All the Transit Cities
Published on October 22nd, 2011 | by Jonathan Stromberg0
“Transit Cities” (2010), the debut feature by Jordanian director Mohammad Al Hushki, opened this Friday at Quad Cinema for a one-week run as part of the inaugural Dialogue of Cultures International Film Festival (DCIFF). The film won’t likely have been on the minds of most American cinephiles, but it won a special jury prize at last year’s Dubai International Film Festival. Hushki’s shorts have shown at Sundance and has been actively promoted by the Jordanian Royal Film Commission (RFC).
Hushki is an interesting character in global cinema, from a Western perspective. First, he’s young—he directed his first short film, “Life Temporarily,” in 2004. Seventy percent of Jordanians (including the majority Palestinian population) is under 30 years old. About the same percentage are urban. Neither of these numbers are out of line with its neighboring countries. To that extent, Hushki, and other Arab filmmakers of his generation, carry the burden of not only speaking to their peers but speaking to their national identities. “Transit Cities” asks, what is the role of secular Jordanian youth in an increasing fundamentalist culture? Of course, he needn’t be asking about Jordan specifically, nor need he be Jordanian specifically. All the nations of the Middle East are confronting a similar question. The popular movements that arose in the region this Spring are a consequence of that.
Furthermore, Hushki is a timely director. The RFC was founded only a year before he made “Life Temporarily,” and has been employing him since. The same year, 2003, saw the first Dubai International Film Festival, which has been the prime venue for the Arab world’s new generation of cinema artists. And, of course, it was the same year America invaded Iraq, which pushed another million refugees into Jordan—most of whom still live there. Movies may be movies, but world cinema, particularly the work emerging from the Middle East, is implicitly political.
It follows that global venues, like the DCIFF (not to be confused with the D.C. International Film Festival), are beginning to open up new markets for the young filmmakers of the world. The annual traveling festival (next year it will be in Paris, France), begins this Thursday, October 20th, and runs through Sunday, October 23rd at the SVA Theater and Quad Cinema. In addition to hosting the US Premiere of “Transit Cities,” DCIFF is offering films from the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Korea, Iran, Brazil, India, Japan, Germany, the UK, the UAE, Thailand, Spain & Israel. The festival’s mission, to promote films that show the impact of globalization, invokes the basic problem of the modern experience. Mobility for an individual to travel from country to country—and culture to culture—has never been a more important factor in people’s lives than it is now. Take, for example, the mobility of a small budget film from a country thats population has quadrupled in as many decades and shot on DSLR cameras that simply didn’t exist two years ago. What effect might that mobility have on the artists of that country? What effect might it have on audiences in America?