October 11, 2011
Last night marked WVN’s first Middle Eastern presence. We screened the Visceral Experience, a program made up of 12 experimental films, at Makan Art Space in Amman, Jordan.
When first working on our Jordan campaign, our Director of Global Programs Suzie Abdou contacted Samah Hijjawi at the new and progressive space in the art district of Jebel Webdeh. The gallery was most interested in our experimental films due to their artistic nature and their ability to explore women’s expressions through an alternative vocabulary including animation, performance art and silent film.
Jordan TV found out about the event through Facebook and made a surprise appearance to interview WVN, Makan and members of our audience for a new cultural program entitled Hamzat Wasil, which was created to reflect the new Jordanian lifestyle and activity developing over the past four years. The show will air next Sunday, October 16th at 6:30pm.
Although 12 short films back to back - especially the intense and sometimes raw films that make up this particular program - can be difficult to sit through, the majority of attendees, a diverse audience in both gender and age, endured (smoking breaks included). Viewers were engaged and during the reception of tea and coffee on Makan’s outdoor patio, which capped the event, many wanted to discuss the the meaning and power of the films. Somaye was of particular interest.
“I didn’t get it,” Anes, a half Jordanian, half Spanish diving instructor from Aqaba admitted. “It was beautiful, but I didn’t really know what it meant.”
“It’s about liberation and freedom,” mused Eva, a young Jordanian health worker who does cancer research.
I smiled, pleased with myself that Eva had understood Iranian filmmaker Mostafa Heravi’s message. “The veiled women in the film endure the elements while standing or running alone on the beach. They are free. The last woman wears a shiny red dress which exposes her legs, head and shoulders. The sun warms her skin, the wind blows in her hair and the sand tickles her toes. She is present, she is free, she is vibrant.” I explained.
As understanding crossed his gaze, Anes laughed, “oh! All of a sudden I like it a lot more.”
Several audience members spoke of the difficulty they had with some of the more graphic pieces like Post Violence by Iranian filmmaker Afrooz Nasersharif, and Grace by Dutch filmmaker Celia Eslamieh Shomal.
“I think it’s important that these films be viewed, they made me feel an agony that is necessary in this time of change in the Middle East, but the one with the shaving of the head really made me squirm,” reported Miriam, an elderly lover of the arts who says she tries to attend at least one cultural event per week.
Our take away: in a land where filmmaking has been all but absent since the 1950s and is only recently experiencing a revival, the people are both hungry and nervous about allowing this compelling medium into their lives, thoughts and beliefs. Now more than ever it is important to be here; to support budding filmmakers, maturing activists, and free thinkers.
Stay tuned for our live blog coming to you from Jordan on a regular basis!