We choose to portray what we want others to see. Picture-perfect Instagram feeds, even during a stressful time such as Covid-19. We still choose to share what we want and hold onto what we don’t want exposed, keeping it behind the curtains.
The Ladima Foundation African Women in the Time of COVID-19 Short Film Competition aimed to instigate a festival comprised of short films featuring 10 African filmmakers’ takes on life during the Covid-19 pandemic. The two-minute short films tell emotional tales and stories on domestic violence, the heart wrenching process of becoming, resilience, and hope – heartbreaking problems faced by many African women.
21-year old film student, Malak El Araby, is one of the ten African women who won the Ladima Foundation Short Film Competition with her short film, Being, which encapsulates through her lens the situation we are experiencing through a brighter, and rather hopeful, outlook.
Inspired by the art of filmmaking, El Araby found her passion for telling visual stories in high school whenever she traveled. The mere idea of documenting a trip was so she could keep the memory of it alive. El Araby pursued her passion at the American University in Cairo (AUC), where she studied filmmaking.
It was something for her to keep, and something for her to share as well. “One of the problems I encountered growing up was that I was never able to communicate my feelings. Words on paper couldn’t even help, so I turned to the one thing that inspired me the most throughout my life, my camera,” El Araby says.
El Araby explains how her camera was more than just something she knew how to use, but it was a tool for her to express her feelings or send a message, even if it was through a simple picture.
I realized that we take things for granted without even realizing, and then my idea for the film came
Being is not El Araby’s first short film. Beyond her travel videos, El Araby produced her first short film: Through Her Lens, a story about women empowerment, which was featured in a festival in South Korea and won an award. “I had a lot of time in quarantine to reflect on what was happening all around us. Because I felt trapped inside and deprived of life’s simplest pleasures, such as going out to film, walking down the street, or seeing my friends on the daily, I realized that we take things for granted without even realizing, and then my idea for the film came,” El Araby tells us.
Being is a story about appreciating the little things, the simplest things. El Araby’s main focus was to produce a short film with a positive note. She explains how even though everyone around the world was going through an emotionally wrenching time, her film was about a time of hopes and dreams. “My struggle was that I couldn’t go out to film, so I gathered up archival footage and videos that I had already filmed, and decided to put them together to portray them as a memory-like video, or a vintage-gem, something to watch that would make viewers feel like they were watching an old movie, something that represented dear memories,” El Araby explains.
This film is about our memories, the memories we so often take for granted. In the process of putting together the film, El Araby was thinking about one sentence, “it shall pass”, which gave rise to the collective shared experiences of women around the world; however different they may be. “Applying to the festival was coincidental. I saw an Instagram post about the festival and I decided to send in my short movie. I had no intentions of winning, the only thing I hoped for was for my film to be seen by so many people around the world,” El Araby reflects.
A month later, El Araby received her award as the only Egyptian woman out of ten African women to win an award.
It was just a small idea that I wanted to share with my friends and I ended up sharing it with the world
El Araby explains how this is what she aspires to do in all her movies – to inspire and be inspired. “This was what made me happy the most. It was just a small idea that I wanted to share with my friends and I ended up sharing it with the world, which is something that I will forever cherish and forever hold close to my heart,” El Araby concludes.