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Free film screenings and Middle East gallery tours for your coronavirus quarantine

You can take virtual tours of galleries across the world [ISKV/Barjeel Art Foundation/aflumna]

Date of publication: 6 April, 2020

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Isolation can be tough, but these Middle Eastern art galleries, festivals and creators are opening up local art scenes online.
Around a third of the world population is currently on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many more likely self-isolating or social distancing to prevent the virus' spread.

Quarantine life can be tough, but luckily, these Middle Eastern art galleries, festivals and creators are taking their local art scenes online so that we never have to be bored.

There are a variety of free film screenings on offer, and some galleries have even opened up virtual tours. Read more to find out how you can keep busy in lockdown:

Cur-films: Jordan's twice-a-week film screenings

Jordan's Royal Film Commission is offering free feature film screenings twice a week. The screenings take place on their website on Mondays and Thursdays at 9pm (7pm GMT).

"Cinema takes all its value, when films bring us closer at times of social distancing, and open a window to the outside world at times of quarantine," it said in a statement last week.

The commission is also running a short film competition for residents of the kingdom stuck in confinement.

For more information take a look at the commission's website or Facebook page, where links to the screenings will be shared closer to the time.

A window into the Istanbul Biennial


The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (ISKV) is allowing art lovers from across the world a visit into last year's Istanbul Biennial contemporary art exhibition. 

The sprawling festival takes place once every two years and attracts artists from across the world. Titled "a good neighbour", the 15th Istanbul Biennial is now available online via Google's Arts and Culture archiving platform.  

The platform also includes virtual explorations of museums across the world, including New York's Museum of Modern Art, Paris' Musee d'Orsay and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

The Biennial is also offering free access to a different short film every week.

Home-schooling at the Louvre Abu Dhabi

The Louvre's Emirati branch is offering virtual deep dives into some of its key art works and archeological finds.

Updated every few days, the Louvre Abu Dhabi website accompanies each piece with a bilingual video and an audio segment explaining more, as well as activities for children.

The content on offer makes the website an interesting addition for families trying home-schooling for the first time!

Independent Arab cinema at your fingertips

Lebanon-based filmmaker collective aflamuna is leading the way for introducing international viewers to "some of the best, most thought-provoking and independently-minded works of contemporary Arab cinema" during the coronavirus crisis.

Read more: Books by Muslim authors every child should be reading

Aflamuna releases a new film on their website every 15 days, which is then available for a short period of time. It should be noted that some of the films are only available to view from the Arab world, however.

Lebanon's Abbout Productions is also involved in the action and is occassionally sharing some of its films for free via its Facebook page.

There are more free films on offer...

Reel Palestine, a UAE-based annual festival for Palestinian films, is offering links to a different short or feature film every day. While most of the offerings so far have been free, others have been available to rent for a small fee in US dollars.

Istanbul's SALT, a contemporary art institution in the heart of Turkey's largest city, is also offering free film screenings online, which it normally offers in person.

And even more art!

Beirut's Dalloul Art Foundation just opened its doors for the first time - online. While their website does not yet offer a virtual tour, it does give visitors access to high-quality photographs of more than 3,000 works of art from across the Arab world.

Qatar's exceptional National Museum and museums of Islamic Art and Modern Art are also available online through Google Arts and Culture. Modern art enthusiasts will also be interested to browse Kuwait's Contemporary Art Platform.

Also available on the platform is Jordan's TIRAZ, a spectacular collection of traditional Arab clothing from the 19th and 20th century. It is a must for those interested in fashion and embroidery.

Dubai's ALSERKAL Arts Week was scheduled to take place in late March but unfortunately had to move online due to the coronavirus crisis. No worries, because its online platform offers virtual reality tours of 19 different art galleries.

A similar virtual reality tour is also available for Amman's Darat al-Funun gallery and highlights from Sharjah's Barjeel Art Foundation, the private collection of Arab art works belonging to Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi. 

For history nerds and photography enthusiasts, the Beirut-based Arab Image Foundation launched its online collection of more than 500,000 photographs last year.

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