Kingdom of Women: Ode to Resilience
Dahna Abou Rahme's documentary
Kingdom of Women: Ein el-Hilweh seeks to archive the oral
histories of Palestinian women living in the camp of
Ein el-Hilweh in the south of Lebanon, using caricature drawings
It represents one aspect of a larger project of oral archiving, set
in motion by Al-Jana Center in various Palestinian camps in
Lebanon. The Center is interested in oral history, and wished to
set up a project based in the Ein el-Hilweh camp.
Kingdom of Women
offers a vivid account of the daily hardships encountered by
Palestinian women living in the camps, and of their struggle for
survival in the absence of their men, who are locked up in Israeli
jails. The film retraces events that took
place in the camp between 1982 and 1984, as it underwent extremely
harsh Israeli attacks, and the vast majority of its men were
captured by the Israeli army.
The shooting of Kingdom of
Women effectively started in 2005, when Dahna Abou Rahme
started recording testimonies on video. These were interrupted by
Israel's attack on Lebanon in the summer of 2006. The project
eventually resumed three years later, when Abou Rahme was asked to
produce a documentary from her footage. "I met with these women,
and resumed conversations that had been interrupted several years
before. There were 30 women, of various ages, coming from different
neighborhoods … Some of them had spent time in jail; some of them
were social activists… they all came from different backgrounds and
had gone through different experiences."
Abou Rahme did not wish to be restrained by traditional approaches
to the documentary genre. She directed her first film in 2004 with
a group of youngsters. The documentary Until When… focuses on
four Palestinian families living in the Dehesha camp, next to the
town of Bethlehem. The film examines these families' difficulties
for two consecutive years, and provides a real-life portrait of the
hardships of daily life, and the challenges of being located on the
frontlines of the invaded territories.
"One concern followed me wherever I went," said Abou Rahme about
the making of her first film: "How to convey a true reflection of
Palestinians, different from the one habitually presented by
American news bulletins. The usual image of a Palestinian being
that of a victim, I needed to get away from this. I am interested
in normal people; how they live, how they survive. In 2001, after
the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Americans
were curious as to what was happening in our part of the world.
This has helped me tremendously in making this film."
Dahna Abou Rahme is interested, first and foremost, in the social
side of things. Kingdom of
Women effectively succeeds in dissecting the social strata of
the Ein el-Hilweh camp during the period from 1982 to 1984, as well
as the role played by the women of the camp during the forced
absence of their husbands. The film bears witness to this period of
time through the words of these women, but also through the jewelry
and various artifacts they created, and the letters they exchanged
with their captive husbands.
Abou Rahme's film acts as a mirror - reflecting the reality of the
camp, and of its struggling women and children. The director
retrieves from the aching past wonderful stories about the meaning
of resistance, of survival - and of course about fear and
Palestinian cartoonist Naji
al-Ali, whose caricature drawings are featured in Kingdom of Women, lived
in the camp of Ein el-Hilweh in 1948, along with his family. The
film also features the drawings of young Lebanese cartoonist Lena Merhej.