The New York Arab Festival (NYAF) is concluding its second annual run this weekend with a special film screening at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. Nine shorts will be presented on Sunday, May 28, followed by a panel discussion with Arab Film and Media Institute director Yasmina Tawil, artist and filmmaker Alia Haju, and visual and performance artist Khaled Jarrar.

NYAF first kicked off last April. It was founded by a host of New York City artists, curators, and cultural workers with the aim of preventing the erasure of Arab identity — for both people in the Arab diasporas in the United States and beyond. The festival’s launch coincided with Arab American Heritage Month in April and the celebration of Ramadan. Over the past month and a half, NYAF has presented visual art exhibitions, dance performances, and concerts across the city.

Sunday’s screening will open with director Mariam Mekiwi’s “Before I Forget” (2018), a science-fiction short that probes themes of memory and climate disaster. In the film, an oceanographer embarks on a quest to discover the secrets of an amphibious society. He believes this knowledge will save humanity from a world in its final stages of climate catastrophe, in which air is becoming impossible to breathe. The scientist meets an amphibious woman in search of her mother and two other women who have lost their memories.

Still from “two thousand and thirteen” (2023), directed by Ziad Abdel-Aal

Other highlights include director Ziad Abdel-Aal’s “two thousand and thirteen” (2023), a three-minute film set in the aftermath of Egypt’s revolution, and director Ahaad Alamoudi’s “Hengli” (2020). The second short is a collaboration between Alamoudi, an artist as well as a director, and artist and curator Mengna Da. (Da has contributed to Hyperallergic.)

As in “Before I Forget,” the fictional plot of “Hengli” also focuses on questions of personal and cultural memory. The film is set in front of an immigration office in Brooklyn in a futuristic world in which the US government has erased individual languages and imposed a new universal means of communication called “hengli.” Alamoudi and Da, who both star in the film, forget how to speak hengli and are forced to find new ways to communicate, ultimately exploring how language, translation, and the passage of time affect cultural memory.

Sunday’s screening is organized in collaboration with the Arab Film and Media Institute and the Museum of the Moving Image. Cindy Sibilsky, who helped found the festival, will moderate the panel discussion. Adult tickets cost $15, student and senior tickets are $11, and youth tickets are $9.

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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