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Lana Asfour

Reporting the under-reported

Carol Mansour says her gender has helped her craft

Date of publication: 8 March, 2015

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International Women's Day: Carol Mansour's documentaries bring to light the worlds of ordinary people with sympathy and understanding.
Carol Mansour has built up a reputation in Lebanon and further afield for her documentary films about topical issues, particularly those that concern women.


As a filmmaker and founder of her own production company, she has brought to international attention subjects that are under-reported by mainstream media.

Her films are often built around extended interviews that allow the audience to get to know the people she encounters and their worlds with sympathy and understanding.

     


She does not think that being a woman has presented her with any obstacles. "I find that as a female I have an easier time communication with both men and women, they seem to open up to me quite easily," she told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"I believe that people are ready to talk and share when they feel that the person in front of them is really listening to them and not merely conducting an interview," she said.

Her 2013 documentary Not Who We Are, is a moving portrait of five female Syrian refugees. From all walks of life, they fled the Syrian war and moved to Lebanon, where they face difficulties of survival as well as discrimination. They women talk about how they cope and the sometimes heart-wrenching decisions they have had to make.

Her more recent film, We Cannot Go There Now, My Dear, which premiered in Beirut in October 2014, seems to have grown naturally out of Not Who We Are. It focuses on Palestinians living in Syria who had to flee their homes during the war along with Syrians.

With Palestinian areas, such as the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, subjected to the government's bombardment, the people there have become refugees again. The title refers to a line from WH Auden's poem Refugee Blues, which laments the plight of Jewish refugees during World War II.


Mansour's film focuses on what it means to be a Palestinian refugee twice over, both in relation to legal issues and human rights, and in terms of social discrimination.

She has also taken on subjects that many in Lebanon have preferred to overlook.

Maid in Lebanon (2011) explores the world of female migrant domestic workers. Many have been subjected to all kinds of abuses in what can only be described as modern slavery - from not being paid for extended periods, to being kept in the house against their will, beaten and abused.

See our full coverage of International Women's Day here



Another film that tackles an issue affecting women is Koulouna Lil Watan, meaning "all of us for the nation", which is the first line of the Lebanese national anthem. It explores Lebanon's nationality law, which does not allow women to pass their nationality to their husband and children, by focusing on the intimate stories of five families and how they are affected by this law.

Mansour told al-Araby al-Jadeed that she "stumbled" into filmmaking, and "with time started discovering that film was the right medium for me to express ideas and feelings".

As someone who wants to take on pressing current issues, she finds that documentary film offers her a "great platform to present ideas and to challenge ideas on a wide scale", and the chance "to influence the views and opinions of people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds".

"That in itself is very rewarding," she added.


Not Who We Are - trailer from Forward Film Production on Vimeo.




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