Abandoned cinemas like the one in Hadda (left) and in
Over the past 20 years, the pleasure of watching a good movie in
Having first been introduced by the British in Aden in the 1950s, cinemas were soon after to be opened throughout
Until today, some Sana'anis remember the two cinemas in Hadda street, which were shut down in the 1990s and remain closed until today.
While Al-Mammary insists that cinemas should be re-introduced to
Indeed, violent attacks on movie goers and the opposition to cinemas by more conservative factions of society constitute a common explanation among Yemenis today as to why the cinemas closed. Religion is cited among the key reasons put forth by cinema-lovers, with references to the "Wahhabi influence" being wide-spread.
Even today, residents like
Given that movie theaters continue to be widely perceived as a "foreign intrusion" incompatible with local customs and values, challenges are inevitable for Yemeni filmmakers who want to make their voices heard.
Without the money to produce films or the locations to screen their work, many have turned to the production of short movies which are published online, thereby creating a cultural and cinematic movement in
"We produce films that require more effort than cash because we can provide the effort but no cash," said short movie director Amer Gaadel, who is also the founder and director of Zoom Media, a team of amateur photographers, actors, and directors producing short films.
Yemeni filmmakers embrace new media
Within a short period of time, the company became renowned for its short films and videos which saw a significant hike in views on YouTube. One of the videos, titled "Eish Feekom (What's wrong with you)," got about 86,000 views.
Al-Jamili is convinced that without new media he could not have established the Rawabit Media company. "Without social media, we could not do a proper job and maintain our work. Our short movies simply could not spread the same way," he explains.
Rawabit Media's short movies vary from light comedy to more serious human rights issues and political criticism.
"Our main focus in short-films is the message we want to convey. The methods of delivery differ, it could be comical, tragic or any other style," said Al-Jamili.
The motive underlying most short movie productions, according to Al-Jamili, is the goal to "contribute to a renaissance in our society." He explains, "the short film industry is booming among high-class citizens who know of short movies' importance in spreading awareness about issues like the empowerment of women, early marriage, sexual abuse of children, or tribal revenge cases."
According to Al-Jamili, the low revenues of short movie productions pose a significant threat to keep the production running. A medium-sized short film, lasting five minutes costs an average of
Given the dire economic situation that
Not too long ago, Rawabit Media produced a movie for the local NGO Righteousness and Chastity, which works to facilitate marriages between young Yemenis.
"Political Game" is a short film portraying the 2011 uprising with the help of animated toys that move across a chess board. (Screenshot image)
The film tells the story of a young man wanting to get married, yet imagining unrelenting obstacles such as high dowry payments. By ending the video on a happy note, with the couple being able to marry, the
Amer Gaadel finds himself in a similarly difficult financial situation as Al-Jamili, unsatisfied that most of the short films Zoom Media produces are promotional in nature. "Most short films made by us are sponsored by associations and organizations which ask us to produce a short film about their activities or about a topic they are dealing with, in which case the content is provided to us."
While the producers of short movies are in need of encouragement from relevant authorities, they face a significant lack of support. "Awards and recognition are limited to the
Onwards and upwards for short film industry
Al-Jaadi points out that despite significant challenges, the film "Ehsan" made by Yemeni director
"Ehsan" is not the only film that has won an international competition. The Yemeni film "A New Day in Old Sana'a" won the Best Arab Film Award in
One of the Yemeni short movies which enjoys particular popularity on social media and won fourth place in the
Just like short movie producers, the government is well aware of the political and social power of films. In an attempt to warn people about the dangers of terrorism and the joining terrorist groups, the
While short movies are limited to social media, government produced movies are aired on the state-run Al-Yemen channel.
In spite of such obvious disadvantages, the producers of short movies stay motivated to continue their work.
"There is no way to measure our success in raising awareness and changing society, but the positive responses we get on Facebook, YouTube or WhatsApp motivate us to continue what we do," said Al-Jamili.
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