Films byTexts by Heiny Srour
DOSSIER EN
28.04.2021

Born in 1945 in Beirut, Heiny Srour studied Sociology in Beirut and went on to study Social Anthropology at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1969, while pursuing a PhD on the status of Lebanese and Arab women and working as a journalist for AfricAsia magazine, she discovered the struggle of the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arabian Gulf. Determined to make a film about this feminist movement, she spent two years doing intensive research and finding the necessary funds before setting out to Dhofar. The Hour of Liberation was completed in 1974 and selected at Cannes Film Festival, making Srour the first woman from the Third World to be selected at the prestigious international festival. In her next film, Leila and the Wolves (1984), she unveiled the hidden histories of women in struggle, in particular in Palestine and Lebanon, by weaving an aesthetically and politically ambitious tableau of history, folklore, myth and archival footage. Since initiating a feminist study group in Lebanon in the early 1960s, Srour has been vocal about the position of women, in particular in Arab societies, to this day.

Conversation EN
28.04.2021

“But I’m going to reveal a military secret to you that I haven’t revealed to anyone else, because the Tricontinental is as dear to you as it is to me. Thus, your interview will not be like others. People wonder why Heiny Srour has always been a pioneer, a groundbreaker, both in substance and form, why she has always gone off the beaten track. Why, in all of Arab cinema, was she the first to shoot in Dhofar and, also, to go to Vietnam? Why has she been innovative in various domains? The reason is that I was fortunate enough to be born in Lebanon, part of an ultra-minority, unrepresented in Parliament. That immediately offers you a wide-angle view of the world, which the Anglo-Saxons call ‘strategic thinking’.”

Article EN
28.04.2021

Once again, the guerrillas did not tell me about the difficulties of the coming ordeal. This strategy increasingly infuriates me. It’s secrecy plain and simple. Yet an intellectual had warned me: “They say it’s a two-hour walk. It takes me five or six hours.” Yet the Yemeni cameraman exclaims when they go to fetch us water: “But these men are like goats. They don’t walk. They are jumping on the rocks.” I still get angry when their “few hours of walking” become ten or fourteen.

Article EN
28.04.2021
Heiny Srour 1998
Translated by

All this to explain why I have compulsively found myself making films that are so much more difficult to make than those of my male colleagues.

Article EN
28.04.2021

“At the age of 18 in 1963, two films that were turning points for me were Fellini’s 81⁄2 and Cléo de 5 à 7 by a French woman, Agnès Varda. I told myself then that painting is not a big loss, dancing is not a loss, writing is not a loss: it is filmmaking that I must do. I felt cinema was the language that I wanted to express myself with. I could understand that the cinema was the most powerful means, the most complete and the most total to express what you want. When I saw the Fellini film, I thought, “I am a woman, I can never be a filmmaker”. But when I saw the film by Agnès, first I thought, “I can make it”. Then I saw that Agnès was a European woman, I was an Arab woman, and there was no chance in hell that I could make it. Lack of models made me feel depressed too. Now I have two films behind me...”

Article EN
28.04.2021

Yet, Leila is not an anthropological journey but a survey of mythic and symbolic protest. Through her “eye” comes a search for political character in a Lebanon now permanently stained by the massacre of Sabra and Chatila; caught in the throes of bitter civil war; Israel’s “backyard”. Leila prods these moments of loss and discovers ghosts of a very different life before the wolves.

Article EN
28.04.2021
Magda Wassef 1978
Translated by

Certainly, The Hour of Liberation has arrived. But what kind of liberation is it? Heiny Srour not only understands it in the political sense of the term, but in a more absolute sense. The liberation of Arab women is at the heart of this film, which has, unfortunately, hardly been screened in our countries. The difficulties encountered during and after the shoot of the film need to be addressed. They give you an idea of what a woman has to face when she decides not to give in and to push her project to the limit...

Article EN
28.04.2021
Heiny Srour 1976
Translated by

Woman, Arab and... filmmaker. A viable situation? If so, some questions: Is there even one Arab filmmaker who has provoked an explosion of scorn for asserting in front of Marxist militants – don’t laugh – his desire to become a filmmaker? Is there even one Arab filmmaker who was forced to hide from his family that he wanted to make films? Is there even one Arab filmmaker who was called mad by X number of producers for having dared to propose to go and film a guerrilla war? Is there even one Arab filmmaker who has been told from the cradle that he fundamentally wasn’t a “creative” being? To inspire the works of others, fair enough! To write novels dealing with “feminine” subjects is allowed, but barely so (and reluctantly, by the way). But to take the camera in order to talk about human dignity (especially when insisting on women’s liberation), about national dignity? Oh, no, lady! That’s men’s business.

Conversation EN
28.04.2021

The Hour of Liberation is, therefore, a partisan film at all levels. In terms of the montage as well: you can’t place images filmed on both sides of the fence in any order, and tell the viewer to choose sides; that would put oppression and freedom, injustice and justice on the same level. The film is constructed on a structure that rejects the bourgeois conception of ‘objectivity’: it clearly takes sides, without necessarily hiding the difficulties of the struggle, without hiding the contradictions, without ultimately lapsing into triumphalism. The entire montage is conceived to produce an analysis of what a people’s war is.”

DOSSIER EN
31.03.2021

Although there has been a notable rise of Arab female film directors in recent decades, the work of many pioneers tends to remain painfully neglected. The Out of the Shadows film programme, originally conceived for the Courtisane festival 2020 in Ghent, was intended to address this obscurity and revitalize the work of a diversity of filmmakers whose films remain overlooked and barely screened. Five of these filmmakers are presented in this Dossier: Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, Selma Baccar, Assia Djebar, Jocelyne Saab and Heiny Srour. In the words of Assia Djebar: “All of us, all of us who come from the world of women in the shadows, are reversing the process: at last it is we who are looking, we who are making a beginning. ”

note EN
26.02.2021

On the occasion of the Out of the Shadows programme (originally conceived for the Courtisane festival 2020), Courtisane, Sabzian and KASK School of Arts compiled, edited and published the publication Out of the Shadows, focussing on the work of five Arab female film directors: Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, Selma Baccar, Assia Djebar, Jocelyne Saab and Heiny Srour. A copy of Out of the Shadows can now be ordered!