Films byTexts by Out of the Shadows
DOSSIER EN
7.04.2021

Jocelyne Saab (1948-2019) was born and raised in Beirut. After completing her studies in economic sciences at the Sorbonne in Paris, Saab was invited by poet and artist Etel Adnan to work as a journalist. War came to Saab’s native Lebanon in 1975, and that same year saw the beginning of Saab’s filmmaking career with Lebanon in a Whirlwind, an account of the various forces and interests behind the incipient conflict. The war would last another 15 years, and Saab’s chronicling of its horrors — particularly in her remarkable “Beirut Trilogy” — is unequalled in both its ethical integrity and emotional impact. In 1985 she directed her first fictional work, A Suspended Life (1985), set in the same war-torn Beirut she had documented ten years prior. After the war reconfigured the whole country, in Once Upon a Time in Beirut (1994), Saab tried to rescue the cinematographic memory of the Lebanese capital in the same year that cinema turned 100 years old. Until her death in January 2019, Jocelyne Saab remained devoted to what she called her “two permanent obsessions: liberty and memory”.

Conversation EN
7.04.2021

“I began by making film reports, documentaries, and I didn’t come to fiction until much later. The boundaries between the two aren’t very clear-cut, however, and there are often documentary elements in fiction films and vice versa. At the time, there was a fabulous reporting tradition, with film crews in conflict zones that didn’t hesitate to take risks and demonstrate a certain situation by bringing us the footage. Resorting to cinema, especially to documentaries, in order to provoke or accompany social change, to denounce or to provide a basis for action, all this was very much present when I started.”

Conversation EN
7.04.2021

“Each time I made a film, it was in a given political period; each time I had a political objective, my films couldn’t just be without orientation. That’s not sentimentality. Through a form of sensibility, a political problem emerges. The destruction of Beirut, the children fighting, it means something. I figured this way of showing things could touch people and have a real political impact. People are fed up with the talking. On television, for example, one day they show a representative of the left, the next a representative of the right. Every day, they agree with someone else, and they end up forgetting who’s right or wrong!”

Correspondence EN
7.04.2021

There are encounters that withstand long separations because they happened at a particular time. That goes for you, who I lost sight of for a long time, and who I met in the liveliest days of our lives. Are there lives outside of lively days? Alas, yes. Many years later, we ran into each other and caught up in the queue for a plane from Paris to Cairo, and then in Alexandria we met again, and... since then, we met again where we had parted, in the intimacy of History, the Tunisian revolution had just broken out and our hearts were cheerful.

Conversation EN
7.04.2021

“They no longer allowed us to express ourselves. There was no freedom anymore. At the time, I didn’t fully understand that I was scaring them because I didn’t realize the impact of my work. With my documentaries and my different way of looking at things, I managed to reach European and American television channels. They were afraid my images would shake the public opinion and dismantle their propaganda.”

Article EN
7.04.2021

I would also like to express my affection for Jocelyne. On the strength of her films and the way she has lived her life to date, I consider her one of the bravest, most intelligent and above all freest spirits I have ever encountered – though her freedom of thought and behaviour has sometimes cost her dearly and even put her life in danger. Few other people have suffered so much to preserve their self-esteem and survive in a meaningful way in a world as hostile and indifferent as ours.

Conversation EN
7.04.2021

“Today, nine years later, I say to myself: “It’s no longer a matter of taking a position.” That’s where my films are headed and that’s what brings me to fiction. I think I’m meeting my time, the wave of complete scepticism, of doubt, which means that in the fiction to come I have completely abandoned any political point of view – even if everything is political. Even if there is no doubt that there has been a political position. The desire I had to be on TV, to reach a lot of people, meant that my work was concerned with the imagery, which was much more powerful than militant film.”

Conversation EN
7.04.2021

“This documentary phase wasn’t only linked to my personal history; it was determined by my country’s political situation and Lebanon’s cinema history. My trajectory is a bit like that of other Lebanese filmmakers. If I decided to move to fiction it’s because, after speaking in a “militant” manner, I now want the image to speak as much as possible.”

DOSSIER EN
31.03.2021

Atteyat Al-Abnoudy (1939-2018) was born into a family of labourers in a small village along the Nile Delta. A child of Nasserism, she studied law at the University of Cairo while supporting herself financially by working as an actress and assistant director at the theatre. At the beginning of the 1970s, she decided to study film at the Cairo Higher Institute of Cinema, where she created Horse of Mud, which was not only her first film but also Egypt’s first documentary produced by a woman. Her graceful focus on the disadvantaged and the unrepresented in Egyptian society would earn her the nickname “the poor people’s filmmaker”, but it also enkindled a confrontation with censorship. Despite its limited circulation, Horse of Mud went on to win numerous international prizes, after which Al-Abnoudy made her graduation film, The Sad Song of Touha, a portrait of Cairo’s street entertainers — which she created in collaboration with her husband, poet and song- writer Abdel Rahman Al-Abnoudy. She continued her studies at the International Film and Television School in London until 1976 and persisted to document the daily lives and struggles of economically and socially marginalized groups in Egypt, while exposing the structural inequalities within the socio-economic system.

DOSSIER EN
31.03.2021

Selma Baccar was born in Tunis in 1945. At the age of 21, she began to create films with other women at the Hammam-Lif amateur film club. Her first short film, made in 1966, was a black-and-white film called The Awakening that tackled women’s emancipation in Tunisia. She moved to Paris to study film at the Institut de Formation Cinématographique (IFC), after which she worked as assistant director for Tunisian television. In 1975, Baccar directed her first feature film titled Fatma 75, which is considered to be the first feature film directed by a woman in Tunisia. In this “analytical film”, as Baccar has defined it, three generations of women and three forms of awareness are related — the period between 1930 and 1938 and the creation of the Union of Tunisian Women; the period between 1939 and 1952, which marks the relationship between the national struggle for independence and the women’s struggle; and finally, the period after 1956 to the present, concerning the achievements of Tunisian women with regards to the Code of Personal Status. Baccar’s activism for Tunisian women’s rights led her to an active political career.

Article EN
31.03.2021
Josie Fanon 1977
Translated by

What does it mean to make a film when you are a woman, an Algerian, a novelist (writing in French) and you decide to make it in your own country, for the people of that country, with the widest distribution possible, as it is a film for television?

DOSSIER EN
31.03.2021

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.

Article EN
31.03.2021

Élie Faure tells us that the aging Renoir, when he used to refer to this light in Women of Algiers, could not prevent large tears from streaming down his cheeks. Should we be weeping like the aged Renoir, but then for reasons other than artistic ones? Evoke, one and a half centuries later, these Bayas, Zoras, Mounis, and Khadoudjas. Since then, these women, whom Delacroix – perhaps in spite of himself – knew how to observe as no one had done before him, have not stopped telling us something that is unbearably painful and still very much with us today.

Article EN
31.03.2021

“I started from the idea that the more a woman is traditional, the less she needs an association with folklore in terms of sound. When you come across the image of a person whose clothes and attitude are very “conservative”, there’s no need to associate this person with flutes or tambours. At the end, during the party in the caves, the women dance while singing the most ordinary songs, popular street songs really, and I linked this to the fourth dance of Bartók’s “Dance Suite”. I thought it emphasized the inherent nobility of these women. I got the impression that it was original music, written especially for this moment!”

Article EN
31.03.2021
Assia Djebar 1989
Translated by

Can it be simply by chance that most films created by women give as much importance to sound, to music, to the timbre of voices recorded or captured unawares, as they do to the image itself? It is as though the screen had to be approached cautiously and be peopled, if need be, with images seen through a look, even a short-sighted, hazy look, but borne on a full, commanding voice, hard as stone but fragile and rich as the human heart.

Article EN
31.03.2021
Assia Djebar 1982
Translated by

To give a rhythm to the images of reality for twenty years of everyday life in the Maghreb, where each of the three countries has paid its death toll to obtain its independence. This work, which should be a simple “historical” visualization, I approach as a mined area. I apprehend it as an explosive that awakens from my past, from any past, the engulfed pains we believe to be rotten or defeated, I don’t know. They come alive again, they dress again as faceless ghosts, but veiled, as if they suddenly demanded the unfolding of a purifying liturgy.

Article EN
31.03.2021

Assia Djebar’s treatment for La Zerda et les chants de l’oubli [The Zerda or the Songs of Oblivion] (1978-1982): “Without any comment, however, shortly before and during the credits, three known paintings by Delacroix unfold in long shots and in slow pan shots that focus on details of characters, horses or costume elements, each of the paintings linked to an atmosphere of music and fantasia from the pre-colonial Maghreb.”

Article EN
31.03.2021

So your film is more a film about space than about women?

Yes, because saying that my film is a film about women doesn’t mean anything. I’ll always make these films... Female bodies, women are my subject. Like a sculptor somehow, who uses a certain material, while another sculptor will use another material. That should mean something, shouldn’t it? I think that’s what the Cinémathèque audience couldn’t stand; I’ve removed men from my film. But what can I say, except that I’ve just shown what exists in reality. I intentionally separated the sexes in the image, as in reality. The intention is feminist, and why not? I wanted to show the number one problem of Algerian women, which is the right to space. Because I was able to verify that the more space the women had, the firmer they stood.

Article FR EN
1.04.2020
Assia Djebar 1994
Translated by

For me, cinema is neither a “job” – in the sense of a career – nor a “vocation” – in the sense of a calling. What is it, then, for me, having made my first film shortly after the age of forty, then a second one shortly after the age of forty-five?