Cinema “Of” Yemen And Saudi Arabia: Narrative Strategies, Cultural Challenges, Contemporary Features
The definition of what constitutes Arab cinema has to-date privileged Egypt and the national cinemas of the former French colonies of the Maghreb, Levant/Mashreq countries such as Lebanon and Syria and Palestine. The countries of the Arabian Peninsula, a cultural location central to the historical formation of Arab and pan-Arab identities, have been grossly misrepresented through Hollywood stereotypes, and lacking in locally produced feature film representations. However, recently, film festivals and filmmaking activities in (and about) the region, have begun to offer alternative lenses, fresh points of view, and new markers on the world cinema map. Directed by non-native filmmakers of Arab heritage, the so-called first narrative feature films from Yemen (A New Day in Old Sana’a, 2005) and Saudi Arabia (Keif al Hal, 2006) diegetically reinscribe tensions between tradition and modernity. They also reflexively address dialectical insider/outsider perspectives and particular challenges of filmmaking within restrictive cultural contexts. Each film provides a narrative figure of an image-maker (a photographer or film director) as means to interface with culture and society. A textual/contextual examination of these contemporary Arab “first films” and related aspects of film history and culture, reveal narratives of discovery, invention, self-commodification, and cultural preservation in the face of globalization. These cases open up discursive possibilities of national cinema in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
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