For 20 years, Mizna in St. Paul has thrown a spotlight on the literary, artistic, and filmic works of Southwest Asian and North African artists. It publishes Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America, the only Arab American literary journal in the United States, and produces the annual Twin Cities Arab Film Festival.
Not only is this the longest-running Arab film festival in the Midwest, founded in 2003, it’s also the largest. We caught three screenings in 2018 and saw two more in 2019. Hamada, pictured above, is a documentary about the Sahrawis, a group of people who’ve been living in a refugee camp in the desert since Morocco drove them out of Western Sahara 40 years ago.
Wajd: Songs of Separation traces the trajectories of three Syrian musicians turned refugees. Other highlights from the 2019 lineup included a new film from Nazareth-born filmmaker Elia Suleiman (It Must Be Heaven), a collection of Sudanese shorts, and a Tunisian horror film (Dachra). All AFF screenings are held at St. Anthony Main Theatre in Minneapolis and some are followed by discussions with filmmakers. Tickets cost $10-$12 a pop, or you can purchase a three-pack for $25, a six-pack for $45, or an all-access pass for $50.
If you can’t make it to the film festival, check out Mizna’s latest exhibition, History Is Not Here: Art and the Arab Imaginary, at the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul, which runs through January 5, 2020. And follow Mizna on Facebook or Instagram to find out about upcoming readings and performances, and get your paws on a copy of Mizna: Twenty Years, a special-edition issue focusing on Sudan and the reimagining of what it means to be Arab American in today’s polarized sociopolitical climate.
“For a community increasingly vilified, silenced, and discriminated against,” reads the mission statement, “Mizna works with the knowledge that the most powerful way to combat being portrayed falsely by others is to represent ourselves in nuanced, accurate, and artistically excellent ways.” 🙌