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Shashat: Palestinian Women Make Images

Sunday, December 27, 2015


This interview is a cross-post from African Women in Cinema's Special Dossier on Women in Cinema in the Arab World. It's here through the kindness of interviewer Patricia Caillé (of the Université de Strasbourg) and of Beti Ellerson of African Women in Cinema, whose ongoing hard work, published in French and in English, ensures that there's a rich archive of information about women filmmakers whose lives and work are locally and globally oriented, but often created outside European or Hollywood systems. That's essential information, for all of us. 

Although there are many reasons to appreciate this interview, for me it's especially illuminating because of its accounts of Shashat ['screens', in Arabic] Women Cinema's active research into the best practices for advancing the work of women filmmakers. I'm inspired by Shashat Women Cinema's ideas and its implementation and evaluation of programmes that work in highly testing circumstances. They provide, I believe, a vital reference point in #womeninfilm/ #gendermatters discussions and programmes, from Sweden to Ireland to Australasia to North America. A big thank you to Patricia, to Alia and the other Shashat women and to Beti. 

by Patricia Caillé

Alia Arasoughly
Alia Arasoughly is the current Director General of Shashat Women Cinema, an independent women’s cinema NGO she founded in 2005 in Palestine. She is curator of the annual Shashat Women Film Festival in Palestine. She works both as a film producer and a director. She has produced 76 short films, fiction and documentary, by young Palestinian women filmmakers, as well as 15 one-hour documentary TV programmes. Her directing credits include The Clothesline (14 mins., 2006), Ba`d As-Sama’ Al-Akhirah [After the Last Sky] (55 mins. 2007), Hay mish Eishi [This is not Living] (2001, shown in over 100 international film festivals and translated into 6 languages. Hayat Mumazzaqah [Torn Living], 23 mins. 1993. She is editor of  Eye on Palestinian Women’s Cinema (2013) (Arabic) and of Screens of Life – Critical Film Writing from the Arab World (1996)


Alia's first book. (WW: I've been unable to find an image for Eye on Palestinian Women's Cinema)
Alia has received many awards for her work. In this interview, she describes the activities of Shashat, the training of women filmmakers, as well as the festival that showcases their films.

Patricia Caillé: There are a few cinemas in the West Bank that show mostly Hollywood and Egyptian genre films. There are no cinemas left in Gaza. There are a few festivals as well whose programmes depend largely on the international organisations supporting them. Apart from rare premieres, there are little opportunities for dissemination of Palestinian films to Palestinian audiences. Shashat stands out as the longest running and most extensive film festival in Palestine, touring for nearly three months. Can you describe the context when Shashat Film Festival was created and how it was created?

Alia Arasoughly: It was created by Shashat Women Cinema, an independent women’s cinema organisation. The festival is part of the Films for All Screening Programme, one of four programmes, which has a yearlong screening programme. It is not a traditional film festival, but a cultural community empowerment intervention which takes place in seven universities, seven refugee camps and seventeen cities in collaboration with twenty-three cultural and community organisations. It was important to have a specialized women’s cinema NGO whose mission was to have women become producers of Palestinian culture, more specifically cinema. Most of the projects that addressed women in media, women’s cinema or women’s audiovisual creativity were and are seasonal. One donor would sponsor an activity for six months one year, and then another donor will sponsor the same type of activity for six months another year, etc. These activities did not build on one another to provide continuity and sustainability to their objective and thus failed to result in the emergence of a new generation of young women filmmakers and failed to have a cumulative impact on culture.
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