Once again, we have partnered with Soleil Space to bring two phenomenal women filmmakers to their Short Film Saturday series. Soleil Space is a media company based in Brooklyn, NY that centers and lifts the film and television creative communities of color around the world. Soleil’s mission is to achieve a more equitable and representative global media landscape.
This time around, on Saturday, August 13th, at 6 EET, 7 AST and noon EST, it will be the turn of the Saudi Faiza Ambah and Doha-based filmmaker Shaima Al-Tamimi for a selection that is guaranteed to entertain but also enlighten.
Ambah's film Mariam tells the story of its title character whom, after France bans religious symbols in public schools, ignores the law and tries to wear her hijab to school.
Ambah is an award-winning writer/director/producer and former Washington Post correspondent based in Saudi Arabia. Mariam (2015) is her directorial debut and won numerous international awards, including being showcased at UNESCO in Paris, and the Scottish Parliament. The film is continually being screened at universities around the world.
Al-Tamimi's film is titled Voices from the Urbanscape and is a tribute to the diverse communities that contribute to build the country of Qatar from the ground up, though the filmmaker also finds a way to explain how they emotionally catch up with its growth. Visions of construction in contemporary Doha neatly express its nearly manic pace of growth as a result of the city's rapid urbanization to deliver the World Cup later this year.
Al-Tamimi is a Yemeni-East African, visual storyteller based in Qatar. Her work is inspired by social and cultural issues reflective of her own personal story. She explores themes relating to patterns and impacts of intergenerational trauma, societal culture and healing. She was a Photography & Social Justice 2020 Fellow at the Magnum Foundation where she developed her award winning film Don’t Get Too Comfortable, which was nominated for the Orizzonti Award for Best Short film at Venice Film Festival (La Biennale) and won the Bronze Tanit Award at Carthage Film Festival in 2021.
Nace DeSanders talked a bit about her process in curating the Short Film Saturday programs: "At Soleil, we have a programming committee that decides which films are screened on Short Film Saturday. This makes sure that no one's individual bias sways the selections. A portion of our Q&A is always about the culture(s) portrayed in the film so we look for high-quality films that show an aspect of the filmmaker's culture through non-stereotypical portrayal. Mariam directed by Faiza Ambah was a clear pick. It shows an event in recent history (France's ban of religious symbols in public venues) and focuses on its effect on a teenage girl. It humanizes the effects of legislature and shows the audience the collision of culture in French schools as a result of government decisions. Voices from the Urbanscape was another perfect pick for us. It shows the effects of Doha's rapid urbanization on its residents and expresses real peoples' feelings about it. It celebrates the diversity of the city and introduces audiences to its evolution. Both these films are windows into aspects of Middle Eastern culture and we are excited to introduce it to our global audience."
Shaima Al-Tamimi talked to us about her film: "This film was inspired by constant change of the self of and the cities I grew up in. I was always surrounded by construction through and through, I craved a moment of peace and stillness, but much like our lives, we were in constant need to evolve and grow. IT was a fun film to make with my co-director Maryam Salim."
She continued: "In the past 11 years that I've lived in Qatar, I have grown so much as a woman and an artist, nothing comes easy wherever you are and so, the challenge is part of the process to making or being anything you set out to be (with lots of surprises!). I am very grateful for the experiences and opportunities that I've been given."
I asked Faiza Ambah about filmmaking, and if that provides a roadmap to understanding the world around us. She explained "I left journalism and focused on film because I felt that emotions and stories told truths better than facts did. I wanted to reach audiences through their hearts, not just their minds." Continuing, "but I realized recently that my journalism career influenced my films. It’s what draws me to stories that feel plucked from the headlines. It taught me to tell stories objectively. And often having to deal as a journalist with people in crisis taught me to be calm on set and helped me relate quickly and easily to my actors."
DeSanders explained the purpose and commitment of their program: "Short Film Saturdays is a live showcase of short films from the hottest emerging filmmakers across the Asian, African, Lat Am, Caribbean and Middle Eastern diasporas. At last count, in May, we had screened 33 films from 26 directors in 25 Global South countries. Through the series, audiences get to discover some of the Global South diaspora’s most promising directors, producers and writers for live short film screenings followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers."
Why short films we inquired? She DeSanders disclosed: "Often celebrated and then shelved, short films shine a brilliant light on the amazing talent that exists all across the Global South, often demonstrating extraordinary ability with limited resources. Short Film Saturdays was born out of popular demand from listeners of our Soleil Spotlight podcast (going into its 3rd season later this Spring), in which we profile the individual journeys of trailblazing Global South creators, yet our listeners complained of not being able to actually see all the films they were speaking about! We can’t think of a better way to give our communities around the world a way to see these often hidden works that they wouldn't otherwise, and have our minds opened to new stories and points of view."
To watch the films, as well as being a part of the fabulous Q & A with the filmmakers after the screening, click on this link on YouTube. The event will be live on Saturday, August 13th, at 6 EET, 7 AST and noon EST.