Out of the Shadows

The pioneering work of Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, Assia Djebar, Jocelyne Saab, Heiny Srour

« Nous toutes, du monde des femmes de l’ombre, renversent la démarche: nous enfin qui regardons, nous qui commençons.»

“All of us, all of us who come from the world of women in the shadows, are turning the direction around: at last it is we who are looking, we who are making a beginning.” 

Assia Djebar

When exploring a cinematic history as extensive and rich as that of the Arab Mediterranean, one is faced with an exhilarating range of forms and manifestations. From the silent era up to the present, the regional cinemas of the Maghreb and the Mashriq have produced a myriad of remarkable works. Yet, when poring over the canonical historiographies of cinema, one cannot help but being struck by their relative obscurity, which is even more striking when it comes to films that have been made by women. Although there has been a notable rise of Arab female film directors in recent decades, the work of many pioneers tends to remain painfully neglected.

The aim of this program is to address this obscurity and revitalize the work of four filmmakers whose films remain overlooked and underscreened: Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, Assia Djebar, Jocelyne Saab and Heiny Srour. Coming from different backgrounds and regions, these filmmakers all started to produce films in the 1970s, at a moment of great political and cultural ferment. Often working against the grain, they set out to attend to voices and stories that were at risk of being drowned out by official History. While each of these filmmakers developed different approaches, their works explore shared themes such as memory and identity, oppression and liberation, violence and exclusion, and the social and political role of women in Arab societies and histories.

Each of these filmmakers, whose work is shown side by side here for the first time, has been shaped by different traditions and realities. For the Arab woman filmmaker exists no more than the Arab woman. Accordingly, this program seeks to follow Assia Djebar’s appeal to “not to presume ‘to speak for’ or, even worse, ‘speak on’, barely speak near to, and if possible right up against.” In order to explore in depth the singularities as well as the communal resonances of the distinct bodies of work in this program, a variety of guests have been invited to speak “right up against” the films. Furthermore, an accompanying publication brings together a selection of writings and interviews which have been newly published or translated on this occasion.


This program consists of a selection of films from the period 1970-1990 which will be shown in the best available quality. This program was developed with the support of The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) and CINEMATEK, in collaboration with Reem Shilleh and Mohanad Yaqubi (Subversive Film). 

On the occasion of this program, Courtisane and Sabzian have collected a series of writings and interviews in a small-edition publication. 
With the support of KASK / School of Arts.


Thanks to: Viktoria Metschl, Christophe Piette, Céline Brouwez, Mireille Calle-Gruber, Heiny Srour, Mathilde Rouxel, Asmaa Yehia El-Taher, Alexander Horwath, Regina Schlagnitweit, Tobias Hering, Mai Abu ElDahab, Ahmed Bedjaoui, Stephanie Van De Peer, Léa Morin, Mary Jirmanus Saba, Natasha Marie Llorens, Debra Zimmerman, Colleen O’Shea, Yasmin Desouki, Olivier Hadouchi, Salim Aggar, Aziz Kourta, Tewfik Abdelkader Mahi, Emma Hedditch, Louise Shelley, Matthieu Grimault, Omar Jabary Salamanca, Tamer El Said, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus and many others ...