Interview With The Director: Leila Jarman (“Voice of the Valley”)

 The Best of Festival Cinema Invisible 2017

I knew we wanted to make a film about women that humanized people in the Middle East to somehow counter the hectic, stereotyped post 9/11 American perceptions of the people from the region.””

Interview with the Director: Leila Jarman, Voice of the Valley” (2015, Jordan)

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“Voice of the Valley” (2015, Jordan) screens January 7, 2017 as part of the “Visions & Voices” session at The Best of FCI Film Festival in Redding, CA.

Synopsis: In November 2006, Radio Al Balad, an independent radio station in Amman, Jordan, held an open call for women interested in producing a program about the people of the Jordan Valley. Inhabited by marginalized agrarian workers, the Jordan Valley lies on the eastern Jordanian side of the Palestinian West Bank. Despite being an agricultural hub of the region, Jordan is one of the ten most water scarce countries in the world. Jordan’s major surface water resources, the Jordan River and the Yarmouk River, are shared with Israel and Syria who leave only a small amount of water for Jordan. With groundwater resources being overexploited and the serious effects of climate change, there seem to be fewer and fewer solutions to the problem. With no formal journalistic training, Asma and Munira produce and broadcast a groundbreaking socio-political radio program called “Voice of the Valley.” Their radio program calls attention to the issues facing this neglected area such as the water shortage, poverty, corruption within the local government, and neglect—problems which have not yet been addressed by governmental officials in Amman. Despite societal and cultural pressure to succumb to traditional patriarchal customs, Asma and Munira continue to fight for the neglected people of the Jordan Valley.

What inspired you to make this film?

“I was taking a sort of broad strokes Middle Eastern history class in my senior year of college and wanted to find a more direct and practical way that I could apply all the philosophy and theory I learned in college. I have always loved film and, more specifically, documentary film and its ability and power to help educate and enact change. I knew we wanted to make a film about women that humanized people in the Middle East to somehow counter the hectic, stereotyped post 9/11 American perceptions of the people from the region. When I finally came across a very short article on a completely unknown blog about Asma and Munira and Radio Al Balad, I knew it was the story I was going to tell.”

What do you want American audiences to know about this film or about the subject matter?

“I don’t ever like to talk on behalf of a film. Hopefully, audiences will take away what they got from the film and it will speak for itself.”

Is it difficult to make films in Jordan?  Why or why not?

“Looking back, I think my fears and anxieties about this experience were overshadowed by my relentless desire to tell the story. I went to Jordan with nothing but my camera and blind ambition. I had never made a film before and was filled with the excitement of the possibilities that were before me. After arriving and meeting the women, I quickly realized that this film was not going to be shot in one month, mainly because of how challenging to is to make a documentary film about the personal and professional lives of human beings in a foreign country and language with no prior experience. The first month was just initial interviews, some filmed, some not, building trust, finding translators, coordinating vehicles, learning how to use the camera in the field, following the women and understanding their process, etc. It also became clear that these women were not interested in letting cameras into their personal lives, a space that is definitely very private for traditional, tribal Muslim women. Had I made this film in the USA, I know it would have been a much easier experience. In Jordan and in the communities where I was filming, many people had never seen women behind the camera or directing and that was definitely a challenge.”

 

Director Bio:

Leila Jarman is an independent filmmaker and visual artist based in Los Angeles, CA. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from Marymount Manhattan College, she traveled to Jordan to write, produce, and direct her first documentary feature film, “Voice of the Valley”. Since completing “Voice of the Valley”, Leila has produced, directed and/or edited documentary shorts, features, music videos, experimental films and more.

 

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Festival Cinema Invisible has partnered with the Redding Chapter of Euprhates Institute and the Shasta County Arts Council to bring the two-day film festival, “The Best of FCI”, to Redding, California USA January  6th-7th 2017.

Films will screen from 6 pm-10 pm on Friday, Jan 6 and 12 pm – 10 pm on Saturday, Jan 7 at Old City Hall (1313 Market Street in Redding, CA).

Ticket options:

2-day, full-festival pass: $40
1-day pass: $25
1-session ticket: $10

Festival passes and tickets can be purchased online through Eventbrite at :

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-best-of-festival-cinema-invisible-tickets-27799538167

 

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