The Yemen Peace Project organized the first International Yemeni Arts and Film Festival on January 25 and 26 in New York. The festival featured a photography exhibit and screenings of a collection of Yemeni films, and gathered an impressive group of activists and filmmakers together for panel discussions.
One of the standout films from the festival was Sarah Ishaq’s Oscar-nominated Karama Has No Walls.
The powerful story of the attack on protestors in Change Square on March 18, 2011 is a sobering reminder of the personal and national tragedies on that day. The footage, collected from different cameras filming that day, contests the government narrative and is a testament to the importance of documentation as events are ‘historicized.’
Another favorite, Musa Syeed’s The Big House, is a short allegory of the revolutionary experience, beautifully shot and produced.
Nawal al-Maghafi’s The President’s Man and His Revolutionary Son is a fascinating portrayal of the infamous regime spokesman Abdu al-Janadi and his activist son. The film follows the relationship of father and son as events in the country force them into opposing camps.
Continuing the trend of political films, Hamdi Mansour’s For You I Will Go highlights the stumbling blocks to national dialogue in the country, as a young activist encounters various forces opposing progress in a series of nightmares. The question of how to move forward was further addressed in the panel discussion, where activists, filmmakers, and journalists contemplated the repercussions of Saleh’s immunity agreement and pursuing justice.
Many films addressed women’s issues, including Sawsan al-Areeq’s Photo and Mohammed al-Asbahi’s Adult’s Only. Khadija al-Salami’s The Scream conveys the complexities Yemeni women’s involvement in the revolution. Each woman in the film complicates preconceived tropes of the ways women understand and interact with politics and society, demonstrating that there is no simple narrative of how women participate in revolution.
While the majority of films were inspired by the political turmoil of the last three years, the feature presentation was the full-length film shot and produced entirely in Yemen in 2005: Bader Ben Hirsi’s A New Day in Old Sana’a
The festival concluded with a beautiful Oud performance by the incredibly talented Ahmed Alshaiba.
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