White Helmets documentary crew heads to Oscars for ‘Last Men in Aleppo’

Syrians walk along a damaged street in Aleppo's Tareeq Al-Bab neighborhood on January 18, 2017, a month after government forces retook the northern Syrian city from rebel fighters. (AFP)
Updated 04 March 2018

White Helmets documentary crew heads to Oscars for ‘Last Men in Aleppo’

CAIRO: Members of the the White Helmets are heading to the Oscars to be held on Sunday, where Syrian film ‘Last Men in Aleppo’ has been nominated in the Best Feature Documentary category.
The film documents the efforts of the Syrian White Helmets volunteer civil defense group that operates in rebel-held parts of Syria.
Described by its director Firas Fayyad as “a big shout out to justice” that lays bare the horrors of the war in his native country.
The movie describes the daily war atrocities through the eyes of volunteer rescue workers.
“We were very happy to be nominated,” Khaled Khatib, a member of the volunteer emergency response group and one of the film’s producers, told CBC News in a Skype call from Istanbul earlier this week.
A British documentary called ‘White Helmets’ aired on Netflix and scooped an Oscar last year in the Best Short Documentary category. It earned the online streaming service its first Academy Award.
Due to complications with their travel visas amid the Donald Trump travel ban, Khatib and others on the crew were barred form entering the US, and therefore would not have been able to attend.
However last-minute visas have been approved and they will attend the ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Get hooked on traditional Palestinian embroidery

Updated 20 September 2018

Get hooked on traditional Palestinian embroidery

  • Joanna Barakat gives workshops on Palestinian embroidery
  • She talks about the significance and history of the craft

DUBAI: I just finished cross-stitching my first Gaza cypress tree motif, begun around the kitchen table of the UAE-based artist Joanna Barakat, who gives workshops on Palestinian embroidery, or tatreez. Next up: Motifs from Hebron, Ramallah and Jaffa.

Until I took her class, which she’ll be teaching at Tashkeel in Dubai next weekend, I hadn’t paid much attention to the stitches that adorn the region’s fabrics. Now, I read them like signposts for clues as to where they’re from.

Barakat, who was born in Jerusalem, begins with a talk on the history of tatreez, showing us photos from different regions before 1948 and passing around examples of her grandmother’s work.

We learn how embroidery was more elaborate for weddings, how women incorporated their environment in their work — Jaffa, for instance, has an orange motif — and how it reflected their status. Bedouin women stitched a blue hem on their dresses, adding red motifs if they remarried. “Each tribe had its own style and its own way of dressing to express their identity,” Barakat says.

The Nakba in 1948 almost killed off the tradition, as women lost access to the region’s textile factories. “Everybody was traumatized,” she says. “You had a good decade there where almost nothing came out.”

But their resilience resurfaced in their craft, earning them a living in refugee camps. “It became a symbol of resistance and empowerment.”

In that way, Barakat uses embroidery in her paintings: in one self-portrait, a needle punctures her chest on the canvas, “trying to stitch my own Palestinian identity into me,” she explains.

Her workshop may have stitched some of that into me as well. After giving us our own cross-stitch kits, with Aida fabric, green threads and cypress tree patterns, she shows us how to stitch, correcting us patiently as we go. As they might say in crochet class, I’m hooked.

Joanna Barakat’s workshops on Palestinian embroidery are at Tashkeel in Dubai on Sept. 29 and Dec. 8 for $73, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. with a one-hour break, lunch included. Email [email protected] for more information.