BEV 2013: Celebrating Arab Women Filmmakers – Small Stories, Big Pictures.


Scene from Amals Garden

Scene from Amal’s Garden

Bird’s Eye-View have been championing and celebrating women in film through yearly festivals, programmes and events in what is still a massively phallocentric industry. Because cinema is ingrained so deep in culture, it is easy for many to never even notice the lack of female directors or screenwriters so BEV are an important organization with an important vision.

In their latest festival which has been running from April 3rd and finishes on the 10th, it has been a focus on women film-makers from the Arab world. The programme has been rich and engaging, respectful and thought-provoking and above all, a true celebration and awareness of cinema in context of the region. There is a tendency in the West to obscure cinema from the ‘other’ through tinted glasses of privilege and reduce them to a presentation of plight, this is especially the case with women in the Arab world because of the constant discourse that surrounds us of how oppressed they are compared to our society. The Bird’s Eye View team have done really well to avoid going down that route and have kept their focus to truly celebrating the film-making of the area.

This focus is perfectly represented with the selection of short films by emerging, young directors in Small Stories, Big Pictures – one the few screenings at East London’s Hackney Picturehouse. Four selected shorts from Iraq, Tunisia and two from Lebanon – all showing a view of the area rarely seen on our screens here, a view of life with society as a backdrop rather than the other way round.

The cinematic voices in all four films are bold and each still bursting with energy of natural, raw film-making. The first, Short Scenes from a Long Marriage (dir. Raniah Attieh & Daniel Garcia) was beautiful, touching and ultimately tragic, as we view an elderly couple in mundane life as the news of Egyptian revolution plays through the radio and TV. The film from Tunisia, Mkhoubbi fi Kobba (dir. Leyla Bouzid), explored the tensions of modern culture in the middle-classes with a very interesting mother/daughter narrative. It is a film wrapped in mystery, violence and sensuality – a really enigmatic story. Amal’s Garden (dir. Nadia Shihab), an almost docu-fiction snapshot of life in post-war Iraq focusing in on a specific couple, and filmed by their granddaughter. As Amal is reflecting on the changes war made, small and big, her 85 year old husband is getting further away from reality. It is truly a subtle, heart-warming and honest little film.

The final one to be screened was One Tuesday (dir. Sabine El Chamaa), and was a true poetic gem. Her idiosyncratic narrative of an elderly woman in Beruit shoplifting and the policeman who confronts her is rich, intimate and told with such a visual jazz that you never know where it will take you but narratives pull has you swaying with emotions nevertheless.

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