A plot for a movie that has never been made.

One early morning, a yellow taxi pulls up by the famous ‘Souq al-Madina’ in Aleppo, where an elegantly dressed Zayneb Hallaq emerges from. Standing in front of a jewelery shop, she eats some of her kibbeh with pomegranate syrup while sipping the black tea she brought with her, before she hops into the taxi that will take her home. Upon arriving at the door of her apartment’s building, she sees a man who is ringing her apartment’s bell in hopes for any of the building’s tenants to buzz him in. After conversing with him she discovers that he is her new neighbor-tenant Ali al-Falaji.

Zayneb is very passionate about voicing people’s opinions and mustering the truth and displaying it to the public in her writing. Consequently she becomes heavily affiliated with Hamdi the Hidden, a very controversial writer in an underground newspaper in Aleppo. Through the movie’s build up, Zayneb finds out that Ali, her new neighbor, is also a writer, a very good one too, who wrote a book about a young Syrian soldier titled ‘Nine Lives five years’, but has not published anything else since then. The two new friends confide in each other what they both want to achieve while they live in Aleppo. To Ali, it was to publish another book, where Zayneb explains in turn that her purpose in Aleppo is to save up money in order to support her brother, Ayman, once he gets out of the Army.

With the progress of time, Zayneb and Ali’s relationship develops and the days bring them closer and closer. Until one day, Ali could hear a stern deep voice coming from Zayneb’s apartment that could not be her voice. Intrigued and driven by suspicion, he nears her apartment in an attempt to catch something that would make sense to him. He starts hearing Zayneb’s voice which sounds faint and feeble, as if pleading in despair for mercy. Ali could no longer uphold the confusion and anger that are eating his heart while hearing the voices in a discourse that he could not comprehend, and decides to intervene and bursts into the apartment.

Still caught in the haste of an adrenaline rush, Ali rushes through the entrance to be confronted with Zayneb and a big man in the living room. Standing there, his sole presence in the silent room demands an urgent explanation from Zayneb at once. Zayneb quickly and nervously introduces the two men to each other, Ali as merely the next door neighbor, and the big man as Hussain Al Hallaq, her husband. She carries on the introduction by saying that she has been wedded to Hussain since she was 13 years of age, in her hometown, a small village not very far from Aleppo. Ali, pale as a sheet of paper, bleakly explains his thoughtless action of barging in by saying that the noise coming from the apartment worried him, and excuses himself.

Zayneb mumbles something quickly to Hussain, and rushes after Ali to catch him by the door. In high hopes to justify herself, she explains that her marriage to Hussain was arranged and she had fled to start a new life in Aleppo, leaving her husband, family and the life she hated all behind. She quietly cries that he only came today to take her back because her brother Ayman is returning from the army.

At that moment, and in the surge of all the mixed feelings expressed in that little corridor by the door, the police raid Zeyanb’s apartment, pushing the door wide open, they recognize and arrest Zayneb for her disputable political activities in the Oppositional Underground movement with Hamdi the Hidden. And it is in that moment in particular that Ali realizes that he has fallen in love with her.





My skin has never been darker, my heart warmer, my smile wider and my happiness most genuine. I always thought the motherland would make me feel a certain way, but never that deep.

I don’t miss my jeans, I don’t miss my European comfort and lifestyle and the cold, distant attitude I perceive from acquaintances and other people back there. I have tears in my eyes, I have never felt more complete than now. Next time, you’re coming with me, jaanu.

Waiting for your letter, I love you.




What was it like before I got here?
Before I cracked the doorway
In your ribcage & set free your heart? -Eve to Adam


Don't spit my name.
The only reason
You need to carry a
Man's name on your own
Is because,
The land that
Bore you,
Let you live,
9 months, rent-free under its roof
Does not need a reminder
To love you.
Or forgive you
When you plant hate in your new home. -Eve to Cain


You claim I took the first bite
And you,
Poor and infatuated as you were
Misguidedly followed
So why is it
You say I am half-witted?
Why is it you break my spirit,
Put a sock in your heart's mouth
Then claim,
God made me to follow,
And you, to lead? -Eve to Adam; Apple Side-r


At least when I do something
I do not wear God
Or religion, or Patriotism,
On my tongue
To carry the guilt
That would stain my conscience. -Lucifer/ابليس

text // shahd fadlalmoula
art // eman aleghfeli






Hollywood was never the most progressive when it came to representing cultures and ethnicities that were not white, Western, or European. For the majority of its history, Hollywood served as the glorification, through portrayal, of the white race as opposed to other races and ethnicities; something that reflected the political and social climate of the times, which Hollywood itself helped influence and guide. In its early history, white actors held a monopoly on film roles, with ethnic and non-white roles played by whites dressed in stereotypical clothing and face make up. By the 1930’s and 40’s, more and more non white actors started having roles in film yet the ones with leading roles were very rare. 

Carmen Miranda

Carmen Miranda

Carmen Miranda was already a famous movie star in Brazil in the 20’s. Coming to the US and gaining popularity in the 30’s and 40’s, she was one of the first major non white actors to be cast in leading roles. Her claim to fame was the 1941 film That Night in Rio directed by Irving Cummings. Her roles were generally those of the ‘exotic’, fiery Latin woman who was uncontrollable. The nature of foreign stars within Hollywood is an interesting one, using them as markers of difference from the ‘regular’ American audience and echoing the labeling of otherness to them. From a sales point of view, the use of Miranda as the Other garnered more sales of the movie because audiences love to see something other than themselves on the big screen. The Western gaze upon foreign stars elevated the sense of national pride and the dichotomy of cultures between the US and the rest of the world; a case of US exceptionalism. Of course, that is not the fault of the stars themselves, it is simply how their roles were written and what the studios wanted at the time.

Another interesting point about Miranda’s relationship with Hollywood is since she was a Brazilian, thus native to Latin America, she was given roles portraying people from Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, etc. In a sense, the studios turned a blind eye to the nationality of the star, writing roles that suited how she looked like (to them, she looked like every other Latin American woman). Geographical specificity was often elided in Hollywood. Miranda herself had little to no say when it came to the roles she was given. Her contract with 20th Century Fox was binding and studio executives had little interest in ethnic or national specifications. (Interesting to point here, she eventually bought herself out of the contract but had little success working afterwards)

Fast forward to today, Hollywood is not as stereotypical and condescending as it was in the 40’s. A reformation within the Hollywood institution paved the way for less stereotypical roles and portrayals and a larger emphasis on foreign actors playing accurate roles. Yet the trend of Hollywood turning a blind eye on geographical specificity still continues. The question is, is it all that bad?

The barrage of Iraq war movies coming after 2003 showed Hollywood stereotyping and casting at its worst. Arabs were simply portrayed as a tool for American exceptionalism and heroism in the face of barbarians just as the Soviets were portrayed in the 70’s and 80’s. In the last few years though, a rising popularity of foreign films and actors paved the way for a more accepting and accurate portrayal of other countries and cultures within films. 

Amr Waked in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Amr Waked in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Going back to geographical specificity, there are several movies where actors from one country portray roles from a different countries. For example, Wagner Moura, a Brazilian, plays Pablo Escobar, a Colombian in Narcos. In Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, as well, an Egyptian plays the role of a Yemeni. The examples are ample, even happening in Arabic produced/directed films: Jordanian plays the role of a Palestinian, Emirati played the role of a Kuwaiti, Lebanese playing the role of a Syrian, etc. The question begs itself: how important is it to cast an actor from the same country that the role is portraying? Since cinema is the portrayal of a reality unto fiction, would the origins of the actor matter if the role is written and directed correctly?

There are arguments on both sides of the spectrum. On one hand, geographic specificity is essential in the movie and portrayal of characters. For example, films like Noah and Moses used white actors to portray Egyptians and Semites just to appeal to a Western audience and neglected hiring actors from the same country or region as the film is. That is a major intentional oversight. For supposedly historical films (and many other films like it as well), the usage of non-ethnic actors demeans the portrayal of the characters and whitewashes the history behind the films. Hiring actors from the region/country where the film is set in, is not only important just for the sake of being accurate, it is also important in the fact that a foreign actor from one country resonates with the character and understands its mentality. A geographically accurate casting can help the actor identify with the role and deliver a better performance. 

On the other hand, it might not be completely necessarily to be geographically accurate. In films like Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Appropriate Behaviour, Rosewater, and even Arabic films such as When I Saw You (Lama Shiftak), etc, actors from one country play the role of a person from a different, near by country. A part of me thinks that as long as the role is written, directed, and played well,  the nationality of the actor does not matter. The film can separate the actor from their origin to produce a work that can be great without compromising accuracy or respect to different cultures. In the case of Mr. Robot, Rami Malik, an American actor of Egyptian parents, plays the role of an American. His nationality, ethnic background, or culture is not a variable in his role as Elliot. There is always a burden of a foreign actor being a representative of their culture or country, a burden that is automatically given the moment he is viewed as the Other, either out of curiosity or ignorance. Elliot, the character, is one that transcends national and cultural boundaries, appealing to the very fragile humanity in all of us. He is a conduit of the fears, anxieties, and obsessions define us.

Rami Malik in Mr. Robot

Rami Malik in Mr. Robot

There might be something to be said when it comes to actors portraying roles that transcend boundaries and cultures, appealing to the most human qualities in us. There might even be something to be said about actors needing to be from the country of region they are portraying. There are valid points in either arguments. But the truth is, I don’t know where I stand. The more I think about it the more it seems that it all depends on what kind of movie it is, what subject it deals with, how the characters are written and if there is a big enough budget to have the casting producers scout actors from different parts of the world. Thing is, in 2015, there is no shortage of foreign actors making it big. Brilliant actors. Hollywood is seeing a fantastic surge of a multicultural trend in cinema and TV that is both accurate (for the most part) and engaging. With that happening and world cinema gaining a massive traction and funding, this would surely be even more promising.   



I am woman.
Painted lips and painted eyes
but underneath my black Abay
is where I hide my fists.
Hidden hips and hidden thighs
but somehow I always apologize.
Somehow sorry is always on my lips.

I am done
making myself small
for you.
cause some days I wake up and I feel bursting at the seams,
I feel like fingertips and gums are leaking blood and dreams
I am lava, I’m a flame,
and then you put me out.

I am gold and I am glitter.
I am copper, I am silver.
I am hot metal, bloom of red.
I am not just some chick you force to bed.
I am not nothing until I’m wed.

I am woman.
Words loll around my skull and tongue,
breath somehow enters, leaves my lungs -
a galaxy of bruises on my wrists.
And constellations don’t look half the same
when they’re on skin instead of sky.
Put down your weapons, put down your masculine,
put up white flags, pick up your feminine.

This isn’t mental illness.
This is about putting value on innocence.
This is about blaming victims and how they dress.
This is about equivalence.

Listen to me. This is not an apology.
This is ocean deep, this is thirty
This is rage at being “just a She”.
This is rearranging my anatomy.
This is my confession
that I’m bigger than my body.

I am pure woman-ness.
I am chaotic, I’m a mess.
I am breath-y happiness.
and I am not your princess.

I am done plucking petals and asking them of my fate.
Hoping one or the other has him decide between love and hate.
He loves me, he loves me, I hope to God he loves me.
Why the hell does he love me not?
I’d rather leave that daisy to rot.

I am woman.
But when hair grows where the hair grows,
when I’m more hot blood and less red rose,
don’t chide me for my human-ness
and ask me why I’m pissed.
I am woman. 
I resist.


text/audio // rawa majdi
art // sarah farhoud


splenic tissue mandala 2.jpg
splenic tissue mandala 1.jpg
splenic tissue mandala 3.jpg

His violence was maddening for a jerk with a lute who drank his coffee blacker than freud’s abyss – no diluted sugar, no added milkiness. She was a child and she knew he smelled it in her fanciful talk, full of crazy and God. He was a lusty little boy and she tasted it in his persistent passion, charming in its foolish perseverance. 

While they sat on the very same edge of the same troubled surface of murky water, he fished for milfs and naked hags and she sifted the waters with her trembling fingers, searching for cheap magic and muted scenes from indies and cult films about dirty young lovers. He wanted a kiss and a lap dance, she wanted to drown the world in her biscuit fantasies. He wanted glory, she wanted tragedy. They feared each other’s needs. They were bored and terrified of them, occasionally titillated. They lived, breathed and filled their bellies and heads with romance and steamier subjects of conversation. 

text // amna alshehhi
art // waad albawardi