The independent
film in the
MENA region

SIB has prioritized documentary film as the vehicle for its overall goals due to the effectiveness of documentaries to tell meaningful stories.

Documentaries serve to tell the stories and reflections of personal lives and societal conditions that are rarely found in public and private mass media. Documentaries have the potential to communicate directly with people and communities who may not read or have ready access to independent political analyses and whose main source of information often comes from state-controlled news services.

As a genre, documentary film speaks a language of its own – it is neither journalism nor fiction but rather a genre whereby social and political criticism are more likely to find a space due to the artistic form of such films. This is particularly important in societies with restricted media freedoms.

In the years before the revolutions we see many retrospective stories that focus on previous history, family legends, identity – stories that would never be told by the public media. This can be boiled down to a need for searching the truth and for finding footing and identity in one’s own life.

The revolutions that has been sweeping the MENA region have changed the focus of many of the stories we see. Young people insist on expressing their views and seem to resist or ignore censorship. This development is indeed characteristic of Syrian documentary production. Freedom of expression was severely limited by state oppression and human right abuses, but in the wake of the revolution Syrian filmmakers and young people, women and men, with little or no experience in filmmaking turned activists.

The majority of these filmmakers has fled Syria and now lives in exile in Lebanon, Turkey or Europe. The Screen Institute has been facing new challenges in its support of fleeing and often inexperienced filmmakers.

The filmmakers are challenging a wide range of issues in their stories – gender, child abuse, harassment, politics but also arts and culture. The Screen Institute is seen as a permanent, independent organization that has contributed to raising the quality and awareness of the potential of documentary films.

SIB believes that the impact of its activities, whether financial, access to equipment or to training, mentorship, promotion or distribution, is out of proportion with the financial constraints under which it is operating.