Kudos to filmmaker Ibtisam Mara’ana!

Ibtisam’s wonderful doc (originally called Lady Kul el Arab & renamed Contestant No. 2) premieres tonight on the PBS series WIDE ANGLE.

 Lady Kul el Arab was my Top Pick in the “Doc” category in last year’s Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema & I’m delighted to learn it’s now available to all!

 Message to Ibtisam: Hooray 🙂

Here’s what I wrote in my October Spotlight for 2008: “…laughter is in short supply in Lady Kul el-Arab, the sobering story of a young Druze beauty named Du’ah Fares. Du’ah is on track to win Palestine’s most prestigious beauty pageant (“Lady of All Arabs”), but realizing her potential, the fashion designer for the Lady pageant convinces her to register for the Miss Israel pageant as well. It all seems so simple, but complications quickly spread from Du’ah’s family to her village, and ultimately to the highest reaches of the Druze community.

In her highly-praised debut film Paradise Lost (2003), documentary filmmaker Ibtisam Mara’ana put her own feelings front and center, but here she stays completely invisible, drawing us into Du’ah’s dilemma with penetrating skill and great empathy. We want to cheer Du’ah on as she fights for her dream, but maybe the religious leaders of the Druze community have a point. By what right do pageant committees insist on the public parade of young women in “swimsuits” that are little more than G-strings?”

Photos of Ibtisam @ the Wilmette Theatre during the 2008 Chgo Festival of Israeli Cinema. 

Top photo from left: Rebecca Gordon of the Israeli Consulate with me & Ibtisam.  (Sorry, but I can’t remember who took this photo…)

Bottom photo: Ibtisam after the lively Q&A. (This photo was definitely taken by me).

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