Published 29/10/2023. Translation from French by Beti Ellerson. A collaboration with Africine.org and the African Women in Cinema Blog.
Image africine: Marwa El Sharkawy receives the Paulin Vieyra Award with Arjouma Soma.
They are delighted to be invited to the African cinema festival which took place in Khouribga, from May 6 to 13, 2023. The event was created in 1977 by the dean of Moroccan critics, the late Nour Eddine Sail (inspired by the late Tunisian Tahar Chériaa, founder of the Carthage Festival, Tunis in 1966). The Moroccan festival is held annually.
Far from being a tourist region, Khouribga is known for the production of phosphate. While its focus on African cinemas enlivens the city and ridding it of phosphate dust. The city has become an not-to-miss annual gathering and a meeting place for African cinema professionals par excellence.
On the occasion of this annual event, a meeting with two women in cinema took place, Azza El Hosseiny and Marwa Al Cherkawi, two Egyptian artists invited to take part in this 23rd edition.
To find out more about women as cinema professionals, Africiné magazine connected with Marwa El Sharkawy.
Marwa El Sharkawy, director, screenwriter, cinematographer and producer, among the women invited to the Khouribga festival, with her short film entitled Azizati Ward | Dear Ward. She won the African Critics Paulin Vieyra Award at this 23rd edition which marks the 46th anniversary of the Khouribga festival. Her filmography includes: Le pays de l'or (“The Land of Gold”, 4 mins, 2017), Rêves oubliés (“Forgotten Dreams”, a documentary which deals with kidney failure disease) among others.
Marwa El Sharkawy has also worked as assistant director. In 2012 she directed a documentary on the town of Damietta in the Nile Delta, awarded at the Ras Albir festival in Egypt, for best editing; Une femme à la fenêtre (“A woman at the window,” awarded for best documentary film at the 2019 edition of the Youssef Chahine Festival. Marwa has a clear preference for documentary cinema. She enjoys direct on-the-ground work and above all meeting people of different nationalities. The women's issues are also a priority for her.
Present at the awards ceremony of the 23rd edition of the African cinema festival, I took advantage of the opportunity to do a quick interview. Delighted and excited that her short film Azizati Ward won an award, she answered my questions.
Amina Barakat: What does this recognition mean to you in this distinguished festival where the competition was very tight?
ME-S: I am definitely happy to participate, and even more, to be among these beautiful people and great professionals of the 7th art. Receiving an award is a motivation that encourages me to do better and continue my research in order to improve my work and succeed in my projects which I care very much about.
AB: Have you been able to find your place in this rather male-dominated environment?
ME-S: I think so, the proof is that my works have won awards every time. So I confirm that the woman has certainly been able to carve out a prestigious place for herself alongside her male colleagues. She also demonstrated that she is capable of assuming the choice of putting herself behind the camera and overcoming the problems and challenges of being a woman and a director.
AB: As a filmmaker, do you think that professionals (women) have been able to overcome the obstacles that impede the making of a film?
ME-S: Without a doubt! In fact, it is particularly evident among the women who choose this profession, to have their say by talking about matters considered taboo, while everyone else is ashamed to talk about it or to expose it. The film Azizati Ward is an example. In the film I deal with the problem of genital circumcision among young girls and the harmful consequences physically and psychologically. Moreover, it is a mutilation condemned by human rights organizations and women's associations which fight against this practice.
All women filmmakers are striving to find solutions to many of these problems using cinema as a tool. We are currently witnessing a female presence in all Arab countries, even in Saudi Arabia. I find it impressive!
AB: Do you believe that a women’s cinema exists?
ME-S: Yes, because women are closer and more credible when dealing with a subject that concerns her situation. And usually, she has direct knowledge of this area. She is generally sensitive to all matters relative to women.
AB: What are the most difficult problems in this profession?
ME-S: I’ll cite the freedom of expression in the treatment of issues that are considered as a red line not to be crossed, whether political or religious. But with time this is starting to diminish, giving voice to the women who desire to express themselves on these subjects. This is a step forward!