AIC’s Eye to Heart film contest asked young artists across the Middle East to explore character development, specifically looking at how individuals can shape a better future for themselves through positive values. From hundreds of submissions from 24 countries, winners were selected by a celebrity judging panel.
Mona Kareem, 23 (Kuwait): In a semi-biographical screenplay, the author tells the story of a little girl’s desire to play football and how it is frowned upon by her uncle, who believe that football is a boy’s game and that girls’ most suitable pastime is playing with dolls. A commentary on gender roles and repression of women’s individuality in Kuwaiti society.
Sign of the Times
Nabeel Ashraf, 23 (Cairo, Egypt): A striking allegory about the illusion of free speech in repressive societies, where characters speak only in written signs. When a man enters into a cafe and actually speaks aloud, the people around him to a painful realization about their stunted expression and struggle to discover their real voices.
Lara Awdeh, 24 (Lebanon): Written by an amateur film-maker, the script is a character study of a little boy facing a moral dilemma. Having dreamt of owning a bicycle, the main character steals his playmates bicycle only to realize he has committed a transgression. He then debates whether he should return it and face the consequences, or shy away from taking responsibility for his act.
The Sun Will Come Out
Mona Elkalban, 22 (Egypt): The screenplay revolves around a young, hopeless Palestinian girl named Leila who suddenly has her life turned around once she begins to believe in herself, studies abroad in the United States, and realizes her true purpose in life. The script explores the drama of Leila’s life as she strives to “find herself” by narrating events through her personal diary entries.
Taha Kirmani, 23: (Pakistan): A successful artist is afflicted by the “locked-in syndrome” and but refuses to accept the disease’s toll: being paralyzed in all muscles except the eyes. He remains convinced that he can positively shape his future and invests his time and energy into a push his colleagues to find a cure. The film is a provocative advocacy piece about a disease few are aware of – as well as an allegory for an activist’s refusal to accept repression.
This is Me
Omar Beiaini, 25 (Lebanon): A hard-hitting screenplay depicting a young man’s fears materializing in a vivid dream where he is put on trial for his sexual orientation, with his own mother and a cleric declaring him guilty. Highly symbolic, the script also offers an allegory for Lebanon’s multi-confessional society, where sectarian community leaders can unite around a common hatred. By putting the audiences in the shoes of one of society’s most marginalized figures, the script explores individuality from an unusual vantage point.
To Whom Do I Give the Guinea?
Yahya Nagi, 13 (Egypt): Written by a 13 year-old aspiring film maker, the screenplay offers flashbacks of protests in Tahrir Square to explore contradictions in Egyptian society’s political discourses. The drama builds on a real incident where the author himself went to Tahrir Square during the revolution despite his parents’ admonitions not to film the events. Only an old who sells water by the square believed in the boy’s quest for freedom. There is a double rebellion brewing: one against domineering father figures and another against a repressive regime.
An Entrepreneur’s Journey
Esraa Haidar, 23 (Lebanon): A self-portrait by a young Lebanese businesswoman who takes a risk and decides to start her own business. The filmmaker frankly discusses her desire to build her own company and chronicles the fragile process of launching her own venture. The inspirational story illustrates how an entrepreneurial spirit, coupled with hard work and motivation, is the key ingredient for success.
Anonymous, age 24 (Syria): A Syrian filmmaker critiquing brutal repression dares not show his face – so he instead uses his hands. The result is an ingenious finger-puppet show that mocks a quasi-sacred figure in Syrian society: turning President Bashar Al-Assad into a puppet named “Beeshou” (a diminutive for “Bashar”) in a spoof of classic “Punch and Judy” sketches. The film tells two remarkable stories: one being ostensible plot of the puppets and the other the bravery of young Syrians who, simply by placing their hands inside puppets in a dark room somewhere in Damascus, are risking their lives. Originally developed as an entry for the film contest, the cathartic film went viral on Syrian Facebook pages and soon spawned a whole series, which has been watched by thousands. The filmmaker, who is based inside the country, must remain anonymous for fear of retribution from the security forces.
Wahid Khan, 24, (Pakistan): A visually compelling and provocative take on a woman’s struggle to achieve independence. On the one hand, the film depicts how woman remain shackled in Pakistani society, symbolically torn between the chains of tradition, family, and their desire to lead free lives. On the other hand, the work tells a universal story of an individual yearning for a better future yet struggling to overcome the burdens of the present.