8 Short Films Directed by Badass Arab Female Directors

A new London screening celebrates the Middle East’s best shorts

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As celebrated by a rising number of female-led festivals and digital platforms such as habibicollective, female Middle Eastern filmmaking is vying for representation in both mainstream and underground cultural scenese.

Long-situated on the fringes of cinema, this imitates the very position of female Middle Eastern women Who—especially once outside the region—have to navigate not only their own identity, but the representation of their identity in culture and mainstream media. This is a struggle faced by many, and explored in-depth by freelance journalist Alya Mooro, in her new book The Greater Freedom: Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotype, due to be released in the Autumn.

In anticipation, Mooro has joined forces with Shorts on Tap to present Women in Revolt – The Greater Freedom: An Exploration of Middle Eastern Female Filmmaking. Through exploring themes such as familial pressure, coming of age and Eastern feminism, the focalisation of female directors increases subjectivities and multiplicities of representation. The films that are due to be screened include:

Youth (Egypt, 2019), dir. Farida Zahran

A coming-of-age narrative about a teenager who finds herself in a new territory after deciding to approach her crush at a party. When they end up alone in his car, she is pushed to consider her own boundaries for the first time.

Lippie aka SHEFFA (Egypt, 2018), dir. Omneya Okasha

A 10-year-old boy living in the slums, Sheffa (meaning Lip) is nicknamed for a scar he bears. His mother scolds him, and uses him and his friends to traffic drugs. Her ambitions are threatened when Sheffa gets her period, revealing that in fact Sheffa is a girl being raised up as a boy.

Not Another Word (Jordan, 2013), dir. Cherien Dabis

When a free-spirited Arab-American woman receives word of a distant cousin’s marriage proposal, she and her family laugh it off at first. But the conversation takes a serious turn, and she finds herself struggling to get her conservative mother and traditional grandmother to understand that marriage isn’t at all for her.

The Truth (Beirut, 2018), dir. Marcelle Aleid

While trying to make a documentary about the broken relationships among some Arab families in Toronto, the filmmaker finds hidden secrets behind the closed doors of three ladies from different backgrounds.

Yasmina (2018), dirs. Ali Esmili and Claire Cahen

Yasmina is a 15 year-old teenager who passionately loves football, training at the Saint-Étienne football club. She is in France without a visa, with her father and his French girlfriend. One evening, when returning home from training, she sees her father getting arrested, throwing her life into turmoil.

Raha (Iran, 2017), dir. Yeganeh Balouchi

A 15-year-old girl finds out that she’s pregnant and is desperate to find the money for an abortion. We follow her through her challenges during one day in Tehran. In a patriarchal society that refuses to accept her and what she has done.

Taarof: a Verbal Dance (UK, 2018), dir. Alannah Olivia

Taarof: a Verbal Dance tells the story of Nazanin, a young Iranian woman who was born and raised in England. The film opens on the funeral of her estranged father whom we soon realise she lost touch with prior to his death. Not only does she have to face the death of a loved one she lost touch with, but she also has to face an army of estranged relatives and a culture that she once knew very well.

The Wedding Singer’s Daughter (Italy, 2018), dir. Haifaa Al-Mansour

The latest short in Miu Miu’s Women’s Tales series, directed by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour, is set in 1980s Saudi Arabia. The Wedding Singer’s Daughter offers a glimpse into the hidden world of women when not inhibited by the presence of the male gaze.

Women in Revolt – The Greater Freedom: An Exploration of Middle Eastern Female Filmmaking, June 19, 93 Feet East, Brick Lane, London E1 6QL

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