Jump directly to the page contents

Desert Dreaming

Film still from Abdul Halik Azeez’s „Desert Dreaming“. A view from a hill on the outskirts of an arid town. In the center of the picture a person is cut out and pasted on its right in a shrunken version.
© Abdul Halik Azeez
  • Director

    Abdul Halik Azeez

  • Sri Lanka / 2022
    12 min. / Original version with English subtitles

  • Original language

    English, Tamil

DESERT DREAMING began with inquiring into all that is missing, yet forms one’s consciousness in the family portrait and transforming spaces of a familial home. This film is part of an ongoing project that traces labor migration to the Middle East and the micro impacts of large shifts such as the neoliberalization of the economy in the ‘70s, the civil war that began in the ‘80s, and subsequent postwar transformations in Sri Lanka. It challenges monolithic narratives of personal history and middle-class Muslim upbringing through anecdotal and intimate recollections. By means of collage techniques and pixelation, images blur and mutate in the ways that remembrance is equally the space of invention, repression, and reformulation. The process is made apparent through a video superimposed with intergenerational conversations, using an aural landscape drawn from the soundtrack to a famous Tamil film, ULAGAM SUTRUM VALIBAN (The youth who traveled the world, 1973). MGR, the star of the film, was born in the artist’s hometown in Sri Lanka in the same year as his grandfather. MGR’s onscreen swashbuckling characters were the fodder of dreams for a generation of young people including the artist’s aunts and uncles, even as they had to evade the strict supervision of their father to watch them.

Production Abdul Halik Azeez. Director Abdul Halik Azeez. Editing Abdul Halik Azeez. Sound design Abdul Halik Azeez. With Feroze Azeez.

Abdul Halik Azeez’s work examines technologies of power as mediated through contemporary culture, narratives of progress, lived experiences, and media. His multidisciplinary practice predominantly draws from post-war transformations that have impacted Sri Lanka, such as the effects of gentrification, tourism, and renewed ultranationalist politics. Azeez also works collaboratively with The Packet and other artists from Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

Films: 2016: Pics or it Didn’t Happen / Memory (10 min.). 2020: World Class City (1 min.), Circumambulation (29 min.). 2022: you are enough for someone to love its true (4 min.), Desert Dreaming.

Bonus Material

“Memory is always subject to hegemonic and historical forces that are beyond our control.”

Ala Younis in conversation with Abdul Halik Azeez

Bonus Material

  • Film still from Abdul Halik Azeez’s  „Desert Dreaming“. An underwater shot of a photo-cutout of a baby riding on the back of a surfacing whale..


    This zine created at the initial stages of the project, brings together some key initial ideas at play in the artist’s mind

Program Schedule

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur