Expired May 20, 2024 3:45 AM
Already unlocked? for access

LIMINAL TALES presents recent animated films that share poignant and pressing narratives from across the SWANA region and its diasporas. The program features short films by Mahmoud Hamdi, Ayçe Kartal, Sofia Al Khyari, Huda Razzak and Sarah Saidan, and a feature-length animation by Inna Sahakyan. Memory is experienced like a phenomenon in which each central character or narrator reveals how their internal psyches affect their external realities. Furthermore, the narratives are told through the lens of characters that vary in age, allowing for a nuanced storytelling of reflection and at times, disassociation. Each film has an innate ability to transport viewers into their intricate realms using a variety of visually expressive techniques. 

Inna Sahakyan’s Aurora’s Sunrise is based on the true story of Aurora Mardiganian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide who, after fleeing to the U.S., starred in a silent film about her own life and experience, titled Auction of Souls (1919). The animation retells Mardiganian’s harrowing story, incorporating scenes from the 1919 film, archival footage of Mardiganian recounting her arduous journey, as well as using her memoir, Ravished Armenia, as a chronological grounding. Mardiganian’s astonishing yet horrific memories are rendered using paper cutouts and semi-rotoscoped characters crafted alongside ephemeral watercolor imagery.

In Ayçe Kartal’s Wicked Girl, centers around the story of a young girl whose vivid and conjured accounts of summers in the countryside of Turkey with her grandparents reveal a horrible reality she has suffered. While she recounts various fond memories amidst describing things that bring her joy, her fragmented narrative is interspersed with dark and threatening imagery. Kartal masterfully depicts the girl’s innocence and confusion through over 10,000 drawings made on a tablet and animated with fleet pen strokes. 

Huda Razzak’s Ocean Duck is inspired by a passage from Rumi’s Masnavi and is based on the director's relationship with her grandmother who passed away after a long struggle with dementia. The touching narrative revolves around a young girl who visits her grandmother in the hospital. While reminiscing fond memories spent together, she recalls a poignant story that her grandmother told her about a duck who lived with hens since it had forgotten that its true home was the ocean. The metaphor refers to humanity’s amnesiatic impermanence on earth and each person’s ultimate union with the Divine. The decorative borders that frame the film and the flat two-dimensional perspective are inspired by the tradition of illuminated manuscripts.

In Shadow of the Butterflies, Sofia El Khyari incorporates hand-painted ink and watercolor images to evoke fleeting feelings of nostalgia. The film explores the notion of saudade, a portuguese term describing an emotional state of melancholic yearning for a beloved, or a melancholic longing for something or someone who is absent. The sensorial experience of the animation is imbued with El Khyari’s own touch, from imprints of her skin to the sound of her singing voice serving as the soundtrack. 

Unresolved feelings of longing are also at the core of Sarah Saidan’s playfully touching, Home of the Heart. When an Iranian immigrant who moved to Paris with his family is attacked on the street and stabbed in the heart, doctors come to the startling realization that he has survived because he has no heart. He embarks on a journey back to his hometown of Shiraz in hopes of reconciling what is missing within him. The stories within the film are inspired by Saidan’s own immigrant experiences in France. The film was made from a mix of 2D drawn and digital cut-out animation which convey its layered textures. While the saying goes “Home is where the heart is,” Saidan asks us a question many immigrants are faced with, “Where is home if you cannot locate your heart?”

Saidan’s Beach Flags revolves around the story of a group of young Iranian women by the Caspian Sea coast who are training for the beach flag competition of the international Lifeguard Championships in Australia. A new girl enters their team and outruns their star contender sowing dissonance among the team’s spirit. The film aptly reflects the overlapping issues of class, tradition, and gender struggles within Iranian society. Solidarity in the face of external forces ultimately bridges the seemingly clashing worlds of these women. 


A Man Wanted to Play Drums by Mahmoud Hamdi is a rotoscope animation using scenes taken from the 2007 American film "The Visitor," directed by Tom Macarthy. The film’s subject matter of a man sheepishly joining a public drum circle in a park while others dance and play accompanying instruments would appear to be comical were it not for the ominous soundtrack. The artist’s visual touch in vibrantly coloring the instruments is juxtaposed alongside his addition of helmets, berets and whistles possibly alluding to the military’s heavy presence amidst rising public tensions in Egypt, only a month prior to the 2011 revolution. 

LIMINAL TALES is curated by Lila Nazemian and is co-presented by ArteEast and UnionDocs. This program is part of the legacy program Unpacking the ArteArchive, which preserves and presents 20 years of film and video programming by ArteEast. An in-person screening of Inna Sahakian’s feature-length animated documentary, Aurora’s Sunrise, will take place at Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice on Thursday, May 9 followed by a discussion between Chritopher Atamian and the curator. A selection of shorts from the program will be screened in- person at UnionDocs on Sunday, May 12 with an introduction by the curator. For information about the screening on May 9 visit eventbrite, for more details about the in-person screening on May 12, visit at uniondocs.org. The full program will be screened online on artearchive.org from May 7 - 19.

Film Program:

Aurora’s Sunrise, Inna Sahakyan, Armenia, Germany, Lithuania, 2022, 1 hour and 36 min. Watch Aurora's Sunrise HERE (available for US audiences only)

Home of the Heart, Sarah Saidan, France, 2022, 14 min and 46 sec.

Shadow of the Butterflies, Sofia El Khyari, France, Portugal, Qatar, 2022, 9 min.

The Ocean Duck, Huda Razzak, United States, 2021, 7 min.

Wicked Girl, Ayçe Kartal, France, Turkey, 2017, 8 min.

Beach Flags, Sarah Saidan, France, Iran, 2014, 13 min and 38 sec.

A Man Wanted to Play Drums, Mahmoud Hamdi, Egypt, 2010, 3 min and 12 sec.

Home of the Heart (2022)

Omid is an Iranian immigrant who came to France with his family. One evening, in the street, he is attacked and stabbed in the heart. At the hospital, the diagnosis is formal: he has no heart. Has he left it behind in Iran?

About the Filmmaker:

Sarah Saidan is a director, graphic author, and script writer. She graduated from Tehran University of Art and later from la Poudrière (France) in 2011, as a director of animation films. Sarah Saidan has since directed many short films often with the common theme of Human Rights, notably the award-winning Beach Flags produced by Sacrebleu productions.

  • Year
  • Runtime
    15 minutes
  • Language
    Persian, French
  • Country
  • Genre
  • Subtitle Language
  • Director
    Sarah Saidan
  • Filmmaker
    Sarah Saidan