“Did you know our cinema seats were rescued, restored and reupholstered from the laststanding independent and oldest single-screen cinema in Dubai – the Golden Cinema in Bur Dubai – before it was demolished in 2017?” Cinema Akil asked its Instagram followers last week.
No, we didn’t, but it tells us everything we need to know about Co-Founder Butheina Kazim’s attention to detail, passion for cinema, respect for tradition, and the love and care with which she’s propelling her picture house into the future.
Similarly, her brother Ahmad’s business, Project Chaiwala, housed at Cinema Akil, is more than just a hipster karak spot, it’s a snapshot of their formative cinemagoing experience as young emiratis. “We really wanted to do a throwback to cinemas in Dubai,” Butheina tells Grazia. “It traditionally involved chai, samosa and Indian street food at the cinema, rather than soda and popcorn. Al Serkal Avenue was saturated with speciality coffee so we wanted something a little bit different. Plus, conceptually Project Chaiwala is very on-point with our principals as it works with farmers’ collectives in India.”
These creative concepts will come together even more serendipitously during Holy Month with the launch of Project Chaiwala and Cinema Akil’s Cinemajlis Ramadan Programme. From 4 May to 3 June, Dubai dwellers can enjoy a carefully crafted iftar menu with an elevated spin on casual, familystyle, South Asian cuisine, paired with an intelligently curated series of films from the Arabic-speaking world, chosen with the spirit of Ramadan in mind.
On what to expect, the recipient of the Grazia Style Award for Arts & Culture reveals, “The auditorium is going to turn into floor seating, so even the cinema experience is going be different. We tend to have a very feminist voice throughout all of our programmes, which is very important for me, so the titles we’re working with are: The Poetess, a documentary about a hijabi woman who, against all odds, participates in a Saudi poetry competition and
all the challenges that are involved with it; Naila and the Uprising, which is a Palestinian film about a group of female activists in Palestine; and The Journey, an the Iraqi-Kurdish film by Mohamed Al-Daradji.”
Cinema, culture and community? We’ll see you at sunset…
Photos: Courtesy of Cinema Akil