For the first time ever, a Syrian documentary project was pitched at the Amsterdam FORUM and was one of the most successful pitches to boot. Broadcasters queued up to land a deal with Proaction (the Syrian production company) and Final Cut (the Danish co-producer)
DOX met the Syrian producer and director in Copenhagen right after FORUM.
Two months after Proaction went to FORUM to pitch its project – with funding already guaranteed from Jan Vrijman Fund, the Danish Film Institute and the Danish-Arab Media Forum when they arrived – this Syrian production company has now signed contracts with YLE Teema (Finland), SBS (Australia) and TSR (Switzerland) and is in advanced negotiations with the BBC, ARTE and Danish, Canadian and Belgium channels. Many other channels have also shown serious interest.
Women’s Rights and Arab Identity
The project they pitched that aroused everybody’s interest is simply titled “Dolls” and the main character is the Fulla doll, an Arab equivalent to Barbie. The black-eyed, decently dressed Fulla was “born” in 2003 and has already surpassed Barbie in the Arab countries. According to the synopsis, “Fulla is the ideal woman for any wife-seeker: Fulla is the ideal Arab Muslim virgin, a decently covered girl, who was raised to become a respectful, obedient wife, seeking both her family’s and society’s approval.” A Fulla cartoon runs on the pan-Arab cartoon channel SpaceToon and little girls are bombarded with this female ideal (à la Barbie in the West).
Right after FORUM, director Diana El Jeiroudi and producer Orwa Nyrabia travelled to Copenhagen where DOX met with them to talk about their project and documentary filmmaking in Syria.
Diana explains her intentions in making the film: “This doll, Fulla, is so much celebrated, it has huge sales. Parents encourage girls at a very early age to have such a doll. It stands for an identity, an Arab Muslim identity and the doll is promoted according to this identity. They are commercialising a female identity associated to Islam. I am using Fulla as a metaphor or vehicle to tell the story of all women in Syria who are fighting for their identity, but do not have the right tools. It is not really about Fulla, but about women and young girls. They are attacked by the marketing and the values, the social bonds. There is the family, society and religion, but the women pay heavily for this.”