertheless continues in an archive. All this is presented in the film through a set of staged interventions of which Madani himself was part.

“There are many different windows in Akram Zaatari’s newest film '28 Nights and a Poem': physical windows, to the outside world and between worlds, computer screens, camera viewfinders, televisions, smart phones, projections, the boundaries of the film format itself. Zaatari places these devices front and center, juxtaposed with immanently human hands, in a film that is a meditation on practice, life, and work based on the filmmaker’s experiences moving the life’s work of Saida photographer Hashem el Madani to the The Arab Image Foundation in Beirut.”
M. T. Niagara in the Brooklyn Rail. Read the full article here.

'Twenty Eight Nights and a Poem'
'Thamaniat wa Ushrun Laylan wa Bayt Min al-Sheir'

105 minutes, 2015
Written and produced by Akram Zaatari.
A commission by Musée Nicéphore Niépce.

Image: Akram Zaatari
'Twenty Eight Nights and a Poem', 2015
Film still
Courtesy of the artist

Akram Zaatari – ‘The End of Time’
Arab Image Foundation