The Visions du Réel film festival in Switzerland recently came to a close after hosting the world premiere of numerous documentaries. One of these world premieres was the feature documentary, Amany, Behind the Lines, which focuses on Amany Al-Ali, considered to be the first female cartoonist in Idlib, Syria. Her city became a hotbed of protest against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in 2011, and despite the enormous risk, Al-Ali has used her cartooning skill to critique the chaotic developments in Idlib for over a decade now. The 73-minute long feature documentary was directed by Alisar Hasan and Alaa Amer.
The program notes state that Amany Al-Ali “draws the life of her town, a bastion of jihadist groups that are attempting to overthrow President Assad since 2011. Armed with her pen, she is struggling against Islamist authority and traditional patriarchy. But for how much longer will she have the strength to keep fighting, among the ruins of her town?”
A shorter version of Amany, Behind the Lines was shown at Canneseries earlier in the month as part of a six-episode documentary series called Draw For Change! The series profiles the work of female cartoonists in six countries: Russia, India, the U.S., Mexico, Egypt, and Syria. The showrunners/creators Guillaume Vandenberghe and Vincent Coen received the Best Documentary Series award at the event. Other directors of the Draw For Change! films include Oscar nominee Laura Nix, Nada Riyadh, Karen Vazquez Guadarrama, Sama Pana, and Anna Moiseenko.
Draw For Change! is being sold by Autlook and is produced by Clin d’Oeil Films. According to a synopsis on the Canneseries site, the series “blends documentary and animation in exploration of themes such as femicide and female representation. In the face of censorship and death threats, these rebellious artists strive to change their society and refuse to give in. A true emotional uppercut with a mix of live-action shots and animated sequences…the series’ narration and style are as demanding as the issues discussed.”
Alisar Hasan, the co-director of Amany, Behind the Lines, was nominated for an Emmy for co-writing The Cave, the National Geographic documentary directed and co-written by her husband, two-time Oscar nominated filmmaker Feras Fayyad. Fayyad’s brother Abdo Fayyad is the director of photography for Behind the Lines.
The documentaries shown at the Visions du Réel film festival demonstrate the power of storytelling to bring attention to important issues around the world, such as the struggles of female cartoonists in countries like Syria. The Draw For Change! series highlights the work of these artists as they push for change in their societies despite facing censorship and threats to their lives.
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