x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Love and war in two Bahraini families

An upcoming film looks at Bahrainis who were pulled apart during the period of the Iraq-Iran war.

Hussain al Hulaibi, right, oversees the filming of a scene of Haneen. He says the film is a mix between fiction and actual events.
Hussain al Hulaibi, right, oversees the filming of a scene of Haneen. He says the film is a mix between fiction and actual events.

MANAMA // With a new movie, a group of Bahrainis hopes to address the issue of sectarianism head-on by depicting its effect on society through the eyes of a typical Bahraini family. The movie, which is expected to be released in March, joins the ranks of recent Saudi and Kuwaiti television series that addressed domestic terrorism, another side effect of the 2003 Gulf war. Haneen ("Yearning") tells the story of two Bahraini families brought together under one roof before the eight-year-long Iraq-Iran war and how what followed in the region pulled them apart and put them in conflict with each other. "The movie addresses sectarianism by reliving some of the events in Bahrain's recent history and experiencing them through the story of the family," Khalid al Ruwai, the film's screenwriter and one of its actors, said. "We do not favour any side and we realise that the issue cannot be resolved easily, but we want the movie to reflect the reality of the situation as it is." The director, Hussain al Hulaibi, said the script was worked on for more than a year and a half and that the movie was a mix between dramatic fiction and actual events. "The plot line has romance, but [this] is more of a political movie and in it there is yearning and nostalgia for the beautiful past, a time when love used to fill hearts," he said. "By telling the story we tried to not offend anyone or a particular sect. We just want to convey the reality of the situation and we reflect on the extremists trying to destabilise the country, which belongs to all sects." Al Hulaibi pointed out that the movie is open-ended, subject to various interpretations, because he and the others involved in the film wanted it to be a subject of debate. "The solutions rest in the hands of the civil society and the governments. Our role is to shed light on the issue and reach out to all those who practise sectarianism or are affected by it and to encourage bringing about that desired change," he said. "The ability of art to deliver a message, be it through film, theatre, or any other form, is much stronger than a political statement because it appeals to the hearts, minds and sensations of all people in contrast to a political statement, which is written with a certain group in mind." He added that the movie was meant as a message to everyone who practises sectarianism and attempts to sideline others. "It is meant for those who attempt to challenge others to enforce a particular agenda or set of beliefs on the rest basically by eliminating those who differ with them," he said. Akram Miknas, a Lebanese investor who lives in Bahrain and is bankrolling the movie, said Haneem's appeal and message were not limited to a Bahraini audience. "We hope the movie will provide a strong push for much-needed coexistence in Bahrain and across the Arab world because we all had suffered from its lacking. "As a Lebanese, I am still suffering from sectarian tension that we created with no justifiable reason, at a time when the things that bring us together are much larger than the small things that neither God nor his Prophets welcome," Mr Miknas, who heads the Bahrain Film Production Company, said. "Haneen is a movie about yearning for love, life and coexistence. It is hard to present any solutions through the movie for the problem of sectarianism, but what we hope to achieve is to encourage the public to formulate their own conclusions and take action based on that." Khalid Fouad, starring in the movie opposite Haifa Hussain, said the movie would also include a number of songs that he would sing. These will be a mix between nationalistic and romantic ones, he said, as they were written in a way that could be interpreted as love shared between two people or love for the country keeping in line with the movie's theme. In 2007 al Hulaibi made his debut as a movie director with a controversial film titled Arba Banat ("Four Girls"), which addressed some of the issues facing Arab women as they challenged local customs and entered the workforce. The movie, which also starred Fouad, who was then little known, won second place at the Dubai International Film Festival. Haneen will be the eighth film to be produced in Bahrain, with some of its scenes shot in Cairo. mmahdi@thenational.ae