In Act IV of Vogue and Gucci Bloom’sThe Awakening series, the founder of the Gulf’s first arthouse cinema celebrates reflection and inspiration through film.
“We continuously have multiple awakenings and opportunities for awakening,” says film curator Butheina Kazim. “I suppose that’s what drives me to cinema; you continuously have these minuscule lifetimes through every film and every story and every character.” Shot in Dibba, a coastal area in the east of the Arabian Peninsula, the fourth film in Vogue and Gucci Bloom’s The Awakening series sees Kazim reflecting on her personal progression through the lens of film.
The founder of Dubai’s arthouse cinema, Cinema Akil, the first of its kind in the Gulf, Kazim began with a simple aim: to share the emotion of cinema with those around her. “I started with this intention to bring people together,” she explains, “around the powerful universe that cinema is. It is this idea of communal awakenings, happening simultaneously in laughter and tears and heartbreak, in memory.”
Born in Manama, Bahrain, Kazim began the project as a traveling space, a nomadic cinema that was responsive to the locations it occupied. Reflecting on this fluid state, The Awakening: Act IV starts with a scene of Kazim watching a screen on open water. Sitting in a traditional boat decked with tuberose garlands, Kazim watches old footage of blossoms dance across the screen and reflected in the sea. Inspired by magnetic forces of moonlight, Gucci Bloom Eau De Parfum Intense is referenced in these visuals, as well as Cinema Akil’s adage, Follow Me Into The Dark.
The floral signatures of Jasmine Bud extract and Tuberose make up the new fragrance. The blossoms of those notes feature throughout the film; buds float on water and garlands bedeck a marble fountain, a resting point at which Kazim sprays a handwritten letter with the scent. The visual effect of water holds emotional significance, as well as lending its beauty to the screen. “My relationship to water has always been about evoking some sort of journey or travel,” Kazim says. “I suppose that’s the common denominator between my relationship with water and my relationship to cinema.” Filmed near to where the United Arab Emirates and Oman meet, shots of both sandy beaches, backed by the rugged Hajar Mountains, and the date farms indigenous to the region set the scene.
“My work has always been about an insistence on celebrating the fringes, celebrating the peripheral, celebrating the marginal, and amplifying these voices,” Kazim tells Vogue. The cinephile’s involvement in the growing arts scene in and around Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue, the creative district where Cinema Akil is located, contributes to a larger transformation of ground-up cultural initiatives that are driving the region’s development.
Referencing the cinema’s program and her work as a curator, Kazim continues to explain that the focus is to amplify “female-driven cinema, in front of the camera or behind it in all capacities, whether it’s marginalized voices or underrepresented voices, or if it’s challenging the canon of what is considered classic cinema or worthy of celebration and presentation.”
Strong feminine energy is integral to both Vogue and Gucci Bloom; once more, a powerful female team took the reins both directing and producing this film. Kenyan filmmaker Amira Tajdin, tapped by Vogue to direct this episode, spent her teenage years in Dubai and considers her ongoing romance with wild cities and her mixed lineage as the strongest influences in her films. She forms the creative half of a production company founded in Nairobi in 2011 with her sister, producer Wafa Tajdin. Working closely with Kazim on set, who they first met in the arts scene in Dubai, the Tajdin sisters continue to support the need to amplify strong, subversive female voices in the Gulf region.
“Words have always been the bedrock of our poetry, stories, and womanhood in this region but it’s a beautiful thing that I now get to use imagery to record what we’ve always felt but have rarely been allowed to share with outsiders,” the director explains. “It was important for me to tap into this energy while evoking Kazim’s personal journey and her love for cinema, we were allowed to play in the most beautiful way.”
As with the experience of watching cinema, Tajdin’s film celebrates the tension between the magical and the real. Speaking on this symbiotic approach to film, Kazim says, “I share the sentiment of being able to share these dreamscapes that I’ve always had living somewhere in the clouds in my head. [One] has to really trust someone to bring them to life.”
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