The rich cinematic culture of the Arab world has a long history of established women filmmakers. However, the Western patriarchal discourse continues to construct Arab women by placing them in the role of the victim, where their voices are valued only if they come from this stereotyped perspective. Amal Ramsis, founder and curator of the Cairo International Women's Film Festival, has gathered a selection of documentaries and feature films from Arab women filmmakers to challenge the long-held narratives rooted in the orientalist Western gaze about the Arab world and to showcase the works of great filmmakers that have always remained underrepresented in Berlin’s cinemas.
The film series ARAB WOMEN FILMMAKERS: A Manifold Gaze features a wide range of films from Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, opening up a thematic spectrum from revolution and civil wars to love and identity. The eurocentric expectation – which also widely determines the international film market – that women filmmakers in the Arab world only deal with women's rights, is therefore not fulfilled. Making films in the turbulent world of today is instead perceived as a provoking debate, a reflection, an inspiration towards a better future, a way to critically deal with the past and historical memory.
Amal Ramsis is a filmmaker and founder of the Cairo International Women's Film Festival and the Between Women Filmmakers Caravan. Moreover, in the One-Minute workshop programme she teaches women the basics of cinematography and film directing. Her short films and documentaries have been awarded numerous international prices.
Beirut, Never Again
Jocelyne Saab, Documentary, Lebanon, 1976, 35 min.
1976 marks the beginning of Beirut’s civil war. Through a child’s eyes, the filmmaker follows the daily destruction of the city’s walls for six months. Every morning between 6-10 am , she roams around Beirut while the militia from both sides rest from their night of fighting.
Letter From Beirut
Jocelyne Saab, Documentary, Lebanon, 1978, 52 min.
Three years after the beginning of the civil war, the filmmaker returns to her city. Living between this war-torn country and a country in peace, she tries to readapt to daily life in Beirut.
Jocelyne Saab uses her camera in both films to capture what the mainstream media did not cover in the Lebanese civil war. Part of the collective memory can be preserved thanks to her films and those from a generation of radical filmmakers from Lebanon.
Mathilde Rouxel is a French researcher. In 2015 she published the first monograph about Jocelyne Saab and recently founded the Jocelyne Saab’s Friends Association to promote, restore and disseminate her work.
1974: a group of students from the American University of Beirut occupies the university’s premises to protest against rising tuition fees. 2011: in the midst of the Arab Spring, Rania and Raed Rafei decide to step back and reconsider today’s situation in the light of that period which was pregnant with hope, but also a prelude to civil war.
Rania and Raed Rafei are young filmmakers trying to reconstruct the memory from their perspective, looking at their reality through the mirror of the past.
Hassan Saber is a journalist, translator and egyptologist from Egypt. He is currently working in Berlin for a project supporting immigrants and refugees.
At the graveyard of Sidi Boulekbour, the faithfuls wait for the Ziara, the time of the year when families come to visit their dead ones. For Ali, the seventy-year-old self-effacing gravedigger, this Ziara was not supposed to be different from any other. But then he meets Joher, in her sixties, who arrives to visit her sister’s grave. This is a film about rebuilding love and life.
Catherine Lecoq created and managed the Gan Foundation for Cinema, one of the first cultural corporate foundations in France, for 15 years. Now she works as an independent consultant in the cultural sector.
Through the hubbub of revolution, It Was Better Tomorrow follows Aida, a Tunisian woman who moves from one poor neighborhood to another. Driven by the will to find a roof over her head and for her children, she takes no notice of the historical events taking place around her. Her only goal is to find a way out and she is convinced that the revolution is a blessing. The film shows the atypical journey of a brazen and bold woman in an intense interval of a country’s revolution.
Viola Shafik, PhD, is a filmmaker, film curator, and scholar. She is an expert on Arab cinema and currently holds the position of a researcher at the Art History Department at Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich.
Trip Along Exodus explores the last 70 years of Palestinian politics as seen through the prism of the life of the filmmaker’s father, Dr. Elias Shoufani. The leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and leftist academic was for 20 years one of the opposition leaders to Arafat within the Fatah Party. Hind Shoufani, living in the diaspora, is tracing the dignity, the free spirit and the resistance in the story of her father, revealing unknown sides of the Palestinian history.
Nahed Awwad is an Palestinian independent filmmaker who has been working in film and television since 1997. She has released eight documentary films ranging from experimental, short and feature length.
A poetic documentary of the director’s first trip back to her homeland, Palestine. She leaves a secluded reality and meets a lover, Hassan, a Palestinian artist, who helps her to discover a beautiful and utopian world. Fairytales and reality are woven together to ask questions about elusive places and the need to believe in dreams. An intimate and poetic personal film about diaspora, homeland, love and the sea.
Refqa Abu-Remaileh is an Assistant Professor at the Arabic Department of the Freie Universität Berlin. She is also the Director of the 5-year European Research Council funded project PalREAD “Country of Words: Reading and Reception of Palestinian Literature from 1948 to the Present."