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At MacDowell

Egyptian filmmaker explores the art of meaning

MacDowell Downtown: Two short films to be screened

Mohammad Shawky Hassan is an Egyptian filmmaker who likes to get people thinking by taking familiar images and removing them from their typical contexts. He’ll take everyday themes and set them to seemingly unrelated texts to draw out new meanings.

“When viewing my films, an audience has to transcend the notion of understanding and just live the experience,” Hassan said while preparing to leave Egypt to come to the U.S. for his first residency at The MacDowell Colony. While here, he will show some of his short works and talk about his filmmaking philosophy at MacDowell Downtown on Friday at The Monadnock Center for History and Culture.

“It all comes from an attempt to put the images and sounds and texts into a different context and try to create different possibilities of meaning… [something] different from what was originally intended,” Hassan said.

That’s what he’s done with two of the shorts he’ll screen at MacDowell Downtown this Friday at 7:30 p.m. “It Was Related to Me” (2011, 17 min.) is a meditation on two brothers’ complex relationship and the various notions of brotherhood, mentorship, masculinity and sexuality. “On a Day Like Today” (2012, 8 min.) explores the fleeting nature of love and youth with overlaid narratives written by the likes of Virginia Woolf, Elias Khoury, Allen Ginsberg and Chris Marker.

The short film format requires the audience to stay open to multiple interpretations.

Hassan explores a wide range of issues by superimposing multiple stories with film footage, video recordings, photographs, sound and text displayed interspersed between active scenes.

Hassan has come to Peterborough through the Voices of Change initiative, a collaboration between the MacDowell Colony and the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture. Voices of Change promotes residency opportunities in the U.S. for artists from North Africa to the Persian Gulf. Since its launching late last year, seven artists from six countries have been offered MacDowell residencies.

While at MacDowell, Hassan plans to work on his short film, “And On a Different Note,” which he describes as a study of his relationships with Cairo, the notion of home and ongoing developments in Egypt. Most of it was filmed in Cairo and New York. He was in New York between September 2010 and June 2011 as a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University, where he focused on the study of alternative aesthetics.

In New York he filmed what he describes as “very mundane, quotidian things that you do every day. Not the typical images of New York.” He described some of what he filmed for that project as the chores and errands that seemed to him to take up so much of the western way of life. The soundtrack for “And On a Different Note” will be taken from hours of various primetime political talk shows currently popular in Egypt. He’s also using text culled from his recent reading list.

Hassan holds a Bachelor of Arts from the American University in Cairo, which he earned in 2004, and has a graduate degree in film directing from the Academy of Cinematic Arts in Cairo. The public is welcome to watch, listen, imagine and engage in the post-screening discussion on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture’s Bass Hall.

MacDowell Downtown, a series of free presentations by MacDowell Colony artists, is presented the first Friday of each month from March to November. Doors open at 7 p.m. See www.macdowellcolony.

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