UAE: Director Alejandra Alcala Humanises Refugee Issue In 'T...| MENAFN.COM

Monday, 05 December 2022 02:07 GMT

UAE: Director Alejandra Alcala Humanises Refugee Issue In 'The Neighbourhood Storyteller' At SIFF 2022


(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)

Published: Sun 2 Oct 2022, 2:18 PM

“The tendency in the media is to portray refugee issues through a tragic lens, and although tragedy is a reality for people on the move, so is their human capacity to overcome it. This is what we want to shine a light on in The Neighbourhood Storyteller,” says Mexican director Alejandra Alcala whose documentary will be screened at the upcoming 9th Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFF).

Alejandra Alcala

The film, a collaboration with the UAE-based nonprofit The Big Heart Foundation, tells the story of Asmaa, a Syrian refugee without much formal education, who embarks on a read-aloud project in the Al Zaatari camp in Jordan to empower young girls to rebuild their lives. The mother-of-four begins her transformational journey after receiving training by the Jordanian nonprofit, We Love Reading.

The documentary chronicles Asmaa's journey from a volunteer trainee to becoming a social entrepreneur by creating her own read-aloud project. Alcala said:“What we set out to document through the film is not the training Asmaa receives but the magic that happens after you give people the skill sets, confidence and encouragement to believe in their inner power and become heroes of their own stories.”

Screenshot from The Neighbourhood Storyteller

She said:“Films like these help break barriers and misconceptions about refugees. You don't have to be a refugee to connect with another human being and this is the best way to talk about an issue - by humanising it.”

“We hope that through our films, we can shine a light on the resilience and courage of refugees and amplify solutions that enable refugees to create a dignified and fulfilled life,” added the Mexican director, whose family had immigrated to the US. She co-founded the nonprofit, HOME Storytellers, with her father to direct their“joint passion for visual storytelling in a way that could be socially impactful”.

Screenshot from The Neighbourhood Storyteller

Alcala is hopeful that girls and women will be able to connect with Asmaa and her efforts for women's empowerment when they watch the film, and subsequently be inspired to take action.“I relate deeply with Asmaa as a woman, navigating in an unequal world - as a mother, offering her children the best version of herself and the best life she can give them, and as a storyteller trying to make a difference in the world.”

Alcala further pointed out that festivals such as SIFF which promote films with social messages provide the much-needed space for dialogue about the issues reflected in the film.

The documentary, which portrays Asmaa's determination to raise a conscious generation of successful women, is the recipient of several international awards and was screened at film festivals in USA, Mexico, Greece, Holland, Canada, Finland, Morocco, Germany, and Denmark.

The Neighbourhood Storyteller will be screened at the upcoming SIFF, which runs from October 10 -15, 2022, at Al Jawaher Reception and Conference Centre, Sharjah, under the theme, 'Think Film'.

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