Jawad Rhalib - When Arabs Danced

Religiosity, fundamentalism, conservative politics, extremism and evocative performance art and the poetry of dance are not things one would, on first thought, connect in a sentence or in this thing we call life. And yet this is precisely what writer, director, and journalist Jawad Rhalib presents us with in his timely exploration of Muslim identity in relation to artistic expression and harmful stereotypes.

As invested in mood as it is in message, When Arabs Danced forgoes conventional artist-profile tropes in favour of a weave of rehearsals, conversations, performances, and a trove of archival materials that remind us of the long and often sensual history of dance and music found throughout the Arab world.

In the wake of the terror shockwave provoked by Daesh’s islamo-fascism, Rhalib questions the many facets of Arab culture that have sadly been forgotten by western and middle-eastern media alike; its love for dancing and music, but also for literature, philosophy, and science.

Jawad Rhalib and Face2Face host David Peck talk about his new film When Arabs Danced, stereotypes, the gender gap and the oppression of women, art, fundamentalism and culture and the power of knowledge.

Through some humorous clips of president Nasser’s public speeches addressing the Muslim Brotherhood about imposing on all Egyptian women the obligation of the hijab, the complexities behind a stage adaptation of Michel Houellebecq’s controversial book Submission and the many issues of gender identity in Arab societies, the film explores how Islamic fascism has suffocated the freedom, creativity and all progressive values of the Arab society.

About the Director: Jawad Rhalib has worked as an author and journalist. His films include the documentaries El EjidoThe Damned of the Sea and Le chant des tortues, and the features 7, rue de la Folie, InsoumiseWhen Arabs Danced is his latest film.

As an author and a director, Jawad Rhalib has oriented his work on social realism. He wrote and directed short, medium and full-length films and feature length documentaries. His movies El Ejido, The Law of Profit, The Damned of The Sea, The Turtle’s Song, and The Swallows of Love,  have been selected for competitions in prestigious festivals, winning prizes in many of them.


The film being discussed on today’s podcast, When Arabs Danced, won the Audience Award and Best Film at Vision du Réel- Nyon 2018.

Image Copyright: Jawad Rahlib and R & R productions. Used with permission.

For more information about David Peck’s podcasting, writing and public speaking please visit his site here.

With thanks to Thom Powers form TIFF and producer Josh Snethlage and Mixed Media Sound.


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