Stories of the land

Female filmmakers from the region shed light on the kind of movies they aspire to be part of, and the tales they wish to see on the screen


Purva Grover

Published: Sat 10 Dec 2022, 11:50 PM

Last updated: Sat 10 Dec 2022, 11:51 PM

In a recent conversation at Cinema Akil, an independent cinema in the UAE, which hosted the first-ever edition of Arab Cinema Week, we spoke to female creators to understand their challenges, hopes for filmmaking and got a sneak peek into the stories they’d like to tell in the future. The ten-day event highlighted stories and talent from the region.

Art should allow you to make a living

“The biggest challenges of filmmaking are always financial. There are a limited number of grants and funds available, and the competition is fierce. While films can be made on a small budget, decent and consistent income is necessary to grow a sustainable film industry and have casts and crews perceive filmmaking as a way to make art as well as make a living,” said Suzannah Mirghani, writer, researcher, and independent filmmaker. Suzannah is the writer, director, and producer of Al-Sit.

Limited resources, lack of apt support

Shaima Al Tamimi, a Yemeni-East African visual storyteller based in the GCC, who is known for her deeply rooted documentary approach towards storytelling added, “I would say that some challenges pertaining to the fact of making films independently are finding the right level of support and industry professionals. As filmmakers, we often find ourselves having to work with people outside of the region due to the lack of expertise available in our region or in our country. While it can be frustrating, it’s not necessarily a bad thing as it’s exposing the gap of talent that could exist locally.” Shaima is the director of the film Don’t Get Too Comfortable. Sarah Alhashimi, an Emirati filmmaker from the UAE, and the director of Why Is My Grandfather’s Bed In Our Living Room? shared, “I believe that the biggest challenge we are facing with Arab cinema is the limited resources and tools needed to support not only the production of films but also the regional and international distribution of our films.”

Stories that creatives wish to highlight of the region via cinema

Sarah said she’d definitely like to focus more on stories from the region and the UAE, “I’ve always been curious and interested in exploring and documenting the livelihood of tribes from the UAE, bedouins to be exact. While they remain to be a large group within the UAE, I wonder how they remain true to their roots and way of life with the city’s modernisation.” Suzannah’s wishes for more films from the perspectives of women and girls, “Especially from countries in the Arab World, like Sudan, that don’t have developed film industries or enough visual representations of women’s lives and the experiences they go through on a daily basis.”

Know and understand your story, before you tell it

Shaima’s approach to storytelling is from a personal perspective, and she makes a valid point, “We often find ourselves being frustrated by the way stories from our region are insensitively made or told by the outside world, especially since we as a community misunderstand each other a lot. The key to overcoming this issue is to tell our stories in a way that brings us closer together regardless of where the audience comes from.” She added how regional events like the Arab Cinema Week are a beautiful way of bringing not only the audience but also the filmmakers together, “We got to hear the stories of fellow filmmakers that come from neighbouring countries and inspired each other to continue down this path.”

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