The documentary Vrouwen achter the camera (2017) proves that film making is not a male hobby or profession. Already in the 1930s, women grabbed their cameras to film the world around them. They made their own home videos and filmed their children playing on the beach. Later on, women proved they we’re able to make documentaries as well, about life in the country, a political party during the election period or a motorcycle contest.
How male or female the subject might be, women are able to make films about it, as this compilation of archive material from the 1930s to 2000 shows. It wasn’t back then and it still isn’t, as other films presented at the International Film Festival Assen show. If an issue needs to be raised, women will stand there on the frontline, whether men like it or not.
“Why are you girls here?” a boy working at a car mechanical workplace in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, asks. “Because we women are capable to do this job.” one of the girls answers. “But there is a lot of physical work to do here.” the boy says. “Well, we are strong.”
Ouaga Girls is a positive coming-of-age documentary, by Theresa Traore Dahlberg, about a girls’ school in the poorest country of Africa. A group of young women between 16 and 23 years old gets the chance to become a car mechanic, and thus economically independent. Though this seems very progressive, people around them have to get used to the idea of female mechanics.
These girls do not only learn how to fix cars. They also learn about how to make decisions on their own, about relationships, sexual intercourse and contraceptives. They all want a better future, which includes a paid job so their children won’t be raised in poverty.
That future won’t be easy. Each girl has their own struggle. One doesn’t know her mother, another one already has to raise a child on her own. And what if their husband doesn’t agree with his wife having a job? But at least, these girls can count on the support of their sisters.
Girls are girls. They organise fashion shows, braid each other’s hair and party. But in the end, they are Ouaga Girls. They are warriors, women of the future.
Amal is the first film of Mohamed Siam. Through a female perspective, he shows the consequences of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. He does so through a mix of home video’s of Amal as a child, images of the violent protests in Egypt and a portrait of Amal during her adolescent years.
Amal was only 15 years old when she decided to participate in the revolution of Egypt. She hit the streets to protest against the regime, hoping to change the political climate of her home country. However, it was impossible to act like herself during the protest. “If I had behaved like a girl, I wouldn’t have reached anything. I had to be a man.”
And so she did. She acted like a man by wearing a hoodie and scarves to cover her face. She hung around with young men all the time, who seemed to find her cool but are at the same time aware of the fact that she is a girl. They do not allow her to enter a sit-in, for example. But Amal stayed strong, and wasn’t afraid to criticise the political regime of the two candidates for the elections, Ahmed Shafik and Mohamed Morsi.
The girl turned into a young woman. Amal is 17, wears make-up and has a boyfriend who forbids her to wear jeans, to smoke or to visit a football match. Amal is a woman, but she feels treatened like a child. However, the rebellious child she once was seems to be gone. On her way to adulthood, she lost her path. “What might be better: being outcast or part of the system?” she wonders. A question that can’t be answered in either a right or a wrong way.
Tehran, Iran. The city where everyone lies. Why? Because its society knows a lot of taboos. Tehran Taboo is the debut animation film of Ali Soozandeh, which criticises the city’s schizophrenic society. Freedom is something very rare here, especially when you’re a woman.
Tehran is presented as a grey and dull city. The streets of Tehran aren’t dull at all, on the contrary. Traffic is rushing by, while a lots of illegal practices take place. For example, the dealing of drugs or the offering of abortions and virginity operations. Why illegal? Because you simply shouldn’t talk about these things. Which is perfectly illustrated by the fact that unmarried couples are not allowed to walk hand in hand in public.
Against this background, three women try to survive the difficulties they come across in their society. Pari, who works as a nurse, wants a divorce, but needs a signature from her husband, who’s in jail. Sara wants to work while being pregnant for the third time, but needs permission from her husband, who doesn’t like the idea at all. Donya wants her virginity back, otherwise her husband will get mad.
What these women have in common is that they try to survive by lying. Pari isn’t a nurse but a prostitute, Sara didn’t get two miscarriages, but two abortions and Donya has no husband but is about to be sold as an young Iranian virgin in Dubai.
Being a prostitute is not done, of course. But visiting a whore while your wife is pregnant seems acceptable. And so is using drugs, for men. A husband who is under influence of drugs even seems to be perfect. Sara wants to know how someone who has taken drugs responds. “Slap him” Pari advises. “If he slaps the teeth out of your mouth, you know he is sober.”
“From upstairs, everything seems to be free and open.” says one of the characters. However, downstairs it’s far from the perfect society where men and women are equal and can make their own decisions. Everybody craves to escape from their depressive lives, either by flying to Europe or America, or by dying.