Canon Middle East clicks with women on issues facing female filmmakers

Published April 4th, 2017 - 04:00 GMT
Haifaa al-Mansour wrote and directed the Saudi film "Wadjda." (CNN)
Haifaa al-Mansour wrote and directed the Saudi film "Wadjda." (CNN)

Canon Middle East together with The Scene Club hosted a panel discussion on the role of ‘Women Filmmakers in the Arab World’ on the second day of CABSAT 2017.

Focusing on the challenges and opportunities for women from the region in the film industry, the panel discussion was moderated by Vijaya Cherian, Editor of BroadcastPro ME and featured some of the leading women filmmakers from the region including well-known Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al Khaja. Other participants included Manahel Bedah, Khadijah Kudsi, Tanya Daud, Sheherzaad Kaleem and costume designer Sandhya Lalloo-Morar.

Canon invited six women filmmakers from the region to participate in a panel discussion on the sidelines of CABSAT 2017. (BrodcastProME)

Reports state that presently only 8% of filmmakers in this region are female. What are the challenges that woman face in the journey of filmmaking in the Arab world and are they any different from what their male counterparts encounter? These were some of the talking points that set the ball rolling for the panel and the participants  jumped into the discussion to relate their personal journeys and experiences in the field. The informal session shed light on some of the day-to-day experiences of women working in films.

Funding was cited as one of the biggest issues for filmmakers. Nayla Al Khaja said that while funding was a big challenge, it should not be the reason why women should not take up films as a profession.

“The money is out there, you just need to reach out. Think of a business plan and pursue it,” she said.

Most of the panellists viewed filmmaking as a form of expression and to tell untold stories. Their preferred genre was documentaries, which they considered closest to reality.

In order to sustain one’s filmmaking career, it emerged that the best way to move forward was to keep a balance between projects that bring in the money and those that are creatively satisfying.

The best advice was to straddle the worlds of ‘bread and butter’ and ‘passion’ projects, where one feeds the other, the panellists agreed.

The panel also touched upon how gender had its advantages and disadvantages but they all agreed that this was a privileged time to be a director or a producer or working in film in the MENA.

Canon has been supporting young and upcoming filmmakers for several years now but #canonmeets was a first attempt to bring women filmmakers together at CABSAT.

The event also showcased some of the recent and ongoing projects of the panellists. Nayla Al Khaja is presently working on her first feature project scheduled for release in 2018. She presented a 30-second teaser of the project during the event.

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