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Women make dramatic strides in Arab filmmaking
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 12 - 11 - 2012

A scene from “Rafea: Solar Mama” by Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief. The film follows the story of a Jordanian Bedouin mother who leaves her home to travel to India to obtain an education. — Courtesy photo


RIYADH — Women filmmakers are increasingly playing an active role in the Arab world's film industry, bridging the gender divide that had been cited as a challenge faced by regional cinema.
Evidence to the dramatic strides made by Arab women filmmakers is highlighted at the fourth Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF), the annual cultural celebration of Doha Film Institute (DFI), to be held from Nov. 17-24, 2012.
DTFF opens with accomplished filmmaker Mira Nair's “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” Eight Qatari films are helmed by women directors while eleven films by Arab women filmmakers are screened in the Festival's Arab Film Competition. The Contemporary World Cinema, Special Screenings, and Tribute to Algerian Cinema feature another six films directed by women, in addition to the opening gala.

The films are distinct in their thematic and narrative approach, highlighting the imprint made by women filmmakers globally.
Arab Film Competition
In the Arab Film Competition segment are Maggie Morgan's “Asham: A Man Called Hope,” which narrates the stories of six couples at different stages in their relationship, set against the lead-up to the January 25 revolution; and Hanan Abdalla's “In the Shadow of a Man,” which presents the personal revolutions of four women from different backgrounds in post-revolution Egypt.
Also in competition are nine other films. Tamara Stepanyan's “Embers” is a touching tribute to the memory of the filmmaker's grandmother. “A Deep Long Breath” by Tahani Rached documents the 18 days that brought about the end of dictatorship in Egypt. “Rafea: Solar Mama” by Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief follows the story of a Jordanian Bedouin mother who leaves her home to travel to India to obtain an education.
The Lebanese Rocket Society,” co-directed by Joana Hadjithomas, is a reflection of the reawakening of hopes in the wake of the Arab spring. “Sanctity” by Ahd Kamel documents the story of Areej, a pregnant, young Saudi widow who will endure anything to protect her unborn child.
“L'Mrayet” by Nadia Rais is about a man hired to write the future.
“Ismail” by Nora Alsharif is about a young Palestinian boy living in a refugee camp who struggles to escape imminent death when he and his little brother stray into a minefield. “When They Slept” by Maryam Touzani is about the relationship between a grandfather and a granddaughter. “The Wall” by Odette Makhlouf Mouarkech is about living everyday life in Beirut during the civil war.
Made in Qatar
The Made in Qatar segment includes Amna Al-Khalaf's “Brains of Empowerment,” an experimental film about the empowerment of women in the Middle East; and “Lyrics Revolt,” a documentary by Shannon Farhoud, Ashlene Ramadan, Melanie Fridgant and Rana Khaled Al-Khatib that started as a student project at Northwestern University in Qatar. It explores the events of Arab Spring through hip-hop artists of the Middle East.
The segment also includes “Ghazil — The Story of Rached & Jawaher” by Sarah Al-Derham, “Rain” by Rehab El Ewaly, “The Worker” by Manal Ahmed, “His Name” by Hend Fakhroo, “Bader” by Sarah Al-Saadi, Maaria Assami, Latifa Al-Darwish and “Crazy Calm” by Noor Ahmed Yaqiub.
Contemporary World Cinema
As part of the Contemporary World Cinema line-up, DTFF will screen “Children of Sarajevo” by Marija Pikic and Ismir Gagula, the story of two siblings living in the harsh battle-scarred Sarajevo. Dominga Sotomayor's “Thursday Till Sunday” narrates the story of 10-year-old Lucia, her parents, and brother and their holiday in the north of Chile — which results in broken familial bonds, ending in an emotional farewell and a family in crisis. “Venus and Serena” by Maiken Baird and Michelle Major documents the story of the greatest tennis champions in the world.
Special Screenings
The dedication to women filmmakers under the Special Screenings segment includes Naomi Kawase's “Traces,” an unusual personal documentary focusing on the aging foster mother of the filmmaker. “The Tsunami and The Cherry Blossom” by Lucy Walker is a stunning, moving visual poem about the ephemeral nature of life and the healing power of Japan's most beloved flower.
Assia Djebar's “The Nouba of the Women of Mount Chenoua,” under the “Tribute to Algerian Cinema” segment, documents conversations with Algerian women 15 years after the end of the war for independence.
DTFF 2012 provides audiences a comprehensive and enriching cultural experience with new screening venues across Doha. Public participation will be central as the Festival is hosting an array of large community events, including Family Days, panel discussions, networking events and educational filmmaking programs including Doha Talks and Doha Projects. — SG


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