A large collection of films from the Middle East were showcased at the Sheffield Doc/Fest, one of the world’s leading non-fiction film and television events. Films from Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Egypt and the Palestinian territories were just some of the participants at the five-day event in Britain which ended on Sunday.
Stories from the Arab Spring proved inspirational to many filmmakers as was evidenced by submissions like “The Reluctant Revolutionary” whose director Sean McAllister has been awarded the special jury award on Monday and a documentary about the 2011 Egyptian revolution, “1/2 Revolution.” Movies about the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict were also shown like “The Law in These Parts” and “5 Broken Cameras.”
The film “5 Broken Cameras” by West Bank resident Emad Burnat, showed the brutal treatment of his fellow villagers by Israeli soldiers. However, Burnat measures the experience not in years, but by the number of cameras that were smashed or destroyed by the Israelis over the time of his filming. He broadcasts several images of these clashes, including images of clouds of teargas that filled the street and of lifeless bodies; the film also tells the inside story of the immense physical and emotional price of his actions.
One movie that challenged the stereotype of the Arab region was “Going Up the Stairs” by director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami which was awarded The EDA award for Best Female-Director on Monday. It portrays a traditional Iranian marriage and the life of a housewife who is unexpectedly embraced by the Parisian art community.
“This year, the quality of films from the Middle East was exceptional. Everyone’s out there uncovering stories that make sense of the massive changes happening in the region,” film programmer at the festival, Hussain Currimbhoy, told the Abu Dhabi based The National.
“Arab documentary film is nothing new, but there’s a feeling that the events of the last year or so have been what these filmmakers were waiting for. They tell stories about real people and I hope they will open-up much needed dialogue,” he added.
Sheffield is fast becoming known as one of the top places in the world for people from the documentary and digital industries to meet, screen their work, share knowledge, and discuss innovation aspects and challenges they are facing the media industry. Many of the films are set to appear at festivals and on television screens across the region.
(Written by Ikram al-Yacoub)