This year's award for Best Documentary Filmmaker (Arab Film Competition) at the Doha film festival went to Egyptian director Hanan Abdalla for In the Shadow of a Man.
Abdallah expressed her thrill with the award, since the Doha festival "is one of the biggest film festivals worldwide and I am, of course, happy with this recognition that will give me a strong push forward," she told Ahram Online.
At a panel discussion at the fourth Doha Tribeca Film Festival, Abdalla and other Arab filmmakers explained the sacrifice and diligence required to pursue independent films that reveal truths and tackle key issues in the region.
Abdalla explained that her film, In the Shadow of a Man, explored injustices experienced by women; but that does not mean she casts men as villains. "They [men] are victims of injustice as well and they also undergo tremendous pressure. My film presents different perspectives of women, who are drawn from different segments of the society. They were as much a part of the revolution, and it is important to tell their personal revolutions within," she explained.
In spite of her win, Abdallah was devastated by events that took place during her time away from Egypt. Following Israeli attacks on Gaza last week, clashes took place between protestors and forces at Mohamed Mahmoud Street in downtown Cairo.
"My aim with In the Shadow of a Man is to portray social issues and make people aware," she told Ahram Online.
Commenting on the status of Egyptian women today, Abdallah stresses: "We are still part of a bigger fight for dignity, social justice, and freedom in Egypt and this includes women, men, children of all ages and all social classes."
Among 87 films screened in this year’s Doha Tribeca Film Festival, 26 were by female directors, including Tahani’s Rashed tale of dismantling dictatorship in Egypt, A Deep Long Breath.
In the Shadow of a Man presents conversations with four women from different cultural backgrounds in tumultuous post-revolution Egypt, capturing their desire for change. These character profiles of Wafaa, Badreya, Suzanne and Shahinda provide valuable insights into the livelihoods and rights of women in contemporary Egypt.
Exposing issues such as male favouritism, domestic violence, and familial turbulence, this documentary sheds light on the battles faced by women, as well as their strength in taking their destinies into their own hands.
Hanan Abdalla was born in London to exiled activist parents. She studied politics and philosophy at Oxford, and returned to Cairo to document the January 25 Revolution in 2011.
Revolution to Abdallah is still moving strongly and therefore the award-winning director plans to join the mass protests in Tahrir Square on Tuesday, which are being organised by opponents of President Morsi's recent constitutional declaration, to fight for the rights she first called for during the January 25 Revolution and in her film - social justice, dignity, and freedom.
"I will be, of course, in Tahrir until we free ourselves and proclaim our rights," she confirms.