Under the Sky of Damascus Heba Khaled, Talal Derki, Ali Wajeeh Denmark. 2023. 88 min
A tight-knit group of young Syrian women embark upon on a radical project: producing a play that lays bare the culture of misogyny and sexual abuse that has blighted the lives of females in their country for generations. Farah, Eliana, Inana, Souhir and Grace want to blow the whistle on women’s oppression, though they know their production will make it even harder for them to get work. Collaborating with exiled Syrian filmmakers Heba Khaled (making her feature debut) and Talal Derki (the Oscar-nominated OF FATHERS AND SONS)—and Ali Wajeeh on the ground in Damascus—the women fan out through the war-weary city to gather individual stories that will form the basis of their play. They record testimonies from across the socio-economic spectrum, from actresses to factory workers to stay-at-home mothers. What emerges are variations of the same harrowing tale: stories of abuse, blackmail and even imprisonment at hands of husbands, brothers, fathers, employers and powerful officials who wield unchecked patriarchal power to keep them trapped without access to justice.
Mighty Afrin; in the time of floods Angelos Rallis Greece, France, Germany. 2023. 92 min
The mighty Brahmaputra river is rising again, ready to swallow everything in its path. On a disappearing mud island, 12-year-old orphan Afrin prepares to leave the only world she has ever known. When the floodwaters submerge her home, she refuses to surrender to its deadly tides. Afrin rows herself in a wooden boat toward the teeming metropolis of Dhaka to find her estranged father among the millions of climate refugees. Forced to grow up fast, Afrin must confront the mysteries of a sinking world.
It’s Angelos’ third feature, he has a background in anthropology and photography and for almost two decades has dedicated himself in telling stories from under-represented parts of the world sharing the voices of people that are rarely heard or lie unnoticed (The Yazidi genocide in Iraq and Syria, the Rwandan reconciliation process). Before that, Angelos has been working with minorities (Uyghur Chinese minority, Asian diasporas in Europe). His career started in 2007 when he commenced a long term project documenting London’s East End emerging cultures and Bangladeshi communities examining their identity and the pattern of migration. This ethnographic body of work drove him to focus on Bangladesh and the current situation of climate migrants.
The film has been shot over five years mostly by himself as he is doing also the camera and sound work. In some of the most dangerous scenes in Dhaka, he worked with a small local crew to control the shooting and maintain the safety of the children in a busy environment and throughout Covid times.
The film is a cooperative project that aims also to create a better future for Afrin. On the social footprint of the film, we hope the film will have an impact as an international wake-up call to the climate crisis but also to the visibility of a community in the Brahmaputra river basin of who seem to be in obscurity.
And Still I Sing Fazila Amiri Canada, Afghanistan. 2022. 89 min
DESPITE DEATH THREATS, THREE FEMALE AFGHAN SINGERS FIGHT FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS THROUGH MUSIC.
Afghanistan’s controversial pop star and activist Aryana Sayeed mentors hopeful contestants on the hit singing TV series Afghan Star.
For 13 straight seasons, the show has featured only male winners. In 2019, this was about to change. Female singers Zahra Elham and Sadiqa Madadgar are on the verge of success as their hopes and dreams of becoming national singers begin to turn into reality.
Their lives are turned upside down when the Taliban return to power, reversing twenty years of progress for women’s rights. Amidst the fear caused by the fall of the Afghan government, each woman must make a harrowing escape from Kabul into exile while the US fully evacuates.
And I Still Sing is the first feature film by award-winning Afghan Canadian writer and director, Fazila Amiri. Amiri is an alumni of the 2021 Cannes Docs, 2020 Hot Docs Accelerator Lab and 2019 RIDM Talent Lab.
Laughing in Afghanistan Anneta Papathanassiou Greece. 2022. 90 min
Karim Asir, the Afghan Charlie Chaplin, wants to change the world using pantomime and humor. Amidst bombs and destruction, laughter is his only weapon. After the Taliban takeover Karim receives death threats and fears for his life. A difficult decision seems unavoidable. Can laughter change the world?
“The Detached” is a monologue of one Chukchi man and of the whole ethnic group at the same time. It’s a story of their life, Motherland, and also of the things that cause the Chukchi to break away from their roots.
Women Beyond Bollywood Rahila Bootwala Canada. 2022. 53 min
India’s cinema industry is the largest in the world, and Bollywood is its flagship: stars, music, drama, not to mention rampant sexism, are its defining features. Today, a new generation of filmmakers is finally showing women as more than eye candy or appendages to larger than life male heroes. Montreal filmmaker Rahila Bootwala left India as a young woman, wanting to work in film but feeling disconnected from an industry dominated by men and beholden to their fantasies. In this empowering documentary, she goes back to India to meet with the women who are reshaping the industry.
Bangla Surf Girls Elizabeth D Costa Canada, Bangladesh. 2021. 86 min
Shobe, Aisha and Suma break away from the drudgery of their lives by joining a surf club in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The girls fight family pressure and social judgement, for a few hours on the waves each day and gain confidence as their natural skill and prowess gains attention and praise. The joy and freedom of the waves are a stark change from the abuse and hardship they face at home. Soon they are poised to make history as Bangladesh’s first women surfers. However the fate of the club itself hangs on the leadership of the coach who has his own challenges. The odds stack up but the girls refuse to give up. .Balancing the freedom of the waves with the restrictive realities of their circumstances, we experience the thrill and struggle of coming-of-age in a developing country.