Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Milwaukee Muslim Film Festival Continues On Toward Success.

From what I have heard, both showings of "Yemeniettes" by the Milwaukee Muslim Film Festival #MMFilmFest were a roaring success. I went to the Wednesday showing and was suitably impressed by both documentary and director. Some of my favorite parts of the film were all of the excellent one-liners the mother of one of the girls would give throughout the film. For those of you that couldn't make it, Wednesday's showing was followed by a talk-back session with the Director/Executive Producer, Leon Shahabian. It was a true treat.

Leon Shahabian proved himself to be a well-spoken, well-informed individual and very approachable. At one point, he even tried to cut the listing of his impressive credits short to get to the questions. During the talk-back, we learned fascinating facts about the area, his filming interests, how they discovered and decided to film the girls, post-filming updates on the families, behind-the-scenes details (including how the girls got their funding) and all sorts of information we wouldn't have otherwise.

The girls were, surprisingly enough, all from upper middle class families with fathers in prestigious governmental positions. I say surprising because of two things. First of all, the area in which they lived appeared, perhaps because of my decidedly American viewpoint, a less than expected level of development. They went to public school, and seemed very much on level with most of the other individuals seen in the documentary. Secondly, he had made sure they were in their everyday clothing to better connect with and inspire fellow Yemeni for, as Leon Shahabian stated during the talk-back, "this film was for them" (the Yemeni people).

We also got a chance to speak with a Yemeni during the talk-back, as a member of the audience was discovered to be an exchange student from the region. Hamza seemed an intelligent, driven individual with a desire to go on to college and make something of himself. He was able to answer questions about various cultural aspects and some insight into his perspective on the situation and his plans for the future. It was a nice parallel with the film that couldn't have gone much better if we had tried.

Here's an update on the "Yemeniettes" girls since the film debuted:

Last Mr. Shahabian heard as of 2012, the girls were still running their company, Creative Generation, with half working the company and the other half away at college to get their degrees and planning on returning to continue their work there and hopeful to expand, both to other countries and into other solar products.

With all of the unrest in Yemen, it is unfortunate to say, not much is known of the girls' current goings on. They are just some of the many people stuck between the Houthis, ISIS and other warring factions in the conflict in their country. It is unfortunate, but war is and has never been "surgical," and forced regime changes rarely clean. However, people remain hopeful. Perhaps one day everything will clear up and the girls can really make a difference. They already have proven an inspiration.

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