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Jawad Rhalib and Face2Face host David Peck talk about his new film When Arabs Danced, stereotypes, the gender gap and the oppression of women, art, fundamentalism and culture and the power of knowledge.


‘Writer, director, and journalist Jawad Rhalib presents a timely exploration of Muslim identity in relation to artistic expression and harmful stereotypes, through archival footage, interviews, and evocative performances. As invested in mood as it is in message, When Arabs Danced forgoes conventional artist-profile tropes in favour of a weave of rehearsals, conversations, performances, and a trove of archival materials that remind us of the long and often sensual history of dance and music found throughout the Arab world. In the wake of the terror shockwave provoked by Daesh’s islamo-fascism, director Jawad Rhalib questions the many facets of Arab culture that have sadly been forgotten by western and middle-eastern media alike; its love for dancing and music, but also for literature, philosophy, and science.

These aspects, though, willingly ignored by both racists and religious zealots and fundamentalists, have always been an integral part of the great texture of the Arab identity.

Through some humorous clips of president Nasser’s public speeches addressing the Muslim Brotherhood about imposing on all Egyptian women the obligation of the hijab, the complexities behind a stage adaptation of Michel Houellebecq’s controversial book Submission and the many issues of gender identity in Arab societies, the film explores how Islamic fascism has suffocated the freedom, creativity and all progressive values of the Arab society.


Jawad Rhalib has worked as an author and journalist. His films include the documentaries El EjidoThe Damned of the Sea and Le chant des tortues, and the features 7, rue de la Folie, InsoumiseWhen Arabs Danced is his latest film. As an author and a director, Jawad Rhalib has oriented his work on social realism. He wrote and directed short, medium and full-length films and feature length documentaries. His movies El Ejido, The Law of Profit, The Damned of The Sea, The Turtle’s Song, The Swallows of Love, When Arbs danced, have been selected for competitions in prestigious festivals.

He won the Grand Prize for the movie El Ejido, The Law of Profit at Fespaco, the Audience Award for The Damned of The Sea at Vision du Réel Nyon, the Great Prize at Monte-Carlo IFF, the Great Prize EcoCamera at RIDM and was nominated for the European Academy Awards.

In 2014, he made his first feature fiction film: madness with selections at Montreal world film festival, Seminci – Valladolid International Film Festival, FIFF Namur, the Festival cinéma d’Agadir where the film won the prize of the best scenario and the prize for the female interpretation.

His second feature fiction film Rebellious Girl won the jury’s prize at Marrakech International Film Festival FIFM.

His last movie When Arabs Danced won the Audience Award and Best Film at Vision du Réel- Nyon 2018.

Image Copyright: Jawad Rahlib and R & R productions. Used with permission.

For more information about David Peck’s podcasting, writing and public speaking please visit his site here.

With thanks to Thom Powers from TIFF and producer Josh Snethlage and Mixed Media Sound.