Dox Box, the documentary festival in Damascus

I’ve just attended the “Voices of women” workshop, one of the side events and meetings of the DoxBox Festival, currently being held in Damascus till the 15th of march.  A very interesting and bold discussion was taking place in front of a very mixed audience, men and women, syrians and foreigners. At the core of the discussion there was the so-called “gender issue” and the complexity of this in a very male driven society like the Arab one. But there is no such a thing as “one” Arab society, and even in the same country women’s lifestyles, behaviours,problems are very different. The discussion, which features many women directors and also a man-a Moroccan French who has shot a film on modern women slavery in Europe- is quite monopolised by questions asked to Moroccan filmaker Fatima Jebli Ouazzani. She moved with her family to Holland when she was ten years old and since then her struggle between tradition and innovation has started. The topic of her film is virginity and marriage, and her freshness and strenght is not to stand on one side or the other, but to try to understand the reasons of both.  “In my father’s house” is the title of her film which was never distributed in Morocco. It is fresh, and doesn’t take anything for granted, just as Fatima herself seems to be.  Discussion is joined also by Saudi female filmaker Haifa Al Mansour who speaks about Saudi Arabia and its women, a topic which is always so much seen through Western stereotypes. Among the European filmakers invited, there is also the Italian Alina Marazzi, one of our best new fresh voices in documentary film. Sitting in the audience we can see Omar Amiralay, the father of Syrian documentary and a very controversial one in his country; and Mohamed Malas, the great director of “The night” feature film.

Tomorrow, another round table about the war and filmakers who have dedicated their work to tell people what TV doesn’t always tell.

DoxBox is a very bold association of independent filmakers who since 2007 has been working on creative documentary in Syria and all across the Arab world.