Looking For Oum Kulthum

Shirin Neshat Looking For Oum Kulthum

Texts by Jens Faurschou, Cecilia Pedersen and Shirin Neshat

Edited by Cecilia Pedersen, Kristian Eley and Cila Brosius

Looking for Oum Kulthum is Shirin Neshat’s second feature film, which revolves around the Egyptian singer, Oum Kulthum. A film within a film, Looking for Oum Kulthum, is the story of an Iranian woman filmmaker living in exile, depicting her struggle to capture the life and art of the legendary female singer of the Arab world, Oum Kulthum. The movie and the exhibition were shown at Faurschou Copenhagen from March 20 to September 7, 2018.

Initially, the film was conceived as a historical biopic about the legacy and personal life of Oum Kulthum. However, in 2013, after many drafts of the script, we decided to change the direction of the film from a biopic to a personal story, sharing my own perspectives and challenges as an Iranian woman director.

Looking for Oum Kulthum, therefore, reflects my own obsessions, challenges, process, and unexpected self-discovery. By looking into the destiny of an iconic Middle Eastern female artist, I have been able to explore my own experiences, and that of other Middle Eastern women in greater depth.

A film within a film

Looking for Oum Kulthum was created as a film within a film, navigating between moments of the singer’s private and public life on the one hand, and Mitra’s experience on the other, as she directs a film about an artist she admires, yet has difficulty penetrating.