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How a Yemeni Filmmaker Rediscovered Home

Filmmaker Sara Ishaq tells how filming Bayt Al Toot (The Mulberry House) uncovered unexpected truths and altered her perspective completely.

“After a gradual rift occurred between me and my Yemeni life, and my non-adherence to often strict Yemeni social norms became more divisive, I longed to find resolution with the home of my past, more specifically with my father. I returned for a short visit in early 2011 with my heart set on personal reconciliations.

Upon my arrival, the Yemeni revolution ignited, and I found it hard to maintain my distance from events, but also from my family. I inadvertently began to redefine my place in my surroundings and my relationship with my father and grandfather, from an adamant (and safe) position behind the camera.

My unconventional activities (for a Yemeni woman), such as filming in the Square alone, provoked confrontations with my family. This personal uprising appeared to be a microcosm of the larger uprising outside, whereby the entire country was confronting the government and redefining its national, social and political identity.

Throughout the filming, I was able to trace shifts in perspectives and attitudes, particularly in my father, who embodied Yemen’s transformation, often expressing himself and playing the devil’s (and thus ‘my’) advocate, and my grandfather, who embodied Yemen’s unyielding traditionalism in an attempt to maintain the peace. The camera documented the gradual shift of an apolitical, conservative family into a politicised, non-conformist one; the strong personalities and controversial opinions emerging before my lens mirrored the complex and often conflicting nature of Yemeni society.

By initially observing from afar, I was able to rediscover just how much I had in common with the people around me. The events on the street brought me and other like-minded people also dissatisfied by social constraints closer together. I was no longer the outsider I had always believed I was.

For more info – Bayt Al Toot (The Mulberry House) Facebook page

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Lama Saleh

Freelance writer at Baraka bits. A dreamer wanting to have a positive footprint on society and bring joy to others. Success stories and inspiring people are my muses, optimism is my life choice. Interested in all things relating to social entrepreneurship, social development, social justice, peace, women's rights, child safety and development, art and illustration, health, education and psychology.

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