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In December Archive außer sich continues the program on www.arsenal-3-berlin.de with films by Sudanese filmmaker, painter and poet Hussein Shariffe (1934–2005), which will be supplemented by panel discussions, which can be viewed online on the website of the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image.

Furthermore four films will be shown that were intended as a footnote to the homage to the actress Marina Vlady in the Arsenal cinema. The film series that was originally planned for December will be shown next year.

OF DUST AND RUBIES: Hussein Shariffe between London, Cairo, and Khartoum: Films and Discussions

In 2000, Sudanese filmmaker, painter and poet Hussein Shariffe started to work on his last film, OF DUST AND RUBIES, a film that undertakes a cinematic interpretation of a selection of contemporary Sudanese poetry of exile. For the following four years, Hussein Shariffe, together with his intimate cast and crew, were filming across Egypt, where the filmmaker was forced to live in exile for over a decade because of his political position against the regime in Sudan. The shooting was done on 35mm in selected ten regions across the country including Cairo, Fayoum Desert, Aswan, Sinai, Alexandria, Western Desert, al-Qanatir Gardens and Dahshour Desert. The unexpected death of Hussein Shariffe in January 2005 didn’t allow him to finish his work and since then, OF DUST AND RUBIES is a film on suspension.

In August 2018, a group of five people, including Hussein Shariffe’s daughter and one of his close associates, participated in a two days’ workshop in Berlin to discuss how to present the work of this exceptional filmmaker to the world. The workshop started with a viewing session of a Betacam version of the 5 hours footage of the unfinished film, as the destiny of the original 35mm is unknown. The viewing session carried many surprises to the group and confronted them with many questions that were not easy to answer. Through showing some excerpts of the footage, the participants of the workshop shared their collectives and personal questions and thoughts about this material in a public panel that took place as a part of the 2019 Berlinale Forum Expanded.


THE DISLOCATION OF AMBER, Hussein Shariffe, Sudan 1975, Arabic OV, 32’
THE DISLOCATION OF AMBER was filmed in the city of Suakin, a formerly flourishing port in Sudan. Today the city lies in ruins, a shadow of its former self. Shariffe used symbols – scorpions, seashells and camel caravans – to accentuate a sense of utter desertion. He interweaves an artistic tapestry using visual imagery, symbols, abstraction and the melodic voice of the late Sudanese singer Abdel-Aziz Dawoud.
“Only faint traces of its ancient affluence are apparent today … a dimmed reflection in a cracked mirror; empty eyes with the stars in a different house, laughter in another room”. (Hussein Shariffe, 1974)

TIGERS ARE BETTER LOOKING, Hussein Shariffe, GB 1979, engl. OV, 20’
TIGERS ARE BETTER LOOKING is an adaptation of a short story by Jean Rhys. Shariffe directs his view towards exile in Europe, showing the wide disparity between North and South. The film contrasts two different civilisations, the homeland, Sudan, and the country of exile, Great Britain. Through poetic abstractions the director manages to portray the strong sense of exile and the longing for the homeland.

DIARY IN EXILE, Hussein Shariffe, Atteyat Al Abnoudy, Sudan 1993, OV/EnS, 52’
DIARY IN EXILE is a documentary film that uses a combination of sound, image, colour and peoples testimonies to historically account for the period following the fundamentalist military coup in the Sudan in 1989. This period witnessed the migration of a staggering number of Sudanese from their country to all parts of the World. The greater majority of Sudanese migrants headed to Egypt, where the film was shot. Moving between different strata of Sudanese communities in Egypt the film, through various personal testimonies, throws light on the living conditions of ordinary people. All provide pieces of the saga, all have taken refuge in Egypt. All dream of returning back to Sudan, one day.

Available from 12 December:
OF DUST AND RUBIES, A FILM ON SUSPENSION, Tamer El Said, Germany 2020, engl. OV
A public panel about the unfinished film, OF DUST AND RUBIES the last work of the Sudanese filmmaker, painter and poet Hussein Sharrife, who passed away in 2005 before starting the editing process of the film. Through showing some excerpts of the footage, the panel presents different thoughts and questions by five panelists including Hussein Sharrife’s daughter and one of his close associates.

On December 18–19, three online panel discussions under the title  „Hussein Shariffe (1934–2005): Exile and homecoming between London, Cairo and Khartoum“ staged at Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image explore the global connections linking Shariffe’s film oeuvre to transnational modernisms, and to more proximate British histories of migration, exile, colonial violence, and exilic homecoming.

Fr 18.12. 18–19:30 Uhr
„Home and away in London: TIGERS ARE BETTER LOOKING“
Shot in London during Shariffe’s period at the National Film School, the literary adaptation TIGERS ARE BETTER LOOKING foregrounds the racial undercurrents of a short story by Creole literary modernist Jean Rhys. Tracing Shariffe’s journeys between Khartoum and London, where he studied first at the Slade School of Fine Art, later at the National Film School, this panel explores the affinities and dissonances that the film unveils between Shariffe’s Sudanese experience, and his encounters from the late 1950s to 1979 with British avant-garde and experimental film and intellectual culture. Speakers are Eiman Hussein (psychotherapist and daughter of Hussein Shariffe); Liz Bruchet (UCL) and Ming Tiampo (Carleton University) [Transnational Slade/ Slade, London, Asia]; Clive Nwonka (Lecturer in Film and Literature, University of York); Anna Snaith (Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature, King’s College London/KCL). Chair: Erica Carter, KCL/German Screen Studies Network.

Sa 19.12. 14–15 Uhr
„The city as metaphor: THE DISLOCATION OF AMBER“

The port city of Suakin sits on a small island on the Red Sea coast, 800km eastwards of Khartoum, and facing east towards Jeddah and Mecca. The city’s decaying coral and stone buildings tell stories of centuries of trade and cosmopolitan travel, but also of resilience in the face of religious conflict, imperial conquest, and colonial violence. Shariffe himself described the film as a ‘collage of historical events’; one collaborator on the film, the feminist anthropologist, poet and performer Sondra Hale, calls it ‘a metaphor for a society decimated by colonialism’. Now a Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, Sondra Hale joins this panel alongside the Oxford social anthropologist, co-Founder of The Sudanese Programme, and friend of Hussein Shariffe, Professor Ahmad Al-Shahi. Chair: Erica Carter.

Sa 19.12. 16–17 Uhr
„A film on suspension: OF DUST AND RUBIES“

In August 2018, the Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, Berlin, staged a two-day workshop in the context of their collaborative project Archive außer sich on Shariffe’s OF DUST AND RUBIES. Following the Arsenal workshop, the five participants (Eiman Hussein, Talal Afifi, Tamer El Said, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus and Haytham El Wardany) presented their experiences of the film footage to the public at the Berlinale Forum Expanded, convened during the Think Film symposium in February 2019. As a result of the panel presentation, a film was created by Tamer El Said, who joins our December 18 panel to explore further possible future lives for OF DUST AND RUBIES. Other speakers are Arsenal Co-Director and curator of Archive außer sich Stefanie Schulte Strathaus; Talal Afifi, film curator, creative producer, Director and Coordinator of the Sudan Film Factory, and the lead actor in OF DUST AND RUBIES; and Shariffe’s daughter, Eiman Hussein. Chair: Erica Carter.

All panels are held in English and can be visited here free of charge after prior registration.

The program is a collaboration between Archive außer sich, the German Screen Studies Network CIRCE project, the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image and the interdisciplinary research project „Violence Elsewhere“ (UCL/University of York).

Marina Vlady

We are showing four films online at arsenal 3, two of which from our archive, that correspond with the career and personality of French-Russian actress Marina Vlady (*1938).


NAINE (A Woman), Eléonore de Montesquiou, Russia 2009, OV/EnS, 15'  
KINOZAL, Eléonore de Montesquiou, Germany/Russia 2010, OV/EnS, 22'

The two films by Eléonore de Montesquiou deal with memories of the Soviet Union: The titular elderly woman gives an account of her life in the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic and how she saw herself as a feminist. KINOZAL draws on archive footage to give insight into the Krugovaya Kinopanorama in Moscow. Built in 1959, it showed films shot on eleven synchronized cameras to present the audience an optimistic, beautiful Soviet Union in 360°.

GLI APPUNTI DI ANNA AZZORI / UNO SPECCHIO CHE VIAGGIA NEL TEMPO (The Notes of Anna Azzori / A Mirror that Travels through Time) Constanze Ruhm, Austria/Germany/France 2020, OV/EnS, 72'
Marina Vlady is committed to the feminist movement to this day, which is why we are showing one of the most noteworthy new films on the theme: GLI APPUNTI DI ANNA AZZORI / UNO SPECCHIO CHE VIAGGIA NEL TEMPO (The Notes of Anna Azzori / A Mirror that Travels through Time, Austria/Germany/France 2020) by Constanze Ruhm. Her essay film revolves around the 1975 film Anna by Alberto Grifi and Massimo Sarchielli and its protagonist Anna Azzori, a drifter who needed money and help. The leitmotif of Ruhm’s work raises the question of the place of women and their struggles in a world that was full of discrimination at the time—and which still is today.

SI J’AVAIS QUATRE DROMADAIRES (Wenn ich vier Dromedare hätte), Chris Marker, France 1966, OV/EnS, 51'
One of Marina Vlady’s closest friends was Chris Marker, like her a passionate world traveler and explorer of cultures and people. The film, which could barely be seen for decades, collects more than 800 photographs taken by Marker in the previous years on his journeys around the world. An apparent amateur photographer and his two friends discuss the shots in voiceover in witty, aphoristic fashion, including images of an animal market in Mosco and war orphans in Korea, and examine them for analogues and differences between the continents.

arsenal 3 is available for a monthly fee of 11€. Information and registration here

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