Greece: Free our marbles from British Museum’s ‘murky prison’

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A man looks at the Parthenon Marbles, a collection of sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, on show at the British Museum in London. (Reuters)
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The 5th Century B.C. Parthenon temple atop the ancient Acropolis hill, while in the background ferries sale in the Saronic golf, in Athens. (AP Photo)
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Tourists take a picture in front of the temple of the Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. (Reuters)
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A man looks at exhibits at the Parthenon Hall of the Acropolis museum in Athens, Greece. (Reuters)
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A man looks at the Parthenon Marbles, a collection of sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, on show at the British Museum in London. (Reuters)
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Tourists are silhouetted as they walk inside the Acropolis Museum with the temple of Parthenon in the background in Athens. (Reuters)
Updated 15 April 2019
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Greece: Free our marbles from British Museum’s ‘murky prison’

  • President Prokopis Pavlopoulos: Let the British Museum come here and make the comparison between this (Acropolis) museum of light and the murky, if I may say, prison of the British Museum
  • Britain’s Lord Elgin removed the 2,500-year-old sculptures from the Acropolis temple in Athens during a period when Greece was under Ottoman rule

ATHENS: Greece’s president called on Monday for Britain to free the Parthenon Marbles from the “murky prison” of its national museum, upping the rhetoric in a near 200-year-old campaign for the sculptures’ return.
President Prokopis Pavlopoulos spoke at Athens’ own glass-fronted Acropolis Museum, which campaigners hope will one day house the classical reliefs and figures taken by a British diplomat in the early nineteenth century.
“Let the British Museum come here and make the comparison between this (Acropolis) museum of light and the murky, if I may say, prison of the British Museum where the Parthenon Marbles are held as trophies,” Pavlopoulos said.
There was no immediate response from the British Museum.
Britain’s Lord Elgin removed the 2,500-year-old sculptures from the Acropolis temple in Athens during a period when Greece was under Ottoman rule.
They have been placed in a gallery inside the British Museum in London, lit by a long skylight.
Greece has repeatedly requested their return since its independence in 1832, and stepped up its campaign in 2009 when it opened its new museum at the foot of the Acropolis hill.
That building holds the sculptures that Elgin left behind alongside plaster casts of the missing pieces, lit by the sun coming through a glass wall looking over the original site.
“This museum can host the Marbles,” Pavlopoulos said. “We are fighting a holy battle for a monument which is unique.”
The British Museum has refused to return the sculptures, saying they were acquired by Elgin under a legal contract with the Ottoman empire.
The museum and other British institutions have also resisted other repatriation campaigns citing legislation preventing them from breaking up collections and arguing that they can preserve items and present them to an international audience.


Emirati comedy hopes to appeal to audiences beyond Gulf region

Updated 24 June 2019
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Emirati comedy hopes to appeal to audiences beyond Gulf region

  • "Rashid & Rajab" was released across the UAE over Eid Al-Fitr and got a positive reception
  • Director Mohammed Saeed Harib is better known for his work in animation, particularly with the TV series Freej

DUBAI: Trading places with the object of your envy is not always what it seems. Expatriates often live in bubbles, either because they cannot or will not make the effort to integrate, or because when they do, they feel locked out by local communities with established social networks.

As a result, both groups can live very different lives within the same country. Emirati director Mohammed Saeed Harib explores the theme humorously in his feature film debut “Rashid & Rajab.” The ImageNation comedy was released across the UAE over Eid Al-Fitr, and has been received positively by critics and audiences alike.

“Saturday Night Live Arabia” alumnus Shadi Alfons plays Rajab, a witless but likeable Egyptian fast-food delivery man who swaps bodies with Rashid, an affluent and starchy Emirati businessman (social media star Marwan Abdullah Saleh in his film debut) after a freak accident.

Along the way, they must grapple with questions of nationality, culture, attitude and even different Arabic dialects in a rollercoaster laugh riot that raises questions about whether the other half really lives a better life.

“The grass often appears greener on the other side, but that isn’t always the case, and (it’s important) to appreciate yourself and your surroundings, whatever they may be,” said producer Ali F. Mostafa. “But there’s also equality and solidarity in different cultures. These two people switch souls and experience each other’s lives, but at the end of the day are so close in what they truly want.”

The ImageNation comedy was released across the UAE over Eid Al-Fitr. (Supplied photo) 

Mostafa, familiar for his directorial work on “City of Life” and “The Worthy,” assumes co-production responsibilities on the project, along with fellow Emirati director Majid Al-Ansari (“Zinzana”) and Rami Yasin (“Syriana”).

The trio stepped in to help with technical issues, or whenever Harib needed a sounding board on what is his first live-action feature.

Harib is better known for his work in animation, particularly with the acclaimed TV series “Freej.” He recasts that signature effervescence into a slapstick sitcom approach for “Rashid & Rajab.”

He said: “There’s a common thread between all my creations: I’m either very cartoonish or very poetic, and this film kind of tends to my cartoonish side, so perhaps my spirit is the common denominator between ‘Freej’ and this film.”

Body-swap films are a well-worn genre, but Harib has a knack for understanding regional audiences, which serves this production well.

Combined with the feel-good script and dialogue gags, that could help box-office performance when the film is released in other markets.

Previous Emirati films have struggled to make it in countries such as Egypt, despite pan-Arab approaches and popular themes.

But there’s also equality and solidarity in different cultures.

Film producer Ali F. Mostafa

“We’ve been trying to release Emirati films in Egypt for a while now, and for some reason they don’t do well, even films that we felt had an international appeal,” Mostafa said.

But with “Rashid & Rajab,” Harib taps into a style of comedy that is completely right for the region.

And with half the film set in a very Egyptian tone, and the other half with a Khaleeji speaking in an Egyptian accent, that could really appeal to an Egyptian audience.

The film was shot on location in Dubai, and could soon be screened worldwide thanks to a global sales agreement with the agent AGC International. 

Harib is prepared for criticism, having encountered it with “Freej,” where sections of the audience felt he was not being faithful to tradition.

“It’s amazing how many people want to pick on stuff,” he said. “I was like, ‘Why don’t you go make your own cartoon? You know, showcase our culture in your way.’ That’s my angle. There’s no right or wrong.”

 

This report is part of a series being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.