A Journey with the Women of Bab Allah


1/10/2012 7:49:32 AM


by Mike V.Derderian

Dalia Al-Kury always felt she had a calling to go to Tunisia. So when she finally decided to follow that calling in the summer of 2008, she figured the best way to do it would be going as a volunteer rather than a tourist.

After a series of emails with friends and friends of friends, the 29-year-old documentary filmmaker found herself headed to a remote Tunisian village called “Al-Ma’goula” in the north western district of Baja to live with a woman called Farida.

Farida was a local business woman who quit her successful rug making business to set up a workshop for handicapped women and teach them embroidery and traditional rug weaving. Dalia’s volunteer mission was to make a documentary about these women.

Eight women with very different handicaps, physical and mental, get together everyday and learn how to work together despite their disabilities and produce beautiful rugs. Dalia knew very little about people with disabilities before this experience, and she says she was driven by a desire to learn more. “One of my phobias in life was to have a handicapped child,” she writes in her reflections after the trip. “But now I know that this was a result of my silly ignorance.”

Dalia bonded with Farida and her students very quickly. She spent 35 days with them, and then returned to Tunisia twice over the coming months to follow their journey and continue filming. Because this documentary was under-funded and was not produced for a specific TV channel, she took over a year to edit it, and was not rushed. "This enabled the story to mature and not be rushed," she says.

Dalia started her documentary filmmaking career five years ago with two amateur shorts that were selected for a number of international festivals. She then made "Arabizi" and "Caution.. Comment Ahead," which deals with the harassement women face on the streets of Amman. She then received a scholarship to pursue a Masters degree in documentary filmmaking in the UK, and now continues to work as an independent filmmaker. Last year she made "Smile.. You're in South Lebanon," which screened on Al-Arabiyah, and most recently, "Amman: East, West," which explores the economic and social divide in the city and was screened on Al-Jazeera Documentary in October.

"I realized that I love making portraits," says Dalia, which is why Banat Bab Allah was one of her favorites to work on. The documentary will be screened for the first time this month at Al-Balad theater, and proceeds from the tickets will go to Safar Fund, which enables young Arabs to travel and seek experiential learning, and which supported Dalia's trip.

 

 

 



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