Shirin Neshat’s first film since 2010’s Women Without Men builds upon her fundamentally radical vision of cinema, with her staunchly feminist concerns coming to the fore as has been consistent throughout her twenty-plus-year career. With Looking for Oum Kulthum, Neshat focuses on a film director (Iranian actress Neda Rahmanian) making a biopic about the famed Egyptian singer Oum Kulthum, one of 20th century music’s most broadly popular talents and an undisputed legend in the Arab world. Combining archival footage of Kulthum with stunning performances by actresses auditioning to play the singer, Neshat probes the question of what it means to be a woman in the modern Middle East, and whether an escape from male domination is possible. “They say [Kulthum] worked very hard during her life to become an image and a myth. Everything was absolutely controlled because she didn’t want people to devour her. It’s the opposite of what we do today and a lot of the biopics you see now are made about women who had such a tragic ending. Failing is OK as an artist, I’ve failed, fallen and gotten up in my work but I’m not Oum Kulthum. I’m not a myth. She was something else and we need examples like her for women. She never allowed people to break her down, especially men.“—Shirin Neshat.