And filming itself can be dangerous and difficult. People respond to the presence of a film crew in one of two ways, Moussa said. “Some people are afraid: ‘Who are you, what are you filming? You may cause us another, new problem.’ The other group just laughs and asks: ‘Why are you making a movie in Yemen? Are you a big American producer? There’s no point’ in doing this here.”
Nasser Almang, head of Yemen Will Triumph, estimated that his organization had trained almost 70 aspiring filmmakers in the last three years.
“We really encourage the Yemeni filmmakers and artists to continue their work, even with limited resources and equipment, to deliver their voice,” he said.
The group also supports fist-time filmmakers with small grants. International donors are understandably focused on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Almang said, but his organization argues that “arts and culture are really important. … We need to give these young people a hope.”
‘Our Films Can’t Stop the War’
At the end of the Yemeni film screenings in Amman, there was a lively discussion that touched on whether the filmmakers had a responsibility to convey a more positive, less miserable image of their country or whether, on the contrary, their films should aim to mobilize audiences.
Opinions varied, but one of the young directors responded: “The problem isn’t that people don’t know about the war in Yemen. Our films can’t stop the war. The service they provide Yemen is to tell a few of its stories—happy stories or sad stories. But my mission ends when the film ends.”
The Yemen showcase was just a small part of the Karama festival, which features a wide breadth of work. It included, for example, documentaries about an all-women soccer team in Khartoum and a boxing gym in the Baqa’a refugee camp in Jordan; about Moroccan women fighting for their right to own land and about a former jihadi raising three daughters alone in Tunis.
Fiction films, meanwhile, explored issues such as migration, disability, the right to health care, racism, and prison.
The film Maelstrom is composed of hundreds of hours of amateur footage shot by Syrians. The project I Wanted To Live is a cinematic visualization and memorial to 35,597 migrants and refugees known to have died in Europe or on its borders since 1993.
Some of the works are hard to watch, but the overall atmosphere of the festival was positive, even joyful—full of solidarity and encouragement.
The festival is affiliated with other initiatives, such as the Arab Network for Human Rights Film, and it conducts various outreach activities. A selection of the films shown in Amman has toured ten Jordanian cities this year and will visit be screened at several of the country’s universities.