Despite being a 20-year-old film, “Hollywood Harems,” directed by Tania Kamal-Eldin, discusses myths and fantasies of Orientalism and Arab women that still resonate today. The documentary takes a close look at several films, from “The Sheik” (1921) to “The Mummy” (1932), and others spanning between the 1930s and 1960s, with a sharp focus on the portrayal of women -- from fictionalized harems and the voyeuristic “intruder’s gaze” of men, to the depiction of their exploiters as Arab men and saviors as white men.
In a recent film, co-directors Daniele Rugo and Abi Weaver consider the tragic extent of the Lebanese Civil War. Following the experiences of three ex-fighters from different sides of the conflict, the documentary “About a War” reopens old wounds while paving a path towards healing. In the words of Sarah Khalil, who interviewed Weaver for an Al Araby article, “Communities are still yet to hear the experiences of others who now they call neighbors. In the film, the confessions of the ex-fighters are woven together to present narratives likely unheard by the other side.”
Watching “Daughters of Anatolia,” a film documenting the nomadic lifestyle of goat herders in contemporary Turkey, makes one aware of the value of ethnographic filmography over its drier, academic prose cousin. Describing the migratory path from the Mediterranean Sea to the Taurus Mountains cannot compare with seeing the breath-taking beauty of mountains in bloom as goats scramble over them.