The best of Arab Short Films in DTFF12

4th Doha Tribeca Film Festival

4th Doha Tribeca Film Festival (Photo credit: Omar Chatriwala)

This year in the Doha Tribeca Film Festival 2012, there was a competition of the Arab Short Films. 13 films contributed in three themes, Hope springs, Awakening and Intimate Journeys.

I watched all 13 films, and I think they were all good, and the short films are getting better and boldier. The filmmakers are challenging the social and political obstacles in their home countries in most of the films. Some issues are “red line” but still they were well portrayed to deliver the message.

The Arab Revolutions took a small part in the short films. Only two films mentioned the revolutions, Syrian and Tunisian, directly, yet both were very artistic. The first was just a short clip of Hafez Al Assad talking to a syrian asutronaud while in the background his statue is falling down, and the second was a cartoon. Also one film mentioned the Palestinian conflict, it was called “Maqloubeh“. That makes it 3 out of 13 films.

Arab Revolutions with such a small part was unexpected to me personally not to find more films about the revolutions. The great part was for the social problems of the arab societies.

The judges will decide which film will win, but I will personally decide here the top three, and why they deserve the win.

In first place would be “Ismail“, a film about a poor Palestinian man called Ismail, who is struggling in the refugee camp, and surviving by selling sweets in the train station. The main part of the film is when he gets stuck in a mind field with his young brother, that’s where the film tops the others.  It’s the only film that has twists, and it’s a feeling roller coaster, you smile, get shocked, almost cry then feel so inspired and hopeful that this man became the famous Artist Ismail Shammout.

The cinematography of the film is beautiful, so are the actors. to me, it won the competition.

The second place, would be “Sanctity“, it’s a story about a pregnant, widow Saudi woman, who goes through a lot to survive. The story of the film isn’t the best, yet it’s a very bold film. I feel that if Saudi people saw it, they will want to murder the Director Ahd, which was also the main actress in the film. The woman in the film does everything that the Saudi society wouldn’t agree on. The director pushes the limit every minute of the film, with scenes to portray sexual fantasies of a young kid, then drugs, and how some people live in the Saudi community, that you will never hear about in the media.

The cinematography was great, but the actors are who made the film great.

Third place goes to “The Wall“, a lebanese hilarious film -for arabic speakers- and for non arabic speakers it was still funny and cozy, somehow. It was pretty confusing whether it was a documentary or a short film. But that’s what made it great. It talks about a wall in a lebanese house, where all the neighborhood used to hide behind during the civil war. The director was interviewing the houses of the neighborhood and the characters are nice and diverse, it makes you smile throughout the whole film.

The cinematography was beautiful, the set up of all the interviews were the eye candy, and the actors were great, especially when you figure out that those are not the real people in the real story, those are actors. It’s a well done film.

4th place would go to “When they slept“, It was a brave film, talking about death in a cultural point of view.  5th place to the Qatari Film “Bidoon“, also another bold film talking about cultural issue of Love in the Qatari society.


You have Tuberculosis? Here’s your ticket home

Tuberculosis(TB) and AIDS are very serious diseases, they have many things in common, they both can be fatal, not easily recognized and sometimes the patient is very healthy, yet they get the shocking news in a routine medical check up. Such traumatic experience is not easy on anyone, especially on those who have to be deported afterwards.

In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) they take these diseases very seriously, maybe a bit too serious. For example a TB diagnosed patient can only stay for 3 months at most before being deported to their home country.

Also a TB-cured person is considered unfit and is not allowed to the GCC countries, ever.

GCC depend mainly on migrant labor, averaging 35.7% of total population for the GCC countries. Most of them come from countries where they have a higher risk getting infected with these diseases.

Y.B is an Eastern European who used to live in Qatar. She worked for a five-star airline as a cabin crew. She was one of the unfortunate people who have been diagnosed with TB.

Like many of us she was doing a medical check up when she found out that she has a tiny scar in her lung, a “dead scar” is what this few millimeters long scar is called. That’s a trace of TB; lucky for her it was latent TB, yet she was quickly deported.

World Health Organization (WHO).

TB is a treatable and curable disease. The vast majority of TB cases can be cured when medicines are provided and taken properly.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), since 1995, over 46 million people have been successfully treated and an estimated 7 million lives saved through use of DOTS and the Stop TB Strategy recommended by WHO.

Here are the DOTS five-points to help monitor and cure TB that WHO recommends in comparison with what happens in GCC.

First, ‘secure political commitment, with adequate and sustained financing.’

Usually the TB patient is fired from their job, and gets deported to his country in a matter of few months, stopping the income, therefore sustaining the treatment becomes more difficult.

Second, ‘ensure early case detection, and diagnosis through quality-assured bacteriology.’

It depends on how early the patient knows; if he or she knows from the GAMCA centers in their country then they are on their own from the start, no consideration from the medical centers and no transferring to a proper hospital to treat them.

This whole process is facing wide criticism from many people calling to stop GAMCA as they describe it as “Immoral attitude and lack of medical examination guidelines for workers at the GAMCA medical centers.”

If they know while they are inside the GCC, that’s a dramatic treatment. Doctors usually don’t give much detail about the disease. Most patients have described the process as “a horrible experience.

Third,  ‘provide standardized treatment with supervision and patient support.’

According to the National Tuberculosis Program Manager in Qatar, Dr. Abdul Latif al-Khal, said in a report earlier, “usually residents found with TB were not deported except if the sponsors insisted as in the case of domestic workers such as house-helps and drivers.”

In the course of three months, neither house-help nor driver, Y.B. was deported.

She was left with the minimal amount of information about her medical condition, “During every medical test I did, nothing was discussed directly with me. They just told me I had TB and nothing about it, what kind or whatever,” she said.

Fourth and Fifth, ‘ensure effective drug supply and management. Monitor and evaluate performance and impact.’

Dr. Al-Khal explained, “We provide treatment to all TB patients and we have a country-wide treatment program that registers and follows up on all the cases.”

The usual course of treatment of TB takes up to 6 months. In different cases, the patients are deported within 2-3 months with the least amount of information. Not only that, there is no coordination with their home countries and they are not provided with any medical documentation.

“I went home empty handed, facing a fatal disease I know nothing about.” She expressed.

Does GCC care about the patients?

Anyone who had TB and has been treated properly is considered cured and should not be discriminated against,” said Dr. Mario Raviglione, the director of the Stop TB department at the World Health Organization (WHO) to a local UAE newspaper. “This becomes an issue of human rights.” he added.

Y.B. is now healthy, working and enjoying a normal life in Europe, yet she is separated from her fiancé who lives in Dubai, whom she cannot visit, since she is banned from entering the entire GCC. “They just drove my future family apart, it’s senseless,” She added.

That’s one example out of many, one of them was a nurse who got the disease from a patient and wasn’t allowed back to the country she was working in, because she was doing her job.

Just to remind you people nurses are the reason why you are well and healthy today and this is how you repay us?” she complained.


Same process happens with HIV patients. A South African journalist who has been in Qatar for only 2 months faced a cruel experience. He went to get a normal medical check up, without knowing the results he was taken to prison, then had his contract terminated and been given a warning, either to leave the country within 42 hours or face arrest.

Did the deportation contain the disease?

Such direct deportation policy has sabotaged the containment of TB in the UAE. The fear of deportation has made the patients do not come forward which spread the disease. According to a UAE local journal, “Cases of pulmonary TB – the most infectious – more than doubled in the capital from 193 in 2009 to 450 in 2011, and 143 were reported in the first three months of this year alone, according to new figures from the Health Authority Abu Dhabi (HAAD).”

Global Issue

63 countries have some form of HIV (or TB) specific restriction to entry, stay and residence of immigrants; and 28 countries deport people once HIV+/TB status is known,According to Dr. Gilles Cesari, Regional Director at the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union)’s office in Singapore.

The need of a global awareness on such diseases is obviously required, the act of throwing the patient from a country to another just because they have a disease –clearly they didn’t ask for it – is just a bit harsh. Forget where he or she is from. They are human beings after all, help them get better.

How Qatar Classifies its citizens

I grew up in Qatar, my parents been here since 1978, and I’ve been hearing their stories about the 80’s here in Qatar. The following is some of their experience and mine.

There are about four different classes of people in Qatar, and not like some other countries, they are not basically categorized by their social or financial statement, but by origin.

Qatar is the country where people ask you where are you from before what’s your name.

Of course you would think that on top of the list or the class ladder, would be Qataris? It’s their country after all. They get special treatment, for examples they don’t get fired from their jobs in places like (Hint: a well known media channel).

But they are not! Americans are. Yes Americans, especially US soldiers. Not even Qataris can use their special treatment on them, for example, if a Qatari person got into a fight with an American and both went to the police, (unless the American was drunk) the authorities would let him loose and try to end it smoothly. That would not be the case if the other person were from “another class”.

I would say a tie between those two on number one.

Second but not too far away would be the rest of GCC, especially Saudis and Emiratis. They get similar treatment as Qataris, not their privileges of course; they have those where they came from.

Third, would be Europeans, Canadian and other Foreigners who basically have blonde hair and blue eyes and don’t speak Arabic. They do whatever they like, but they get a firm treatment if they break a law. The “weaker” your country is, the less “Class” you are. All European countries are not the same of course.

Fourth, would be Arabs with high or medium level jobs. Managers and other similar jobs, they have contacts, they usually earn respect of others. The authorities treat them with respect, so do the residents.

Asians would be fifth. Where ever from Asia, doesn’t matter much, they get treated badly. Especially Indians, Nepalese, Philippines, Pakistan and its neighbors. They are always wrong to authorities, and they are the easiest to deport. Their countries never step in, so they don’t mind mistreat them here.

Last, like most places but a bit to an extreme, are workers. No matter where they are from, labors get treated like slaves here. It’s the issue of the decade in Qatar, till 2022 World cup it will stay the main issue for human rights organizations.

The sponsorship allows their companies to make them work whenever they want, and the workers don’t report it, and sometimes they do, but it gets ignored.

Two things matter in “Classing” or actually discriminating citizens, how weak your country is, mostly economically and politically; if they never took a stand for their people, then you are on the bottom of the ladder. And if Qatar has problems with your country, they close visas or let those people go, in a political statement.

Then later comes money, your economical level. For example, A mid-level American wouldn’t get treated the same as a Soldier or a manager.

It’s sad that this country is like this, and I can tell you, it was worse, a lot of people, especially Qataris changed, and got less prejudice.  The country is trying to get better, but as long as the country uses the sponsorship model, many people will abuse the power in their hands, and this act will never go away.