‘Abia’ seeks to give voice to silenced youth

(Photo: Handouts from Generation for Peace)
AMMAN — A dark, dimly lit stage hosts a women’s support group of some sort. Amidst the sharing of stories, the atmosphere is abruptly disrupted as a man, angrily and loudly, stomps in and confronts a woman in the group, causing the rest to stand up to her defense. Sam Nutt, an Irish director, loudly interjects “cut!” breaking the spell cast by the actors. اضافة اعلان

Leading a crew almost entirely composed of local Arab youth, Nutt shared his notes, and they began setting up for their next take. 

In a collaboration between Generation for Peace, a leading global non-profit peace-building organization founded by HRH Prince Feisal Al-Hussein, and Cinemagic, an award-winning film charity from Northern Ireland that offers a cinematic window to the world through a diverse range of storytelling, a film titled “Abia” is coming to life.

Between takes, Cinemagic CEO and film producer Joan Burney Keatings MBE told Jordan News that after meeting the Irish ambassador to Jordan in Ireland, they were able to share the common struggles between youth in both countries. Through these common grounds, they “thought it would be a great opportunity to try and make a film with young people from different communities here in Amman.”

The Irish Embassy funds and supports the project, and according to Keatings, this project aims to “give them (youth) an opportunity to develop skills and work behind the camera and, more importantly, give them an opportunity to try and gain experience that could help them get employment”.

“Abia” tells the harrowing tale of the refugee crisis, gender-based violence, and devastating repercussions.
The film’s concept came to life when Keatings asked the youth: “What do you want to say?” The general consensus was to say something about  topics surrounding social cohesion and gender violence.
This story, while heartbreaking, is unfortunately not uncommon in the region. Lead actress Raean Hashem AlMasri told Jordan News of her own family’s tale, where she saw her aunt going through similar events and how they helped her feel more connected to the role.

“I have an aunt who is married to a Syrian guy, and she was living in Syria. And after the war, some issues happened, and she had to return to Jordan. I feel like I can at least send a message to the world.”

Through a series of conversations while working, the film’s concept came to life when Keatings asked the youth: “What do you want to say?”

The general consensus to say something about surrounding social cohesion and gender violence. “It was the one subject that they all wanted to talk about,” she said.

“We gathered a lot, we took a lot of feedback, and we worked it into the script. We worked in consultation with young people and with a lot of experts here in Jordan to make sure we were being true to the story. … That took a lot of time in development.”

The opportunity to work so closely with professionals has greatly benefitted the entire cast and crew. Issa Al-Hallak, one of the assistants to the director, told Jordan News that when he first started with Generations for Peace institute, his knowledge in filmmaking “wasn’t that great”. But, his opportunity to learn grew rapidly.

“Every time we had a meeting, I would come across something new to learn in different aspects. For example, I learned about the financial management of filmmaking and picked up some good tips to consider when managing a filmmaking process.”

Organizations like Cinemagic serve as a means to inject experience, skill, and opportunity into communities similar to and including the Amman film scene. Considering for many local talents, pursuing a career in the film industry is an unattainable pipe dream, and due to the fact that they also struggle to have their stories represented and their voices heard, initiatives like these provide a means to giving a voice to those who frequently struggle to hold the mic.

Keating hopes that this is the first of many film projects for them in Jordan. “We have been really, really just blown away by the kindness and the generosity of spirit of people here. From the participants to the crew, we have been made to feel so, so welcome, so we definitely want to come back,” she said.

“We really feel that now that we’ve started to do some work here in the Middle East, we really want to grow this (the project), and we hope this becomes an annual project in Amman.”

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