For the last four years the SDC has supported film-makers and films from the countries of the South and the East through the FOCUS programme of Visions du Réel, the Nyon international documentary film festival. The «Visions Sud Est» award, which is given to a promising project, provides the winners with financial support to make their film. As well as screening their projects, the festival provides film-makers with a valuable opportunity to network with industry professionals.
Sabine Sidawi and Jinane Dagher, winners of the 2013 “Visions Sud Est” award (Focus: Lebanon), talk about their film “A Maid for Each” and its sensitive subject matter.
What is your film «A Maid for Each» about?
Sabine Sidawi: Many Lebanese households employ a live-in domestic worker from Africa or Asia. Since the late 1970s, domestic workers have been increasingly traded like a commodity, with workers being denied most of their rights and under the total control of their employers. Our film aims to expose this system of commodification which bears similarities to trafficking, to prompt us, the Lebanese people, to take a good look at ourselves, and to question our contradictions and our behaviour in relation to this market.
Is there much discussion in Lebanon on this issue?
Jinane Dagher: It’s a subject that is talked about from time to time, for example when an NGO launches a campaign or the media covers stories of suicide and abuse. This is followed by a short-lived outpouring of sympathy. While a number of films have already dealt with the situation faced by domestic workers in Lebanon, they did not address the global system which allows these abuses to take place and to go unpunished.
Do you think a documentary like yours can change the situation?
Jinane Dagher: A film can re-ignite a long-dormant debate but it rarely manages to bring about a step change overnight. The questions our film asks concern the vast majority of Lebanese society and could make some kind of difference by opening people’s minds. Having said that, the domestic labour problem in Lebanon also concerns the powerlessness of the legislative system, the police, the Ministry of Labour, consulates etc. The institutions that regulate this form of work turn a blind eye to the abuses.
Your film project was part of the “Focus: Lebanon” programme last year and won the «Visions Sud Est» award. How has this award helped you?
Sabine Sidawi: The prize was a great help, and not only financially. During our time in Nyon, we made new contacts and received feedback on our project from industry professionals. This has been really helpful during the shooting and editing of the film, which recently got under way.