There are numerous obstacles which limit the self-expression of the Arab woman, among them:
A feudal culture now fused with a bourgeois culture which represents the woman as a sexual object and an inferior, immature being. This image is reproduced through all means of expression, including progressive ones. In this way the woman is conditioned from birth and prepared for a subordinate role. As a result, she loses confidence in herself and society fails to help her develop her intellectual capacities.
The economic dependence of the woman, trapped at the bottom of the professional ladder, further interferes with her intellectual development.
The legal social status of the Arab woman reinforces this state of dependence; family pressures are followed by marital pressures.
In such conditions it is not surprising how few Arab women have succeeded at realizing themselves through the cinema. The few films which they have made have been produced under very difficult circumstances. Producers are doubly hesitant when it comes to entrusting millions of dollars to a woman. The difficulties faced by a woman who has decided to express herself through image and sound can be enormous, especially if she is working on her first film.
Given this situation, the three of us – a filmmaker, a critic and a technician in the Arab cinema – have decided to establish an “Assistance Fund” for the self-expression of the Arab woman in the cinema. A yearly prize of 10,000 ff (about $2500) will be awarded to the best script for a short film from those proposals submitted by Arab women undertaking their first film. The prize money will be raised by donations from all those who support women’s right of self-expression.
Contributions can be sent to Magda Wassef, 32 rue Lecourbe, 75015 Paris, France.
Originally published as ‘Pour l’auto-expression de la femme arabe’ in CinemArabe, 10/11 (August/November 1978). Published in English in Cineaste, 9, no. 4 (1979).