2016: Silent Film Concert: Views of the Ottoman Empire

What did the Middle East look like one hundred years ago? Arab Film Days repeat the success from last year. On April 13th, in collaboration with Cinemateket, we arrange a magnificent silent film concert, which presents newly restored films from the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The screening, which is a combination of film, music and readings, provides a unique opportunity to experience the Middle East as it was over one hundred years ago.

Av , foto: Arkivfoto EYE Film Museum / BFI 8. mar 2016

The empire that formed the modern Middle East
Ever since the 16th century lasting until the end of the First World War, the Middle East was under the Ottoman Empire, whose capital was in Istanbul. This period is often somewhat forgotten in schools curricula, but many would argue that the Empire contributed to forming the modern Middle East in a way nothing else can compare to. The films in the silent film concert present everyday life and cityscapes from areas such as Gaza, Jerusalem, Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, Tripoli and Istanbul just like it appeared between 1900 and 1920, which was near the end of the Ottoman Empire.

A central goal for the project is to nuance the perception of the region that is the Middle East, and to go against the dominant notion that the Ottoman Empire was a society in full collapse in the decades prior to the First World War. These images show the opposite – vibrant multi-religious and multi-ethnic societies. This is an important message to those who argue that the region always has been and forever will be characterized by ethic conflicts and extremism.

Live music with lutes and clarinets
The collection, which is curated by film historian and reviewer for Variety, Jay Weissberg, has never before been shown in Norway. The films are presented without audio, but will be accompanied by live music, poems and travel depictions from the 19th century. (The article continues below the photo).

Foto: Johnny Vaet Nordskog

The films were originally videotaped by European travellers in the region and are sewn together by a group of film historians who have examined various archives all over the world in search of these cinematic treasures. “Views of the Ottoman Empire” has previously been shown in London, Brussels, Bologna and other large cities around the world. Some of the films are from the collection of EYE Film Museum in Amsterdam.

Jay Weissberg has reviewed films for Variety since 2003. In addition to working as a critic in one of the most prestigious magazines in the film industry, Weissberg has participated in several juries and curated sections for large and small festivals around the world. He is educated in film history and is the leader for the project “Views of the Ottoman Empire”, where he has been responsible for collecting forgotten film material from the Ottoman Empire.

Note the date Wednesday April 13th at 6 pm at Cinemateket. Tickets are on sale from April 1st.

The silent film concert is organized with support from the Norwegian Film Institute.