For the first time in its 86-year history, the Academy Awards nominated two documentaries produced in Egypt and Yemen–countries that would have never made it to the red carpet if not for these two women.
1. The Square: Insightful, intense, and dramatic, it is hard to believe its scenes are real-life footage and not the result of a careful screenplay. Producers Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer manage to delve deeply into the personal stories that intertwine in Tahrir square as they follow three activists throughout the uprisings between 2011 and 2013.
“My life has been changed forever in the making of this film. It is really about the courage and beauty of the Egyptian people”, says director Jehane Noujaim.
Even though the Oscar went to 20 Feet From Stardom, the nomination broke a record for Egyptian cinema: the country with the most films submitted to the competition–along with Portugal–was for the first time nominated.
2. Karama has no walls. When Yemeni-Scottish filmmaker Sara Ishaq took to the streets of Sana’a, camera in hand, she wasn’t thinking about TV, let alone the Oscars.
The film follows the events of the March 2011 demonstration known as the Friday of Dignity (Karama). Through two cameramen’s lenses and two fathers’ accounts, it searches for the humanity behind the statistics and news reports.
Nominated as Best Documentary Short, the film was also recognized by Al-Jazeera Documentary FF, Arab FF, and United Nations Association FF. In a country where cinema isn’t allowed, the Academy nomination prompted screenings in houses, embassies, and cultural centers.
“This is something I never would have been able to do had the film not received international recognition“, Ishaq told Entertainment Weekly.