From 6 to 9 December 2014 Movies that Matter organised a workshop programme about setting up a human rights film festival in the Middle East or Northern Africa. The workshop programme, which took place in Jordan, was especially designed for participants from the Middle East and Northern Africa. During four intense and inspiring days participants shared knowledge and experiences. Moreover, the workshop helped lay the foundation of an Arab cinema and human rights network. Cinema without Borders took place during – and in cooperation with – the Karama Human Rights Film Festival in the Jordanian capital Amman.
Since late 2010, the Arab region is the stage of political revolutions and civil wars. The future is highly insecure. Particularly in these times of transition it is essential to continue promoting dialogue, exchange of ideas, opinions and experiences about human rights issues in the region. Film festivals can be a particularly valuable platform for that.
Cinema without Borders brought together starting and more experienced film professionals from the Middle East and Northern Africa region. Movies that Matter and Karama Human Rights Film Festival selected 12 qualified participants from the field of cinema and human rights with realistic plans to set up a human rights film event in the Middle East and Northern Africa region.
Some of them have already started organising film events. Cinema without Borders was designed to gain practical knowledge, gain fresh ideas and strengthen their network. Through the workshops, participants were inspired and assisted to overcome challenges during the organisation of their own festival.
The various workshops aimed at action-based learning, reflecting on one’s own experiences and creating new connections. During sessions on a variety of topics, such as film selection, discussion programmes, impact and publicity, participants were challenged to use and share their strengths, knowledge, ideas and experiences. The workshops helped participants identify their project’s main objectives: ‘to inform’, ‘to discuss’ or ‘to activate’. In addition, there was special attention for matters that are specific to the region, such as the cultural context, dealing with censorship and security and working in a changing political landscape. The workshops were presented and moderated by Ayman Bardawil, Ehab Al Khatib and Sawsan Darwaza (from the Karama Human Rights Film Festival, Jordan), Oksana Sarkisova (Verzio, Hungary), Eric van de Giessen and Matthea de Jong (Movies that Matter, The Netherlands).
In the evenings workshop participants attended film screenings at the Karama Human Rights Film Festival. On the last workshop day all beginning festival organisers had the opportunity to pitch their projects during a “cultural speed date” with relevant invitees: film makers, financiers and representatives of embassies and cultural organisations. After the official programme, many of the participants joined in a revitalizing trip to the Dead Sea.
The workshop programme got a lot of attention in the Jordan press. For instance, check out the fragment at Roya TV, featuring one of our Lebanese participants, Haytham Chamass. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBszoLkJ94Q#t=18.
Participants’ experiences are being collected and will be presented in an evaluation report. Some quotes:
Hala Ben Hadj Barek, Jordan / Tunisia: “Cinema without Borders is a comprehensive training juggling between theoretical knowledge, experience sharing and practical exercises”.
Faty Badi, Morocco: “Meeting people from other countries, dealing with other aspects to set up a film festival, for instance in Afghanistan or Mauritania, made me re-think my disadvantages. Also, we got the chance to share information generously”.
May Odeh, Palestine: “Now, after this workshop, I have the confidence that I know how I can run an international film festival. Another thing that was really important is that this workshop accomplished to create a regional network with film & human rights initiatives from similar countries. Among the participants we already started to exchange so many new ideas how we can cooperate in the future. We can exchange films, subtitles, contacts. This can really help all of us”.
Sahra Mosavi, Afghanistan: “The atmosphere of the program was very unique for me. I met many festival directors from different countries. I heard about their ideas, their situation and their challenges”.
Salem Dendou, Mauritania: “The discussions and exchange of experiences with supervisors, organizers and participants took place in a rewarding fraternal, optimistic and friendly atmosphere. I am positive about the establishment of a unified network for the exchange of information and experience. We need such forums for the exchange of experiences between the organisers of cultural and artistic projects, especially beginners”.