07 October—6:00 pm
As the world is turning right, and xenophobic discourse is taking centre stage, stereotypes and racist rhetorics on different cultures, religions and their constituencies are again coming to the fore.
In Greece, these rhetorics have accentuated from 2014 onwards, when large numbers of persons that fled war, conflict and climate disaster, or were on a quest for better living conditions, arrived at its shores. What has been mainly known as the refugee crisis, is however a condition, that is not new. War,conflict and financial crises have been for eons creating new waves of refugees. The (current) global migrant crisis, is the most tangible manifestation of a trajectory that has been slowly building since colonialism.
The role of culture in creating new narratives that are based in concepts of equality, hospitality, solidarity and understanding, is now more urgent than ever. For this reason, State of Concept has decided to inaugurate a new programming chapter entitled “Xen(i)os” addressing the problematics between the binary of guest-host, in a world that is becoming all the more xenophobic. It is further addressing the histories of hospitality, care and hosting, in relationship to the multicultural policies that have defined the modern West. The title derives from the concept of “Xenios Zeus” the hospitable god Zeus, but also from the concept of “xenos” (l’etranger, the stranger). We will be looking at otherness from a feminist intersectional perspective, stemming from both the local and the global. As Greece is defined as a place of the “global south” we will be looking for South to South synergies that look into feminist forms of practice of hospitality, solidarity and care. One of the iterations of this trajectory is a new screening program entitled Arab Feminist Films, curated and organised by Doreen Toutikian.
Since 2011 with the dawn of Arab uprisings, many artists and documentary filmmakers took the opportunity to tell the world about the social and political struggles that peoples of the Arab region have been enduring, through the lens of feminist artists and directors. The Arab Feminist Films program is a tribute to an anthology of work produced by women from Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia,Saudi Arabia and Libya who have uncovered various aspects -often taboo ones in the local context- that have dominated the lives of Arab women and queer constituencies, but also societies at large.
The festival is comprised of 15 documentaries and contemporary art works in the form of film, that fall under four different categories: Echoes of War, Resistance, Gender Based Violence and Empowerment.
As forms of Resistance, Feriel Ben Mahmoud’s ‘Feminism Inshallah: A History of Arab feminism’ describes an overview of political movements in the region that have vastly changed the rights of women over the past 5 decades. Amal Ramsis’ ‘The Trace of the Butterfly’ follows the story of female protesters in Tahrir Square during the uprisings; while ‘Forbidden’ delivers a brutal reality on Egyptian state control defining everything that people are forbidden to do by law, ranging from the participation of women in the community to holding hands with loved ones in public.
Within the Empowerment sessions, Amber Fares tracks down the first all-women race car driving team in the Middle East who ride alongside their male competitors in the streets of Palestine. Yasmine Fedda’s ‘Queens of Syria’ follows the journey of sixty women from Syria, all forced into exile in Jordan, who came together to create and perform their own version of the Trojan Women, the Ancient Greek tragedy. Naziha Arebi’s ‘Freedom Fields’ follows three women and their football team in post-revolution Libya, as the country descends into civil war.
Special mention goes to ‘The Three Disappearances of Soad Hosni’, a subtle but poignant work by Rania Stephan, who captures through footage from 82 films, the seemingly harmless objectification of one of Egypt’s most famous actresses known as the Cinderella of Arab cinema.
The Arab Feminist Films festival is collaboration between LOOP and State of Concept that hopes to become a staple event in the cultural scene in Athens.
Monday 7 October, 6pm
Feminism Inshallah: A History of Arab Feminism (2014/ 54 min)
Director: Feriel Ben Mahmoud, Tunisia
The struggle for Muslim women’s emancipation is often portrayed stereotypically as a showdown between Western and Islamic values, but Arab feminism has existed for more than a century. And its unique history is shaped by, and inseparable from, assertions of national identity and the fight for liberation from colonialism. This groundbreaking documentary recounts Arab feminism’s largely unknown story, from its taboo-shattering birth in Egypt by feminist pioneers up through viral Internet campaigns by today’s tech-savvy young activists. Moving from Tunisia to Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, filmmaker and author Feriel Ben Mahmoud tracks the progress of Arab women in their long march to assert their full rights and achieve empowerment. En route, Feminism Inshallah also considers the paradoxes of limited championship by conservative forces and regimes, as well as the setbacks imposed by Arab geopolitics and the rise of religious fundamentalism.
Monday 7 October, 7pm
Becoming Jamila/ Have you Ever Killed a Bear (2013, 25 min)
Director: Marwa Arsanios, Lebanon
This short film is an exploration of the relationship between cinema and contemporary video and performance art. Marwa Arsanios takes Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 film, The Battle of Algiers and explores the representations of Algerian freedom fighter, Jamila Bouhired. From her role in the film, to her assimilation and promotion through Cairo’s Al-Hilal magazine, the performance attempts to look at the history of socialist projects (Egypt), anti-colonial wars (Algeria), and the way they have promoted and marginalized feminist projects.
Monday 7 October, 8pm
Women of Hamas (2010, 56 min)
Director: Suha Arraf, Palestine
Hamas’ takeover of Gaza turned it into one of the most controversial organizations in the world today. While the most prominent members of the group are men, most of its field work is carried out by cadres of women supporters. These women of Hamas are the most powerful women in the Palestinian territories. Some serve as leaders of the movement, whether as elected representatives in the Palestinian parliament or as ministers in the Hamas government. Others are recognized for their social welfare activities on behalf of children and especially women and for being the mothers of suicide bombers. Suha Arraf obtained unprecedented access to three women who are active members of the organization in Gaza; shining a light on the work of those who spend their life in the shadows.
Tuesday 8 October, 6pm
Souha, Surviving Hell (2001, 56 min)
Director: Randa Chahal Sabbag, Lebanon
Souha Bechara is a young southern Lebanese girl who, like thousands of other girls, found herself at an early age in the midst of a civil war. In 1988, after a long preparation, Souha attempted to assassinate General Antoine Lahad, leader of the South Lebanse Army, the pro-Istraeli Christian militia. Although badly wounded, he survided, and Souha was imprisoned for ten years in the Khiam prison, the infamous dungeon whoses very existence was denied by the Israelis and their Lebanese collaborators. Locked up in a tiny cell in total isolation and repeatedly tortured, her refusal to collaborate soon became a legend. Thanks to an international campaign, Souha was finally freed in 1998
Tuesday 8 October, 7pm
The Trace of the Butterfly (2011, 68 min)
Director: Amal Ramsis, Egypt
The film begins with the Maspero massacre, in which 27 Coptic Christian demonstrators were killed by the Egyptian militia on October 9, 2011. It was nine months after the revolution. Amongst those killed was the so called ‘Guevara of the Egyptian revolution,’ Mina Daniel. “The Trace of the Butterfly” follows his sister, Mary, and the profound impact that his death has on her life in the years that follow his assassination. Through the film we see how Mina’s life changes drastically from being some very traditional to someone who speaks out openly, and through her story we see what had been going on during these years in Egypt.
Monday 14 October, 6pm
Here You Are (2017/ 5 min)
Director: Tyma Hezam, Syria/ Saudi Arabia
’Here You Are’ is an experimental video-poem that blends landscape, text and music to shed light on mental health issues of the post-traumatic stress experienced by refugees upon their arrival to their destination. Tyma is a young Syrian/Saudi Arabian filmmaker and artist. She focuses in her work on global issues such as conformity, globalization, refugee issues, and how they relate to mental health in the Middle East. Tyma’s film “Here You Are” about mental health of Syrian refugees post the crisis was selected and nominated for Best Short Film at the BBC Arabic Film Festival 2017 for its World Premiere along with other official selections of film festivals.
Monday 14 October, 6:15pm
Ouroboros (2017, 77 min)
Director: Basma Alsharif, Palestine/ Kuwait
Ouroboros is acclaimed visual artist Basma Alsharif’s first feature film. This experimental film is an homage to the Gaza Strip and to the possibility of hope based on the eternal return.
The film follows a man through five different landscapes, upending mass-mediated representation of trauma. A journey outside of time, marking the end as the beginning, exploring the subject of the eternal return and how we move forward when all is lost. Basma Alsharif is a visual artist using moving and still images, sound, and language, to explore the anonymous individual in relation to political history and collective memory.
Monday 14 October, 7:45pm
A Feeling Greater Than Love (2010, 94 min)
Director: Mary Jirmanus Saba, Lebanon
A car with a loudspeaker on its roof is driving through southern Lebanon. The old man at the wheel is calling for people to join a demonstration to support their brothers and sisters who’ve occupied a tobacco company and are now being besieged by the army. His words come from the past, as he’s referring to events from 1973 – events that few remember today. Neither the protests made by the tobacco farmers from the south against the large landholders’ monopoly nor the strike for better working conditions by workers at a Beirut chocolate factory are anchored in the country’s collective memory. All recollection of this social movement was erased by the civil war and society has since been marked by deep sectarian divisions. Looking for both a lost era and strategies able to be applied to current struggles, the filmmaker sets out in search of clues. Starting from the death of a young woman killed during the strike, she asks questions of the activists of the time, archival photos, documentaries from the 1970s, her own person and the possibilities for militant action in film and society. The layering of these diverse materials allows the old man’s pleas to reverberate in the present day
Tuesday 15 October, 6pm
Women of Freedom (2017/ 58 min)
Director: Abeer Zeibak Haddad, Palestine
Women of Freedom follows the stories of women who were murdered in the name of ‘honor killing’, women whose lives are under threat, women who survived murder attempts, even that of a killer expressing remorse. The documentary tries to unravel the social and political circumstances that have led to this custom. The murder of a young woman in the Director’s hometown of Nazareth 43 years ago has left her agitated. In order to investigate the causes for this enduring phenomenon, Abeer Zeibak Haddad embarks on a physical and emotional journey through Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Monday 21 October, 6pm
Queens of Syria (2014/ 70 min)
Director: Yasmin Fedda, Palestine/ UK
Queens of Syria tells the story of sixty women from Syria, all forced into exile in Jordan, who came together in Autumn 2013 to create and perform their own version of the Trojan Women, the timeless Ancient Greek tragedy all about the plight of women in war. What followed was an extraordinary moment of cross-cultural contact across millennia, in which women born in 20th century Syria found a blazingly vivid mirror of their own experiences in the stories of a queen, princesses and ordinary women like them, uprooted, enslaved,and bereaved by the Trojan War. The group have six weeks until they are to perform to an audience of hundreds. Not one of them has acted before…
Monday 21 October, 7:30pm
Speed Sisters (2015/ 80 min)
Director: Amber Fares, Palestine/ Canada
The Speed Sisters are the first all-woman race car driving team in the Middle East. Grabbing headlines and turning heads at improvised tracks across the West Bank, these five women have sped their way into the heart of the gritty, male-dominated Palestinian street car-racing scene. Weaving together their lives on and off the track, Speed Sisters takes you on a surprising journey into the drive to go further and faster than anyone thought you could.