Leading ladies touch down in Tunisia for new Manarat film festival

Dora Bouchoucha (center) is presiding over the festival. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 11 July 2018
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Leading ladies touch down in Tunisia for new Manarat film festival

DUBAI: Some of the Middle East’s leading ladies made an appearance at the first-ever edition of the Manarat film festival in Tunisia this week, including Egypt-based actress Hend Sabri, Jordanian starlet Saba Mubarak and Tunis-born Dorra Zarrouk.
The film festival, which translates to mean “light house” in English, kicked off Tuesday with a screening of Gianfranco Rosi’s Oscar-nominated “Fuocoammare” and is set to run until July 15.
The 2016 film centers on the Italian island of Lampedusa, whose inhabitants are left shaken when waves of migrants land upon its shores.
Organizers delayed the official opening ceremony after eight members of Tunisia’s security forces were killed Sunday in a “terrorist attack” near the border with Algeria, the interior ministry said, the country’s deadliest such incident in over two years.
“In view of the painful events … (the ceremony) has been postponed until Tuesday, July 10.
May God bless our righteous martyrs,” a post on the festival’s official Facebook page read.
Presiding over the event is Tunisia’s first female film producer, Dora Bouchoucha, who also helmed Tunisia’s Carthage Film Festival in 2008, 2010 and 2014.
In 2017, the Huffington Post called her “a born rebel, a trailblazer of wonderful self-assurance, elegance and beauty” and in 2018, she proved that she still has a lot to offer by attending the Cannes Film Festival premiere of the feature film her company, Nomadis Images, co-produced, “Weldi,” or “Dear Son” in English.
The festival aims to strengthen the relationship between Tunisia and countries in the Mediterranean Basin. To that end, organizers are putting on a show of more than 50 films, including movies from Egypt, Algeria, Italy and Bosnia and Herzegovina, among various other countries.
Highlights include “Ghost Hunting,” a 2017 film by director Raed Andoni, and 2017’s “The Man Behind the Microphone,” which tells the story of Hedi Jouini, the so-called godfather of Tunisian music.
The festival will also feature a competition section that will see such films as “The Blessed,” an Algerian offering directed by Sofia Djama, and “A Ciambra,” directed by Itay’s Jonas Carpignano, go head to head for the top prize. The judging panel includes Lebanese actress Manel Issa, Egyptian actress Bushra Rozza and Palestinian actress Manal Awad.
Cinephiles can also enjoy a host of films that are set to be broadcast on public beaches, including La Goulette, La Marsa and Hammam-Lif among others.
For her part, Sabri set to be honored for one of her first-ever movies, 1994 drama “Samt El-Qusur” — “The Silences of the Palace” in English — and Rozza will get a nod from the organizers for her film on sexual harassment, “678.”
Six films to watch at the festival
Tunisia’s Manarat festival is set to run until July 15 and is showing 52 films from across the Arab world and beyond. Here, we take a look at some of the thought-provoking movies that will entertain audiences over the next few days.
‘Withered Green’
Directed by Mohamed Hammad, this Egyptian film tells the story of a defining week in protagonist Iman’s life as she attempts to convince her uncles to attend her younger sister’s engagement. However, a shocking discovery leads her to do away with such traditions. The film, which premiered in 2016, won the Muhr Feature Award for Best Director at the Dubai International Film Festival.
‘Ghost Hunting’
Director Raed Andoni placed a newspaper advert in Ramallah looking for former inmates of Jerusalem’s Moskobiya interrogation center in this 2017 film. The director then oversaw the creation of a replica of the interrogation facility using the memories of the former inmates and filmed the process, as well as interviews with the men.
‘Paradise Now’
This hard-hitting movie tells the story of two childhood friends who are recruited for a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Directed by Hany Abu-Assad and released in 2005, the film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year at the 2006 Academy Awards, but narrowly missed out. It did, however, win a Golden Globe in the same year.
‘The Man Behind the Microphone’
The 2017 film is a portrait of Hedi Jouini, the so-called godfather of Tunisian music. Directed by Claire Belhassine, it tells the tale of his rise to stardom, as well as his family life.
‘Men Don’t Cry’
Directed by Alen Drljevic, this 2017 film plays out in a boarded up Serbian hotel that plays host to a group of veterans undergoing therapy almost 20 years after the end of the Yugoslav Wars. The complexities of the period of hostility are explored through the men and their tangled relationships with one another as they try to battle their sense of shame years after the end of the violent conflict.
‘Laila’s Birthday’
Starring Mohammad Bakri, Areen Omari and Nour Zoubi and directed by Rashid Masharawi, this film tells the story of Abu Laila who finds himself driving a taxi to make ends meet. On his daughter’s seventh birthday, he tasks himself with finding her a cake, but the chaos of daily life in Palestine hampers his plans.


‘Atlas of Beauty’: A Romanian photographer captures images of female beauty that defy every stereotype

Updated 16 July 2018
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‘Atlas of Beauty’: A Romanian photographer captures images of female beauty that defy every stereotype

  • Since 2013, Mihaela Noroc has photographed over 2,000 women in more than 50 countries, listening to their stories and learning about their lives.
  • For Noroc, beauty is diversity. She believes each one of the “shining stars” in her book radiates dignity, strength and beauty. 

JEDDAH: We live in a world where female beauty standards vary but are all socially and culturally constructed. The Romanian photographer Mihaela Noroc traveled that world with her camera and backpack, photographing women in their everyday surroundings and listening to their stories. The result is the “Atlas of Beauty.”

Since 2013, Noroc has photographed over 2,000 women in more than 50 countries, listening to their stories and learning about their lives.

“I noticed that there is a lot of pressure on women to look and behave a certain way,” she told Arab News.

“In some environments, it’s the pressure to look attractive. In others, on the contrary, it’s the pressure to look modest. But every woman should be free to explore her own beauty without feeling any pressure from marketing campaigns, trends or social norms.”

For Noroc, beauty is diversity. She believes each one of the “shining stars” in her book radiates dignity, strength and beauty. 

During her five-year odyssey, there have been tremendous ups and downs. Yet, with each country, Noroc never failed to tell the story of the woman in her photographs. Some countries were deemed dangerous — but she traveled there anyway. 

“In Afghanistan, I traveled in a remote area called Wakhan Corridor. The fighting was very close, condemning this place to total isolation,” she said. “People were living like their ancestors lived hundreds of years ago, so photography was a miracle for them. They were incredibly happy to see themselves in photos and I was invited to every home to photograph each member of the family.” 

Visiting North Korea, Noroc was accompanied by local guides as she walked the streets to get a glimpse of women in their daily routines as if nothing was out of the norm. 

“There is a lot of pressure on women to look a certain way, so sometimes it’s a struggle to be yourself, to make yourself accepted as you are. But I hope this project will encourage more women and men to follow their own path, to explore their own beauty without feeling constrained.”

Traveling as a backpacker introduced Noroc to all kinds of environments. She has captured beauty in Brazilian favelas, in an Iranian mosque, on the Tibetan plateau, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, the Amazon rainforest, upscale neighborhoods of Paris, downtown New York and more. 

She focuses on photographing the environment around the women, and prefers to photograph their natural faces, without a lot of makeup.

Noroc also makes sure that she chats with her subjects while the photographs are being taken — she is an excellent conversationalist. 

Woman shopping at a market in Nampan, Myanmar.

“Many of the women I photograph are in front of a professional camera for the first time. This isn’t bad at all because they are more authentic. For even more authenticity, I always use natural light. Through my camera, I try to dive into their eyes and explore what’s inside.”

Each image is raw, colorful, delicate, intimate, striking and empowering. A Jordanian Bedouin grandmother sits with her children and grandchildren in the background, the woman’s deep wrinkles revealing her desert life living off the land.

Another image shows the resilience in the striking green eyes of a Syrian refugee with her two daughters in a camp in Greece. In Jodhpur, India, a young woman heads to the market in a vibrant fuchsia outfit and silver jewelry. 

“There is much love, beauty and compassion in the world and I see it with my own eyes. Yet a few sources of hate and intolerance can ruin all this. Many times, the victims of intolerance are women, and while on the road, I hear many heartbreaking stories,” she said.

Gauri, an Indian from Kolkata, India, sells splendid flower garlands at a Hindu temple. Female “bomberas” (firewomen) in Mexico City. Sisters Olga and Anya, street performers from Odessa, Ukraine. Eleonora, a ballerina from St. Petersburg, at one of the most prestigious dance schools in the world. A Mayan descendant in Guatemala donning a colorful dress and posing in her village. These are just some of the stories in the “Atlas of Beauty,” yet the journey is continuing since there are no limits to beauty in this world. 

“For me, beauty is diversity and it can teach us to be more tolerant. We are all very different, but through this project, I want to show that we are all part of the same family. We should create paths between us, not boundaries,” said Noroc.