Arab 2024 Selection – An intimate and complex portrayal of life.

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Regarding the ÉCU Arab Selection, this year we were presented with three strong contenders: “…And I was left behind”, by Maysaa Almumin, “Holy Mother”, by Hussein Hossam and finally “Saleh”, by Zaki Alabdullah.  

Each one of this three movies portrayed very different stories, but all of them very personal, complex, and emotional.

For instance, in the Qatari short movie “…And I Was Left Behind”, the director reenacts her memory of sitting next to her grandmother while she used the sewing machine, listening to her words regarding travelling, distance, and loss. This movie takes us on a journey to the past of a child that only now in the present can fully comprehend what her grandmother was talking about.

Maysaa, in an online interview with ÉCU, describes her film as a “short, visceral documentary about a memory I revisit and reflect on (…)”

When asked about how her film came to life, she answers: “It came about in the time of Covid, a time where people could not travel anymore. And I live in Qatar, my family lives in Kuwait, my husband’s family lives in Finland, my children were living actually in Paris. So, it was a time of really feeling the distance between people, and this lack of mobility made me reflect a lot of the instances when my grandmother was also telling me about.”

“…And I Was Left Behind” by Maysaa Almumin, 2023

“Holy Mother”, on the other hand, directed by Hussein Hossam, shows us the life of a young and talented fashion designer, whose father’s very traditional values prevent her from following her dream of going to the International Fashion Academy in Paris, which pushes her to make an extreme choice to protect said dream. Played by the talented Yara Jarrar, Maryam character takes the audience on a personal journey through her hopes and fears.

“Holy Mother” by Hussein Hossam, 2023

Last but not least, “Saleh”, from Saudi Arabia, was the winner of the Ahmed Khedr Award for Excellence in Arab Filmmaking, prize created in 2013, named in memory of the late producer and director Ahmed Khedr, a close friend of ÉCU’s president. Directed by Zaki Alabdullah, this film was inspired by a true history that took place in a rural village in Saudi Arabia, where a young boy named Saleh, played by the first-time actor Mohammed Alsatrawi, tries to take care of his father, while struggling to simultaneously work for a nearby store delivering food and keeping up with his school obligations. On his quest to save money to buy a new TV satellite so his father would be able to watch television, the only source of distraction he possesses, Saleh is unable to deal with his own feelings of resentment and irritation and ends up loses his temper and doing the unthinkable.

It’s very possible to feel the emotions behind the character and story, and this could also have to do with the fact that it was shot in a special place for the director: the village where he grew up in. In an interview with me, he shared a little of the behind the scenes: “So, interesting fact was I shot in the film in a village I grew in. (…) It’s a small village, so everybody knows everybody, and people haven’t seen me in years. As I was shooting, people would just interrupt the take and the scene and be like – “Oh, Zaki, good to see you!” –”

When asked about what lessons he learned while making this movie, Zaki said: “I think the biggest lesson I’m taking forward with me is trusting my instinct and trusting my ability to tell particular stories, stories (…) that I can feel, and I can touch. If it’s something I don’t feel, I should never try to make that, to film that story. And moving forward, I think I’ll just move on using the same style, no script and just go about finding the story that I want. (…) At least I think it worked in Saleh. I hope I can continue developing that voice in the future.”

This last part is a reference to the fact that Zaki filmed his project without a script, which he described as “really free”. In his own words: “It was certainly fun, because I worked without a script, so I was really free (…) on the streets to do whatever I wanted, so I was kind of like a free writer, to write what I wanted using the camera.”

Finally, Zaki speaks about being an Arab creator: “We have amazing story tellers throughout history. We have amazing artists. (…) There’s so much in their culture to bring to the cinema, (…) to this new art form”.

“Saleh”, by Zaki Alabdullah, 2023

One response to “Arab 2024 Selection – An intimate and complex portrayal of life.”

  1. Maria Alice Santos Avatar
    Maria Alice Santos

    Resumo interessante e esclarecedor

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