May Kassem’s journey began with experimental filmmaking using 16mm film and from there has moved to documentaries, fiction and animated films. Many of her early work were about art, political change, escaping into lapses of poetry at times and have moved towards personal documentaries.

Kassem is an experienced photographer, animator, radio producer, music composer and screenwriter.

Her works include the short documentary Qui Ecrira l’Histoire (1996) about the struggle of undocumented immigrants in Paris. Another film featuring migrant workers is her docu-fiction work Joker (1998), depicting Beirut as it was being reconstructed in 1998. In 2016, she made a short video about the social and political struggle in Beirut, sparked by the garbage crisis, and entitled Reverse-Shot: Diary of a Struggle (2016). In that same year, she completed the feature documentary Nourhane, a Child’s Dream, based on the life of Nourhane, an actress and singer who is also the artist’s grandmother. Recently, Kassem made a feature film about the struggle to preserve the public beach in Beirut, titled Free Waves (2017).

May is currently teaching screenwriting at Dawawine and Haven for Artists both in Beirut. She also taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York between 2005 and 2009.

Kassem earned a BA from Brown University, Rhode Island in 1996, followed by an MA from Saint Joseph University, Beirut in 2014.

Born in 1975 in Beirut, May Kassem currently lives and works in Beirut.

SAF participation:
Genealogies in the Middle East and Latin America (2021)

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Kassem, May

Genealogies in the Middle East and Latin America

Sharjah Art Foundation presents a series of online film screenings jointly organised with Anna Goetz, who initiated this collaborative project featuring 21 artists and collectives from the Middle East and Latin America working in film and video.

Kassem, May

May Kassem: Nourhane, a Child’s Dream (2016)

Nourhane was a singer and actress, active between the 1940s and the 1960s. In the mid-1960s, she abruptly ended her career. Her granddaughter, May Kassem, uncovers layer after layer of her grandmother’s life to uncover the reason for her departure from the stage.

To watch the film screening, click here.