Feminist Embodiments of Hope and Power

Feminist Embodiments of Hope and Power

A Film Series on Feminist Realities from the SWANA region

by Esra Ozban

In a product-obsessed world, prioritizing process is a fundamental feminist method. Processes matter, and curation is no exception. While figuring out which of the films from the SWANA region would speak the loudest to the Feminist Realities theme, the global pandemic we are still facing shifted our everyday lives tremendously. Even to think, write, or express myself has become an everyday struggle. I kept missing all of my deadlines and sending apology emails to Kamee Abrahamian, whom I was working with as an independent curator for AWID’s Feminist Film Club. Kamee’s invaluable support, understanding, and suggestions reminded me that even in two different parts of the world, as colleagues who never met in person, we can co-create micro versions of the Feminist Realities for which we live and yearn. 

Feminist Realities for me have a lot to do with sisterhoods. Sisterhoods that help womxn clearing mines in Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh. Sisterhoods baked in Vegan Inclusive Trans Cake by young trans feminists in Ankara that remind cis-ters that they are not welcomed by the Z generation. Sisterhoods that are growing into the mint on Dragica Alafandi’s rooftop in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Occupied Palestine in Sowing seeds of resistance. Sisterhoods that embrace intimate, sexual, and revolutionary proximities in Gezi Park in #resistayol. Sisterhoods that unearth an imagined encounter between two generations of womxn in exile in the streets of Haifa in Your father was born 100 years old and so was the Nakba. Cross-species sisterhoods that build in a fictional (brave) space created by Mounia Akl in Submarine for her rebel character Hala, who refuses to evacuate from a city full of garbage and is left behind with a dog friend.
This selection gathers bits and pieces of many Feminist Realities that have been realized in the SWANA region over the last couple of years. We will continue to imagine, learn, and share feminist embodiments of hope and power. In the meantime, let’s immerse ourselves in the powerful alternatives brought to life by the filmmakers and protagonists of these films. We may co-create every step, every act, and every attempt as we continue to cohabitate this world with others who are living Feminist Realities and continue to dream more of them into existence. 


By Emily Mkrtichian& Jesse Soursourian

“With beautiful visuals paired with compelling verité scenes, Motherland is a show of female camaraderie and strength… The film is a testament of women around the world who are willing to work harder to overcome any obstacle they meet.”
    - Nosarieme Garrick, award winning filmmaker

“Motherland is an inspiring visualization of solidarity, courage, and grit…”
    - Hers is Ours Collective, organizers of the Outsider Moving Art & Film Festival

Motherland from jesse soursourian on Vimeo.

Emily Mkrtichian on Feminist Realities and Artsakh/NKR:
We shot the short film, Motherland, in the Republic of Artsakh in 2018. I was drawn to each of these women for their strength, their resilience and their humor -- despite the context in which they lived. In 2018, that context was the aftermath of a brutal war in the 1990’s, after which their country remained an unrecognized (or, in the international community, disputed) territory that was not given the autonomy and independence so many other countries enjoy. Artsakh was also deeply affected by the consequences we see in almost all places that go through violent conflict -- consequences that so often fall on women to bear: PTSD, high rates of alcoholism, high rates of domestic abuse, less equality and freedoms granted to women, little to no representation of women in politics and civil service. In the face of all these challenges, this film tries to capture the fire and power of the women of Artsakh, one that might not fit the traditional Western feminist paradigm, but one they have created for themselves through deep community ties, care for their families, hard work, and the ability to laugh with eachother through it all. Today, the Republic of Artsakh has been newly devastated by another war that left it without 70% of the lands these women grew up understanding were theirs. Yet, I can promise you that these women, and thousands of others, continue to pull their families, communities, and culture together through the same networks of care, commitment to hard work, and deep riotous laughter in the face of an uncertain future. 


By Baladi-Rooted Resistance

“A timely film to watch after having born witness to the latest bombardment of Gaza by Israeli Defence Forces. A glimpse into the way that women in Palestinian communities survive structural oppression, through the story of a library of traditional seeds.. and the women that sustain them as a form of nourishing rebellion.”

    - Jessica Horn, PanAfrican feminst strategist, writer and co-creator of the temple of her skin

“Watching women coming together and working collectively for food autonomy is both therapeutic and empowering for me.”
    - Hers is Ours Collective, organizers of the Outsider Moving Art & Film Festival

Baladi-Rooted Resistance Team on Feminist Realities:
How to talk about Feminist Realities when you live in Deheisheh, a Palestinian refugee camp, built 70 years ago to serve 3000 refugees, but now home to 15000 people, in the occupied West Bank? Or when the land you farm is under constant threat by illegal settlers.
If you’re a woman in occupied Palestine you will have to struggle not only against patriarchy but also against colonialism and a brutal military occupation. 

Dragiča and Vivien are fighting these multiple systems of domination in their own way. 
Vivien uses native seeds to help Palestinians maintain their identity. Growing traditional food in traditional ways has great significance: “If you’re not a producer anymore, you’re a consumer, and what better way to enslave someone than turning them into your consumer. This is happening all around the world, but here you have it doubled with the military occupation.”

31.5% of households in the West Bank are food insecure. Through a rooftop edible garden, Dragiča managed to increase her family’s food autonomy. In the crowded camp, where the Israeli army conducts regular nighttime incursions to arrest and harass residents, Dragiča’s rooftop garden not only nourishes her family, but it especially nourishes her soul.


By Ruzgar Buski

Ruzgar Buski on Feminist Realities:
I don’t know what to say about Feminist Realities but as a trans artist, an activist from Turkey, I know our realities are harsh. We live with violences- physical, emotional, economical, sexual! That is why we have to build our own networks, and co-creating micro realities for each other is a Feminist Reality for me. #resistayol is my first film, and at the beginning I was planning to make a film by/for/with trans people that does not try to convince anyone to the fact that trans people are human or focuses on raising awareness on trans issues. However, Gezi Uprising, one of the biggest uprising in the history of Turkey, happened and the film became something different. 

I believe the production process really affects what the film is. We tried very hard for women, trans and non-binary people to work on every step of the film. This film is made by people who gathered with camaraderie and friendship. Kanka Productions is founded on transfeminist comradeship. I want the film to give hope, to heal because we carry a lot of traumas in our bodies- this is what makes us and what bonds us. Healing is a never-ending process and we have to create spaces to breath. #resistayol is an hour of breathing collectively.

Boysan Yakar in #resistayol:
Well lubunyas (queers) were sitting in the park, all of a sudden bulldozers arrived and everyone got pissed off. Actually in summary this is it. It's Lubunya's park,and we had thirty days to explain that to this huge city. Everyone acknowledged that at night ibnes (faggots) fuck in that park...LGBTI Block carried our commune there. We already didn't trust the state and police  and didn't have any security, we've established our own ways of doing things, our own laws and customs to survive... We carried our law to Gezi rapidly...With an effort to establish some common language and understanding among all these groups, the LGBT language of togetherness spread all through the park. Every day was a Pride march, everyone was continuously saying ‘ayol’. We spruced up the stinky, fusty language of the left. I guess we had such an impact because we've been disowned for all these years. From the most radical ones to the most conservative and nationalist ones, they all needed us, because everyone got used to being confronted with everything. Τhey were not used to such energy, our energy. That’s why it was a great political space for us. Every day, we actualized our biggest and main struggle there, that is, a struggle for visibility and recognition. That’s why we left Gezi with a huge gain.


By Pembe Hayat

“...a multifaceted statement, showing the joy that exists in the friendships within the queer  community in Turkey as a display of rebellion and resistance.”
    - Nosarieme Garrick, award winning filmmaker

“...fun, light, and random. In a world constantly marked and scarred by violence against the trans community, nothing, no action, is (unfortunately) deprived of meaning. So to more joy, love, and meaningful randomness!”

    - Hers is Ours Collective, organizers of the Outsider Moving Art & Film Festival

Cayan Azadi in Vegan Inclusive Trans Cake:
Hello Barbies, Kens, porcelain dolls,  Olive Oyls, cabbage dolls. Brides of Chucky, sisters of Chucky, brother-in-laws of Chucky and last but not least, esteemed brother-in-law lovers.

So why did we make this cake. 

Now we got the news that a trans woman sex worker has attempted suicide due to the violence from street-guards and police on the street. She’s being kept at a police station now and that’s exactly why we made this cake. This transvestite cake is baked to show that we exist in every part of life, that we exist persistently and this cake shows that won’t be wiped off or ignored in this society. 

Yes, there is violence in our lives, yes there is a lot of shade as well but despite all of that, we can still have fun, enjoying life as much as we can. Bon appetit, sis! 

YOUR FATHER WAS BORN 100 YEARS OLD AND SO WAS THE NAKBA  ابوكي خلق عمره ١٠٠ سنة، زي النكبة

By Razan AlSalah


By Mounia Akl

“It is directed as a poem is written… simple, a touch abstract, and moving.” 
    - Hers is Ours Collective, organizers of the Outsider Moving Art & Film Festival

Esra Ozban:
Esra Ozban is a film programmer and filmmaker from Turkey. Their artistic, curatorial, and scholarly work intersects critical archival practices, sex work, pornography, feminist/queer film cultures among others.

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