Screening at the Nasawiya Organization and Art Collective in Beirut, Lebanon.
This was the most challenging screening on the Global Tour yet. With the first question we found ourselves faced with straight forward but important questions. It started with why we chose to refer to the countries represented in our films as “Muslim-majority” since it seems to neglect representation of other religious groups in the Arab world and MENA region. This particular attendee was Christian, just as 40% of Lebanese. Our Festival title is not intended to exclude any one group but to encompass all of the countries where Arab culture and customs are practiced. The films in our collection are made by women, men, Christian, Muslim, etc.
Further in the discussion arose the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the cultural boycott of Israel and the 1,800 Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli prisons. There was an intense exchange of various perspectives including the legitimacy of including art made by Israelis that are against the occupation and the apolitical, non-religious approach of our Festival and women’s issues on the whole. Some argued a strict allegiance to the cultural boycott, others argued that there cannot be exclusion of anyone who is against the occupation regardless of their ethnicity, and others remained silent or somewhat neutral trying to take in the gamut of opinions. There were guests that were with the cultural boycott and chose to walk out of the discussion. It was completely understandable and to be expected when discussion such a critical and highly sensitive situation. Overall, the screening with Nasawiya was highly charged and blatantly honest but absolutely necessary to the ongoing evaluation and growth of the WVN organization.
Director of Global Programs