Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Conference questions the role of women in cinema

Persistent stereotypes, the scarcity of women who make films, and identities rooted in gender were top issues for a panel of powerful female media personalities who gathered this week.

ABU DHABI // Persistent stereotypes, the scarcity of women who make films, and identities rooted in gender were top issues for a panel of powerful female media personalities who gathered this week.

"I once had a male colleague who refused to accept that he had to answer to me as his boss, simply because I am female," Hala Sarhan, president of Rotana Studios and famed TV hostess, said during a panel discussion she moderated yesterday at the Intercontinental Hotel Abu Dhabi. "What is most important is the professionalism of women in the industry in reflecting a positive message. You have to master everything you do."

Dr Sarhan added that through the Circle Conference, in its second day yesterday, and the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, there is evidence that women are now being rightly honoured.

Haifaa Al Mansour, a director and last year's Shasha competition winner, said during the panel that as a Saudi Arabian woman, finding a voice in the industry is a major challenge.

"I always had a manager more important than me and when I started producing, I felt that people started to listen," she said.

Nada Doumani, the communications and culture manager at the Royal Film Commission Jordan, disagreed. She said the focus should not be placed too much on being an "Arab woman".

"I have never felt that my gender affected my professional or family life," she said. "I am lucky to work with the commission because it is a powerful means of communication. I consider myself a media person not just a filmmaker or writer."

Dr Cynthia Schneider, the co-founder of Muslims on Screen and Television (Most) and former US ambassador to the Netherlands, questioned the role of gender in films.

"Is there even such a thing as a woman's film?" she asked. "The Hurt Locker was directed by a woman and that is an action movie. 500 Days of Summer was written mainly by men and it is a romance, so it is very hard to distinguish."

Oprah Winfrey, she continued, is the most powerful woman in media and is as ambitious as any man.

Mai Masri, a producer and director at Nour Productions, said that to her, the camera is an empowerment tool.

"My first film was set against the backdrop of war in Beirut and, despite the conflict, people were managing to live. My projects are about real human stories," said Mrs Masri. "The industry is hard enough and, being a woman, you have to work even harder. The language of film is universal but 'universal' starts at home."

Nayla al Khaja is a UAE filmmaker who did not attend yesterday's panel discussions, but she shares the sentiment.

"It has been very challenging. My industry is totally male-driven, sometimes I feel as a woman I am not taken seriously, although I put in 150 per cent of my time and dedication," she said in a previous interview with The National.

Vicky Jewson, a director and producer at Jewson Film Productions, said intellectual confidence is the key to success.

"I left school at 18 and got a 20,000 [Dh117,000] loan from a bank, then spent a year developing my film idea and invited as many rich individuals as I could to a fund-raising evening," said Mrs Jewson. "I raised 1.2million and produced my first feature film, LadyGodiva."

Egyptian singer and actress Lebleba said women should be respected for what they really are: "From my personal experience, we do face competition at work. And I don't want to upset any men, but women are heroes! They are heroes because we can balance between our business, personal and family life."



Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National