What The Middle East's Brightest Minds Are Reading Now: Butheina Kazim

Butheina Kazim, Founder of Cinema Akil, reveals the reads that paved her road to success
What The Middle East's Brightest Minds Are Reading Now: Butheina Kazim

Any Dubai Denizen who’s enjoyed an evening at the first arthouse cinema in the Gulf – with programming as diverse as Studio 54 and Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist to Naila and the Uprising and Freedom Fields – will be aware of its founder’s astonishing intellect, pioneering spirit, and breadth and depth of interests.

The winner of this year’s Grazia Style Award for Arts and Culture continues to ask challenging questions of herself and those around her through her cinematic contribution to the community, so Grazia couldn’t wait to explore her personal library to gain an insight into what drives her.

Orientalism by Edward W. Said is an essential text to realign the gaze, the mind, the terminologies and the worlds of thought that shape the way the ‘East’ is perceived through a historical, cultural, and political lens. This book shaped the way I view our region and the larger modes of representation that shape the way it is perceived. Its main ideas inform much of the way that I think about the films we present at Cinema Akil and our insistence on nuanced, challenging and critical films about and from the region.

And for a rare fantastical take on the UAE, the Gulf, and grappling with the scarcely investigated complexities of this place I call home, I recommend Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan.

Surrounded by stories of departure, the loss of home and self along the way, lustily packed with longing and conflict, Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North is a deeply personal, beautifully crafted one-man journey as a microcosmic embodiment of the state and heart of a people.

Palestine by Joe Sacco is a reminder of how the most benign forms can deliver the most powerful and affecting sentiments. In a nutshell, this non-fiction graphic novel manages to present, without a doubt, a reckoning with the longest occupation in modern history. The book keeps Palestine, frame by frame, in black and white and in sharp focus.

Alamut by Vladimir Bartol is a work of pure poetry, intricate detail and the artistry of deception. A fictional work about the weaponisation of fiction, hope and promises of a mythical paradise, it is a book of pure magic.

For the wordsmithery of Arundhati Roy alone, her book God of Small Things is worthy of repeated devouring. A Pandora’s box of complication, of love and betrayal, of class, race, hierarchies injustices, scandals, shame, beauty and terror, Roy proves herself as a genius of infusing realpolitik with the human spirit.

A torch of justice raging against subjugation, The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon is compulsory reading for anyone interested in understanding the broader social, cultural, and political ways in which colonialism with its multifaceted manifestations dehumanises people, and presents a framework for shaping the way we can challenge these classifications.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion is a tribute to love and understanding what loss might look like to the heart of a woman, while the way in which the trivial and the existential converge in The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera creates those moments that leave you hollow and enriched in the same instant.

Finally, always captivated by the notion of a perplexing woman, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood is a seductive, charged, disarming read that has sat nesting under my skin for decades.