Meeting with Khadija al-Salami
On May 10, AAPA members were treated to a viewing of Yememi filmmaker Khadija al-Salami’s “Amina,” followed by a thoughtful discussion about the current situation in Yemen and the Middle East. The event was hosted by AAPA President John Keating at his apartment.
Ms. al-Salami, who lives in Paris, is considered to be the first female filmmaker & producer in Yemen. Originally married off at age 11, she escaped immense family and society pressure by finding employment with the local television station and simultaneously attending school in the mornings. At age 16, she made her way to the United States and never looked back, producing documentaries in France and Yemen and becoming press and cultural counsellor and director of the Yemeni Information Centre at the Embassy of Yemen in Paris. Former French President Jacques Chirac awarded her the Legion d’Honneur for her work in building bridges between France and Yemen.
Al-Salami’s films tend to focus on the role of women in Yemeni society, as well as corruption. “Amina” opens on death row in a Yemeni female prison. The cells are filled not only by inmates but also by their small children who live with them. Amina has been accused of killing her husband. She had escaped and been recaptured before. She becomes pregnant after her second escape, avoiding the hangman’s noose.
Her execution is put off until such time as her child can no longer breast feed. Her family rejects her because of the stigma of having a child out of marriage. She and her fellow inmates form indelible bonds — not only with each other, but with their female guards. “It’s sometimes difficult to tell the inmates from the guards,” al-Salami remarks in the film’s commentary. Al-Salami has a particular talent for coming out from behind the camera. In the case of Amina, she bravely brought the case to the attention of former Yemeni President Saleh, insisting that he pardon Amina. He eventually did, and al-Salami took it upon herself to informally adopt Amina and her child and set them up in an apartment. al-Salami still supports Amina to this day
-By Dan Morrison