Please join us for a screening and discussion of the film, Nights, a new experimental 'hybrid' documentary by core faculty member Grahame Weinbren and his collaborator Anthony Forma. Film critic and faculty member Amy Taubin will lead a discussion and Q&A session with the directors after the screening. The program will be followed by a reception at the Weinbren Studio.
Nights is inspired by The Thousand Nights and One Night, the ancient collection of stories set in the Levant, Persia, India, and especially Baghdad. The beautiful Sheharazade is the narrator, and her tales often include storytellers, each with their own tales of malevolence, deception, beauty, and love.
Weinbren and Forma's film introduces Sheherazade and her world of 1001 Nights—a Russian dollset of stories within stories within stories, a thousand yearold temporal architecture commonly used by oral storytellers to keep their audiences entranced. Into this architecture we have inserted three stories: one from the original 1001 Nights collection, and two from more recent events of the 1980s and 1990s.
The first story is set in a 9th century Baghdad of soothsayers, shapeshifters, and djinns, where boys are transformed in bulls and women into gazelles, while the second and third stories describe circumstances in which we are deeply and tragically implicated, in the Iraq of SaddamHussein and the "Middle East" of Presidents Reagan and Bush.
All stories are told by Sheherazade, and simultaneously by the storytellers she introduces —except that in Weinbren and Forma's Nights, many of the characters are‐fleshandblood real, and at the core of the two recent stories there is extended unnecessary pain and suffering.
Nights is composed of footage shot by Anthony Forma between 1989 and 1995 when he worked as a documentary cinematographer in Iraq, Kurdistan, and Kuwait. This footage is interwoven with materials produced between 2003 and 2014, including interviews with diplomats, politicians and other people caught up in world-shattering events, as well as actors portraying both real and imaginary characters, all set into the story-structures of the classical 1001 Nights.
Nights looks at narrative and its place in contemporary culture, in which the power of the story often carries more clout than the reality and truth of actual events. The film addresses a basic question in documentary cinema: Can it provide truth or, more specifically, does the imposition of story-structure distort the facts a documentary is based on?