What’s Going On? Focus: The Arab World

»Like most artists, I want to be one step ahead of developments and create new concepts. For me as a woman this means that I also stand up for a new image of women.«
Jocelyne Saab

Insurgence is not a new subject in Arab filmmaking, on the contrary, public filmmaking in Arab republics often began with revolutionary cinema. Appropriating one’s own history, leading a self-determined cultural life and having control over images were central aspects of every anticolonial struggle. In this sense, film was used as a weapon against foreign rule.
After independence, plans to set up self-financing film industries backfired. It was not possible to compete with the studios in the USA, in Europe and – in to a lesser extent – with India and Egypt, the only Arab country that was able to set up its own industry back in the 1920s. Foreign distributors dominated and continue dominating the market, home-grown film technicians had to be sent abroad to be trained for several years and financial models needed to be developed, while decisions on the structure of the state economy had not yet been taken. At the same time the region suffered from several wars, the new states were very unstable and soon restrictive laws were introduced to defend the newly won liberties – and ultimately to restrain them. For a long time Morocco was the only Arab monarchy that maintained a film centre and promoted homegrown production. As far as non-commercial cinema was concerned, all Arab directors continued to rely, as before, on co-productions with Europe, irrespective of whether their country provides state film funding or not.
In this programme we are presenting films produced before the current uprisings, and which by means of filmmaking reflect the field of tension and contradictions in the Arab world in recent decades. What forms did filmmaking take after independence? What effects do co-productions with the West have on the image presented by Arab societies, by Arab women? What stories are told by Arab women directors and how are their female figures presented?
At least until the beginning of 2011, Tunisia was consideredto be the Arab state with the most progressive women’s rights. Moufida Tlatli’s internationally successful feminist film classic, The Silences of the Palace, reflects the modern spirit of Bourguiba and Ben Ali as one facet of independent Tunisia. Leila Marrakchi’s Moroccan co-financed Marock is set among the rich upper-class of Casablanca, which takes us into a world hardly ever presented in the cinema, and adds an important angle to the Western image of the region. Dalila Ennadre portrays a poor and old Berber woman in a manner that contradicts all clichés and provides a deep insight into the heritage of the colonial history of Morocco. In her work, Jocelyne Saab challenges those in power and questions the status quo. Her long experimental film What’s Going On? examines the power of the imagination. Iraqi director Maysoon Pachachi, who lives in London, has for many years been documenting women from various countries of the Middle East, and will present her work in a workshop discussion.
A central point of identification in the Arab world is the Palestinian revolution. The young generation of Palestinian filmmakers questions the inertia and challenges this with very diverse forms of persistence. In other places as well the failure of the revolutionary dream and the urge for change can be felt. In Egyptian films of recent years, the homogenisation of society was initially an important topic, until the call for disobedience created space.

_Irit Neidhardt


Amal Ramsis


»When I began filming Forbidden, we still lived in a dictatorship in which almost all political rights and activities were […]

I Loved So Much

Dalila Ennadre


»I wanted to live and love, like all modern women«, says Fadma, who is now 75 years old. When she […]


Laïla Marrakchi


Casablanca at the end of the 1990s: a clique of young people, all with rich parents, live through wild times, […]

Perforated Memory

Sandra Madi


»The real events that form the collective memory have been deformed. How can the political project eliminate the collective memory […]

Salata Baladi

Nadia Kamel

EG / CH / FR

»If we had not confronted the taboos of our present, my mother’s stories would have been reduced to self-indulgence and […]


»From the perspective of a child I have tried to present the world of oriental princes and the injustices emanating […]

The Turtle’s Rage

Pary El-Qalqili


»When I was 12 years old, my father left us to return to Palestine. His dream to build a house […]

Voices from Exile

Irit Neidhardt, Maysoon Pachachi

Workshop Discussion with Maysoon Pachachi The political upheavals and emergencies of recent decades have led to the exile and being […]

What’s Going On?

Jocelyne Saab


»I’m not asking the viewer to understand everything, but just to dream for a while.« – Jocelyne Saab Beirut, 2010. […]

White Tape

Michal und Uri Kranot


The film is based on five seconds of footage from »Shooting Back«, a project initiated by an Israeli human rights […]