‘Amal’ is the story of a young pregnant woman holding the same name, who wants to escape from the violent grips of her abusive insanely possessive husband, but it turns out that her freedom carries a very high price. The term Amal also has a connotation of hope in Arabic, and this is the main message that I would like to convey to these women through this film. I chose this name because of its dual connotation. I wanted a title in Arabic as it strengthens the Lebanese identity of the film, and could appeal to anyone in the Middle East region, as this constitutes essentially my target audience.
My intention behind this story was to depict the alarming reality of domestic violence and marital rape in Lebanon, and to raise awareness about this based on the collection of true stories and testimonials. Following the absurd serial murders of a few victims, I was constantly haunted by their respective stories and deaths. There are thousands of cases of abuse around us every day, but no one knows about them.
I wanted to highlight the archaic traditional norms and taboos in our society, in order to denounce the annihilating repercussions they could have on a human being’s life. Also, I wanted to deep-dive into the psychological study and exploration of these characters, to understand better where they both come from and what drives them to behave this way.
What happened in his past of this man that makes him have this bipolar personality, whereby he can switch overnight from an angelic gentleman to a ferocious monster, capable of committing a cascade of mischievous behaviors? Also, what happened to this woman who, irrespective of her social, educational or cultural background, can become so ‘blindly’ in love – to the extent that she can accept her dignity and self-esteem to be stepped on, her dreams and ambitions shattered, to say the least. The process of writing was a fascinating and inquisitive one, whereby I discovered a pattern in the stories and characters that were recurrent. They are all condensed and portrayed in the story of Amal & Malek, that will be revealed soon in this film.
This movie is made as a tribute to all these women, young or old, battered or raped, physically beaten up or psychologically humiliated. Through this film, I want to highlight the vicious cycle of silence and victimization that these women are trapped in. It aims to advocate the empowerment of womankind, encourage them to stand up for themselves, in order to become leaders and masters of their own destinies. Hopefully this will contribute in driving change in this country, and shed a new path of hope for these women.
It is indeed very delicate. I approached it first by doing extensive research. The tragic serial murders of a few women was following me and haunting me every single day following the events. First, I started digging into the cases that occurred. The one that intrigued me the most was the story of Tamara Harisi. Despite all the violence that her husband inflicted on her by making her sleep on the garage floor with rats while she was pregnant, and throwing alcohol on her body to burn her alive, she managed to escape from him on that tragic day. She did this even though she knew she was putting her own life and the life of her newborn child at risk. But still she chose to have guts and take that risk, it was that or he was coming back to murder her anyway. The main fear of a domestic violence victim is that it is extremely dangerous to leave a violent man, since the probability of him seeking revenge and murder would increase considerably. My objective through this film lies in the will to empower these women, by encouraging them to be less risk-averse and choose to break this vicious cycle.
The next step included a collaboration with people from KAFA and the collection of different stories of women who got abused. I read testimonials written by survivors of domestic violence in a book, watched videos and campaign ads, talked to a few victims and lent my ears to their ordeals and torments behind closed doors. I also watched a theater play and more than ten movies on the subject, and after this extensive research I felt ready and inspired. I wanted to write a story as close to reality as possible, but also convey an important message to these women – that there is room for hope to rebuild their lives.
The story unfolds in an upper middle class apartment in the center of Beirut. It is particularly important to talk about this issue currently in Lebanon, and to raise awareness about it, since this is the first step towards driving change. KAFA Association has already done a wonderful activist job through its campaign ‘No law No vote’. They succeeded in spreading the word about this cause through their massive media and press coverage, which opened the eyes of a lot of female victims who were not necessarily aware that they were being abused, and how to react to these events.
Lebanon still has a long way to go concerning legislation protecting against domestic violence. A new law was implemented in May 2014, however it is a family violence law that is not specific to women. It has been criticized by KAFA, MARCH and other NGOs for not going far enough, and by legitimizing the criminal act of marital rape.
Cinema being a powerful weapon of expression, and one of the most influential export of ideas and culture, I decided to bring the stories of these women to life through moving images. This will hopefully be my personal contribution from a female standpoint in driving change and making a difference.
Since the script was selected to receive the Best Screenplay Award by the Cinephilia Productions house in NYC, we already have a fund granted by them. We are complementing it with crowd-funding in order to cover the whole budget, as this would really help us enhance the quality of the film, hire a professional Cast & Crew, design the set properly and have a high caliber equipment. This is important to make this movie and its cause justice by giving it the best we can. You can check out the campaign through the following link, share it and support if you can: