A film by Leila Jarman (USA/2013/51)
Voice of the Valley tells the story of two women from the impoverished, religious and tribal agricultural hub of Jordan, the Jordan Valley. With no formal training and despite the government's refusal to issue them a license, Asma and Munira produce and broadcast a groundbreaking socio-political radio program from Amman. Despite numerous threats and backlash from their community, the women expose social, political, and environmental issues plaguing the Jordan Valley.
Click HERE to watch Leila Jarman's acceptance speech for the Best Documentary Feature Award (2016).
About Leila Jarman
Leila Jarman is a visual artist and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her work is focused on the subversion of the social, political and visual constructs that compose the fabric of our human-ness. She has directed documentary feature films, music videos and experimental films and her works have been featured on VICE and The Creator's Project as well as in galleries and film festivals internationally, including a special exhibition at the Tate Britain in London and a celebration of digital art at Ars Electronica in Austria.
In November 2006, Radio Al Balad, an independent radio station in Amman, Jordan, held an open call for women interested in producing a program about the people of the Jordan Valley. Inhabited by marginalized agrarian workers, the Jordan Valley lies on the eastern Jordanian side of the Palestinian West Bank. Despite being an agricultural hub of the region, Jordan is one of the ten most water scarce countries in the world. Jordan’s major surface water resources, the Jordan River and the Yarmouk River, are shared with Israel and Syria who leave only a small amount of water for Jordan. With groundwater resources being overexploited and the serious effects of climate change, there seem to be fewer and fewer solutions to the problem.
In 2010, I traveled to Jordan to document the professional lives of the two women Radio Al Balad chose to be a voice for the people of the Jordan Valley. With no formal journalistic training, Asma and Munira produce and broadcast a groundbreaking socio-political radio program called “Voice of the Valley.” Their radio program calls attention to the issues facing this neglected area such as the water shortage, poverty, corruption within the local government, and neglect—problems which have not yet been addressed by governmental officials in Amman. Despite societal and cultural pressure to succumb to traditional patriarchal customs, Asma and Munira continue to fight for the neglected people of the Jordan Valley. Since completion of the film in 2013, Asma and Munira are still working in radio and media, each focusing on more specific elements of the media work that interest them respectively. They are currently working on various projects that continue to improve the lives of the people of the Jordan Valley.
If I was to win any of the prizes, I would definitely put the money towards research and development of my next documentary or narrative film. Most of the time, money comes out of my own pocket to create the body of work I have thus far, so it would be a great privilege to have some of that burden eliminated.