Ala Younis: Independent Film in Jordan (2009)

(1) MY BELOVED HOMELAND 1964 (2) THE SHOES 1986 (3) FULL BLOOM 2006 (4) REMIND ME TO REMEMBER TO FORGET 2006 (5) SHAWAHED 2009 (6) DEAF COUNTRIES 2009

MY BELOVED HOMELAND
Abdallah Kawash, Jordan 1964, Eng. subtitles, 3 min (trailer)
MY BELOVED HOMELAND addresses an important period during the struggle between the Arab Jordanian army and the Jewish underground militia, which took over Palestinian territories in 1948. In the film, Kamal, the protagonist, leaves his family to fight for Palestine. Minimal dialogue, frontline battles, the Jordanian army scene, local landscapes, and nightlife are the main features of this 52-minute film shot over the course of two years.

MY BELOVED HOMELAND is considered as an early beacon in the Jordanian film industry being only the second Jordanian film produced locally, by self-taught young filmmakers. It was written, produced and directed by the brothers Abdallah and Mahmoud Kawash, then sank into oblivion until 2008 when Jordanian critic Adnan Madanat found a rare negative copy of the film kept by the family of the lead actor. The damaged and technically outdated copy was sent for restoration, editing, and conversion at a specialized film restoration laboratory in Cairo.

THE SHOES
Mohammad Alloh, Jordan 1986, Eng. subtitles, 12 min
When it rains, misery escalates in the Palestinian refugee camp. A barefooted boy runs through muddy streets under heavy cold rain to catch a lesson in a room packed with barefooted classmates. The schoolteacher, a nightmare in his own right, is lecturing on the beauty of mixing colors when the school administration starts pulling students out of class. They are sent to the administration to receive a donation that will bring joy to some of the boys but not all of them.

Mohammad Alloh took a BA in film making from Cairo in 1977. THE SHOES was produced on a very low budget raised by Alloh in 1986 and a number of awards and honorary mentions, including the special diploma award at the Krakow Festival. Alloh worked at Jordan TV for 11 years before relocating to the Emirates in 1990 to work at Sharjah TV.

FULL BLOOM
Sandra Madi, Jordan 2006, Eng. subtitles, 46 min
Faraj Darwish, 21-year-old winner of the 2004 Arab boxing championship in Algeria, lives in a modest house with his poor family in Al Baqa’a, a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. He dreams of an Olympic medal, yet he is banned from training in the first team because he refused to fight an Israeli in an international championship in Turkey in 2006. As a result, the boxing federation in Jordan banned him for life. Every day he wonders if he’s going to fight again, or if he can grab some chance to be a professional boxer abroad. The film visits the dreams and lives of the former boxing heroes who lived and trained in Al Baqa’a camp.

Sandra Madi was born in 1976 in Amman, Jordan. She won various awards as a film director and has produced and researched several documentaries. In 2006 she graduated from the Arab Institute of Film. Her third documentary,
Perforated Memory, won the prize for best documentary film at Docudays in Beirut, 2009. A more recent project is her documentary Gaza Gaza.

REMIND ME TO REMEMBER TO FORGET

Oraib Toukan, Jordan 2006, OV, 3 min
Entranced by the US media coverage of the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, Oraib Toukan obsessively wrote and re-wrote the phrase ‘remind me to remember to forget’ in a split screen video that depicts two separate but synchronised performances. Set to the mind-numbingly hypnotising sound of stifled breathing, the artist is suggestively remembering to forget. The video posits Middle Eastern memory as a memory that has somehow been ‘made-to-forget‘, a ‘memory‘ that has become accustomed to being raped, eradicated, and disposed of right before it shifts from present to past.

Oraib Toukan was born in 1977 in Boston, USA. Toukan works across media in photography, video, and installation. She is a recipient of various fellowships, awards and international residency placements. Her work has been shown in many international shows.

SHAWAHED
Firas Taybeh, Jordan 2009, Video, Eng. subtitles, 12 min
Firas Taybeh and three other artists decided to protest against the Gaza bombings in early 2009 by installing a symbolic cemetery in Al Rabieh neighborhood, in the heart of Amman. Each tombstone was marked with a number and the word ‘Gazzawi‘ (Gaza Native), and the cemetery grew each day with the increasing number of casualties in the aggressively bombed city. Al Rabieh was the most critical area to be chosen for this installation as it houses the Israeli embassy, and had previously witnessed several acts of violence between protestors and the riot police. The camera caught severe acts of violence.

Firas Taybeh was born in Libya in 1983 and started his artistic career studying sculpting before turning to film making in 2007. Taybeh has worked as an independent producer, director of photography, actor and art director in many Jordanian productions, and is one of the creators of Aramram, Jordan’s first web TV.

DEAF COUNTRIES
Eyad Hamam, Jordan 2009, Video, Eng. subtitles, 2 min
Sign language across the Arab World has been recognized and documented. Many efforts have been made to unify sign language used in individual countries, standardize the language and spread it among members of the deaf community and those interested. Such efforts produced many sign languages, almost as many as Arabic-speaking countries, yet with the same sign alphabets. The same can be applied to the different political positions of the Arab countries. The film presents the Arabic country names in Jordan’s local sign language.

Eyad Hamam works in film making and postproduction. In his
CLASH OF THE TITANS he explores the phenomenon of stadium rivalry, eg. in Jordan, between Jordanians and Palestinians. He also co-directed MAN IN A CUP with Yahya Al Abdallah in 2005 and ARABIZI with Dalia Al Koury.