Philip Jamal Rashid: The Main Circle – putting the diversity of Arab artists’ creativity and innovation under the spotlight

Iraqi-Kurdish writer and director Philip Jamal Rashid is working on a brand-new project that bears all the hallmarks of his humanitarian vision.

Philip’s energy is palpable, even from a distance, where he is ensconced in an Abu Dhabi café where we had arranged to meet.

His attire distinguishes him from the late afternoon diners – a black and white plaid suit and cloth cap give off an air of the hedonistic partygoers who would take to the floor in the Rumba and Swing dances of the 1940s.

The conversation begins immediately.

Philip has a story to tell, one of hard work borne from, perhaps, finding his self, his voice within the myriad of cultures in which he found himself. Iraqi -Kurdish, yet Bulgarian born, and raised in Amsterdam, he reveals “the UAE has been good to me.”

Self-taught, his independent films have always had humanitarian themes and he is known for his unique specialty of directing kids.

His first recognition came when he shot a short film on a Flip cam in Kurdistan 2011 and the film was screened at the Duhok International Film Festival and nominated in San Diego Kurdish Youth Film Festival.

In 2014 he won the Samsung Short film competition at The Dubai International Film Festival and since then has gone on to win a raft of international awards and accolades

After an exhibition in San Diego in the US, Philip headed to the UAE for the third time. Mentally, he admits he was ready to settle, in order to “build on his next 20 years in the business” and serendipity lent a helping hand.

“My luggage arrived on carousel number seven, my birth date and my lucky number,” he says. “Heaving my bags of the belt, I glanced up at the sign above my head, which proclaimed: ‘Tell stories only you can tell’. That was life talking to me. It was a message.”

And Philip took heed.

He currently resides in Dubai, and writes, directs and consults his experience, as well as sharing his knowledge with new generation peers through workshops and lectures at NYU-Abu Dhabi, SAE, Studio TwoFour54, ImageNation, and Panasonic Master Classes.

Philip has also been commissioned by big International groups, companies and brands to creatively develop and direct their (promo) films, Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC being one such client, using his talents to create out-of-the-box video for this corporate giant.


The Main Circle



Today he is working on The Main Circle, a project that has been co-commissioned by The Arts Center NYU Abu Dhabi and by London’s Shubbak Festival, which supports and celebrates the diversity of Arab artists’ creativity and innovation.

The Main Circle, a multimedia project, has been created for those, like Philip, who grew up without a homeland, those without family, with a different vibe, a different tribe.

“You have to create your own path,” says Philip, who has assembled the primary talent of the burgeoning, young Gulf Hip Hop scene.

A kaleidoscope of live performance, dance, music, spoken word, graphics, street art and film are all part of this powerful production.

“It reflects on how we as third culture kids are trying to find a place in society. We’ve grown up without a family, without a home country; we’re trying to have a voice for ourselves.”

To find out more about The Main Circle, head over to IG @themaincircle

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