The Soul of Dubai through Windows and Mirrors: Ali Mostafa’s Don’t Judge a Subject by Its Photograph
"Through films we gain access to new interpretive worlds as multiple ideologies, meanings, and worldviews, all jumping out of the screen and asking the
viewer for identification, adoption, negation, or no action at all. Regardless of this realization, Szarkowski’s classification of “windows and mirrors” remains current as it touches upon subjective and objective ways of art-making. Therefore, this article examines Mostafa’s film as representational artwork within the context of mirror or window and asks: Is Mostafa’s Don’t Judge a Subject by Its Photograph a mirror of or a window to the world of Dubai that he describes? Can it function as both? Knowing the “institutional framework” from which the film derives, as a commissioned work meant to show Dubai to the rest of the world, one would answer, a window. This link is rather simple, and I explain throughout how Mostafa not only tries, but also succeeds in creating this relationship. What is more difficult to establish is that his film is also a mirror reflecting a portrait of the artist who made it. The following discussion highlights the questions: Is Mostafa’s short film also a mirror reflecting a portrait of the artist who made it, or only a window through which one might better know the world he describes? How does one of the film’s main characters, a photographer, represent both interpretations?"