It is so easy to view the Arab Gulf states as uniquely soulless, artificial, despotic and ultimately illegitimate entities. Many assume, in stop-motion photography-style, that once the oil has stopped flowing the sky-scraping cities that have erupted out of the sand will just as quickly disintegrate back into the desert landscape.

It is not easy being a Muslim in the West today. The year 2014, which roughly corresponds to 1436 in the Islamic calendar, will go down as an especially difficult time.

My university days were played out pre-Facebook and therefore documented only in photographs possessed by very few and viewed only by a chosen few. Life was certainly very social but not broadcast via any form of media. I had what was once called a ‘private life’, locked away for the most part in memories and nostalgic reminiscing.

A study of migration, Padel’s interest ranges from the cells of the body to the flight patterns of wild geese, from dispelling the myth of mass lemming suicide to chatting to her daughter on Skype.

Syrian drama serials have enjoyed a boost in the last fifteen years and have become popular throughout the Middle East. This has been mainly down to two factors: firstly, the proliferation of satellite television stations and receiving equipment throughout the Arab world, and secondly, a boost in both foreign and domestic investment that helped Syrian producers and directors focus their talents towards television dramas.

Syrian-made films are not something new that has just arrived with the uprising. Documentary filmmaking, with its focus on giving an honest portrayal of a situation, has played an important and hotly contested role in Syria for many years.

Books have acted as rites of passage throughout my existence. Perhaps they form the backdrop to my life. Memories of my childhood are entwined with reading and literature.

We live in a period of such mounting Islamophobia that it became possible for Rush Limbaugh, one of the most venomous right-wingers in the US, to make common cause with Global Research, a website that describes itself as a ‘major news source on the New World Order and Washington’s “war on terrorism”’.

It is one of those poetic wonders of cinema that often it’s the smaller canvases that do the best to explore life’s bigger questions – questions that force the audience to keep thinking well after the credits have finished rolling.