Aden film-makers hope to triumph over war
Aden has triumphed over the war instigated by the Houthis, Iran’s proxies in Yemen. On August 7, Aden screened its first feature film, ushering in a new era of normalcy far from the confusion of Yemeni politics.
The film was the first produced and filmed in Aden, the interim Yemeni capital. The film — “Ten Days Before the Wedding” — depicts the hellish living conditions of Aden’s inhabitants during the war.
Aden suffered major damage during the three years of fighting.
The film’s producers pointed out that Aden hasn’t experienced popular cinema since 1994 when theatres and movie houses in the city were destroyed during the civil war. After that war, the Muslim Brotherhood closed any facility that had to do with arts, theatre and culture.
A select group of known theatre figures from southern Yemen, along with many promising artists, made “Ten Days” with Yemeni director Amr Gamal.
The story takes place in the old city of Aden and shows the effect of events in Yemen on the lives of inhabitants. Many characters in the film were inspired by citizens, including their local accents and customs. The film was shot in the old quarters of the district of Kriter in southern Aden.
The project took shape after Yemeni TV channels refused to produce local series in Aden, saying there were no funds.
The distinctive Aden accent is quite popular with many Yemenis. Despite that, Yemeni TV channels refused to produce any show in Aden during Ramadan. This was considered a challenge by local artists who decided to produce a feature film completely in Aden to help reviving the cinema industry.
Aden has a long theatre and cinema tradition. The first theatre play in the Arabian Peninsula was put on stage in 1910 in Aden.
Despite conditions of high temperatures and unreliable electricity, scriptwriter Marwan Ali Mafraq was working on a script for a local television series about social issues in Aden. “Even when we finish writing the script, we will face difficulties producing it. There aren’t channels willing to finance and produce local TV series,” he said.
Mafraq, in his 30s, has written for many series and plays that were well-received. The most distinctive series written by Mafraq was “Last Chance,” which told the story of how the factories of southern Yemen were seized after the Yemeni Unification by powerful lobbies from northern Yemen.
The series depicted how employees were coerced into selling their jobs and the factories. “We do not want to mix art with politics but we have our distinctive character in Aden. We like socially conscious drama. We will continue to battle with everything we have to return Aden to its rightful place in Yemeni history and heritage,” Mafraq said.
Mafraq worked as assistant director for “Ten Days.” He said that there are other feature films in the pipeline, all about Aden as a city of peaceful coexistence.
He revealed that he had just finished writing the script for a film that depicts crimes committed by the Houthis in Aden. The story focuses on the May 2015 massacre of refugees in the city district of Al Tawahi as they were trying to flee the fighting in Aden.
Mafraq said he hopes to see the cinema industry in Aden develop to match what is found in other Arab countries. Ideas for documentary films abound and simply require the production funds.
The traditional love of local cinema and drama is an encouraging factor. Mafraq insisted that investing in cinema in Aden is economically viable and would benefit the city economically, socially and culturally.