Spotlight on our Network: from political activist to creator of stories
Batoul is our local producer in Jordan. During one of our recent projects for Care, we had the opportunity to meet with her and talk about her experiences as a woman in the industry.
This is her story.
I was born and raised in Amman, Jordan, but my parents have Palestinian and Lebanese origins, so I’m never considered 100% Jordanian, rather Palestinian/Jordanian. My parents are very liberal compared to their family and friends. I was privileged enough to study abroad for quite some years even though the community questioned my parents for it. My international upbringing is not very typical for Jordanian women, but things are changing. A growing number of women, especially the younger generations, are studying abroad and then returning to Jordan. Just like me.
I graduated in 2013 and came back to Jordan during the Arab Spring. I really wanted to be part of the changes that were happening in the region.
I never thought that I would actually begin a career in film. I was very involved in the political scene. I have always been an activist. My desire to be part of the international conversation of politics was very intense. So I majored in political science but I was also fascinated by film and storytelling. I ended up doing both and luckily my parents were very supportive.
After graduating in Chicago I applied for jobs in the Middle East, specifically in Jordan and I got a job in communications at the International Organization for Migration (IOM). I would write stories and produce documentary pieces about Syrian refugees in Jordan, as well as other related items.
For me this was an incredible experience, because I got to be involved with human rights worldwide, and tell stories at the same time. It was an opportunity to learn about the people on the ground, while also learning the craft of storytelling.
“For me this was an incredible experience, because I got to be involved with human rights worldwide but also tell stories at the same time.”
I found that the refugee camps are a space where men feel emasculated. In this new country the refugee men are not allowed to work. They stay inside these small trailers where they rely on humanitarian support from organizations. The only people who could provide for their families were women who would volunteer for international organizations and make some money. Now the women were the breadwinners, they were taking care of the whole family!
When I walked into these households to create stories, women were the ones with powerful voices. They would accept me and so I was able to create very personal stories. I think my male colleagues found it more difficult to be welcomed intimately into these households.
“Still, I often find myself in a situation where I’m working with men and they underestimated me. They didn’t expect me to be so professional and fierce.”
As I started working in the field more independently I realised there is no big infrastructure for filmmakers here on Jordan. We’re a very small group, the’re maybe five or six major production companies in the country. While there are many female employees in the industry, I still often find myself in a situation where I’m working with men who underestimated me. They don’t expect me to be so professional and fierce. Equal pay is another issue, because even if we enter a project as equal collaborators, men will negotiate unfair shares like 70-30.
On the other hand I think after the Arab springs there has been a tremendous growth in female voices and many platforms that support and empower women. Nowadays it’s easier to get support from other women around us, because this community is growing!
I see our field as a field of creation. For me it’s creating life! I see a producer as someone that creates. He/she is the womb for life.
For the development of my career I have a lot of questions which I am exploring right now. About love, spiritually, life, the human condition. I want to make mindful content, content that allows people to experience life through another perspective and explore the questions we may all have.