Screaming From The Rooftops: Yemeni People Are More Than Your War
Alia Ali is an artist, not a filmmaker. Fueled by the growing rage from her homeland of Yemen’s ongoing crisis, she produced her first film “Conflict Is More Profitable Than Peace”. The film was made for audiences outside of Yemen who are ignorant to the events happening. The film is a not-so-shocking but angering nonetheless account of the ongoing catalysts from around the world who continue to profit from the war in Yemen. The list unsurprisingly includes several Democratic and Republican Senators and state leaders in America. The second film Alia created to follow up “Conflict” is a letter to her fellow Yemenis. “Mahjar” highlights the vast natural wealth that Yemen holds as a country, wealth that has been stripped away and is facing erasure with every weapons contract signed. “Mahjar” then pivots into a children’s story that most Yemenis are familiar with, to tie the film’s juxtaposition together beautifully. The tale of “The Red Star”, otherwise known as Mars, and how it was gifted to Queen Sheba thousands of years ago, who then gave it to the Yemeni people. These two films paired with 5 others by Yemeni filmmakers, create 7 x 7 // 7 Artists, 7 Years. These artists are telling us, in their own way, that the Yemeni people are more than victims or villains.
I was fortunate enough to catch the films series premier on March 19th, 2021, the 7th year since the war in Yemen began. The films were followed by a Q&A with Alia and Arab American National Museum film curator, Dave Serio. I took an immense amount of knowledge away from the event and feel it’s my duty as a writer, film connoisseur, and fellow Arab American to get the word out there as best as I can. These 7 films are deeply personal and shedding light on sensitive subjects, so I chose not to review them but really just tell you about them in hopes that you as a viewer and humanitarian seek them out to learn more about what is happening in Yemen, and understand that art emerges from all around the globe, all you have to do is look.
Each film spoke to a different Yemeni narrative but collectively weaved a quilt with the same underlying theme: Yemeni people are beautiful, resilient, and so much more than the war. “The Helmet” directed by Osama Khaled, details an inventor’s dream to be anywhere but there with impending war. “The Last Resort” directed by Nooradeen Morgan is a short doc about a man trying and failing to simply fly to a job interview in a neighboring city. The struggle comes with Sana’a airport’s closure due to the Saudi Air Force bombings that took place in March 2015. The airport is still closed. Sana’a locals are forced to travel far to the neighboring cities where they roll the dice on their Sana’a-issued passport even being accepted. Being able to travel outside of your country and back is a universal human right that Yemenis are being denied at this very moment. “Made Of Gold” directed by Saber Wasel is a somber tale about a Yemeni former pro soccer player and speaks to the destruction of war, of dreams, and how the world views Yemen as a whole. The country is so much more than war and suffering. These films illustrate the point beautifully while still driving home the point that complacency is hell. War is hell.
These are just a few that really stood out to me but all 7 together are absolutely stunning and are must-watch films. I linked both of Alia Ali’s full films and short snippets of the other directors speaking about their films below. I encourage you to seek these stories out and learn about what’s happening in Yemen. Too often I myself focus so much of my energy on the exuberant amount of issues the United States has, and forget that there is an entire world out there in worse conditions than we face — in my humble opinion. War is hell. Complacency is hell. This series was made possible by the Arab American National Museum, ArteEast, the Arab Film and Media Institute, The Benton Museum Of Art at Pomona College, The Department Of Art History at Pomona College, and Youth of the World Together.