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Filming despite the odds in Yemen

  • The Comra workshop in Yemen

Workshop participants at Comra

July 2015

Even with power cuts and the threat of war, the British Council and SupportYemen partnered on a documentary filmmaking workshop, Comra, in Sana'a in July.

Twelve aspiring Yemeni filmmakers and photographers aged 18 and above were selected to participate in the two-week immersive workshop to develop their understanding of documentary filmmaking and photo essays that reflect human stories from Yemen, with an emphasis on the power and importance of art in bridging gaps and promoting peace in a time of war & conflict.

The project name ‘Comra’ (which in Arabic means ‘photographic dark room’) was inspired from the current situation in Yemen which in its present state resembles a dark room.

The camp was designed to professionalise and guide young Yemeni filmmakers and photographers through the types and different stages of documentary filmmaking and photo essays. The tutors were Sara Ishaq, a British-Yemeni documentary filmmaker, and Abdulrahman Hussain; along with a team of professional Yemeni professional filmmakers/art activists from SupportYemen.

During the 14 days the team and participants showed commitment and resilience by coming every day to an undisclosed location and spending up to 14 hours a day discussing various issues related to documentary filmmaking.

The camp included sessions about the role of arts in conflict areas, safekeeping, building a film crew, pre-production, production and post-production of documentary filmmaking/photoessays, screenings and Skype discussions with other filmmakers, photographers and art activists working in conflict zones in the region. Participants also got hands-on experience by working on films and essays around the theme ‘24 Hours of War’.

The participants also learnt basic techniques in safekeeping and how to operate in areas of conflict -- keeping in mind their own and their crew’s safety.

Despite the ongoing war and all the challenges that faced everyone that participated and worked on the project there was a general feeling of excitement that this project was being held.

Working under extreme circumstances that include no fuel and scarcity of basic living necessities, the project was a glimpse of hope to filmmakers and photographers in Sana’a.

You can watch a documentary about the Comra workshop below; the films made by the participants will be available soon online.

Comra | قمرة from SupportYemen on Vimeo.