Jordanian film maker Nadia Eliewat has dismissed the idea of writing “films for women” in conversation at the CineMAS Film Festival in Abu Dhabi, and insisted that women should just get on with making films, rather than eliciting praise for their strong female roles.
Speaking on a panel on Women in Film, the co-writer and producer of Sophie Boutros’ Hamburg Film Festival nominated and Lebanese Film Award-winning Solitaire, which had a successful cinema run in the Middle East in 2017, tackled the subject of writing films with strong female leads: “It happens naturally. I just write about the things I care about,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman. I think it is, because as a woman I understand characters that are women. And now I’m a mother I understand characters that are mothers. Before, it was complicated for me to write mothers. I thought I understood them, but now I know I didn’t.”
Eliewat admitted that her philosophy has its downside too – she sometimes struggles with her male characters: “For the same reason I find it hard to write male characters and find myself hating the character after I’ve written it because, I don’t know, he’s very shallow,” she admits. “I can’t read them. I have to double or even triple my efforts when I write a male character to try and bring a three-dimensional character to the page, but I think that’s normal.”
Eliewat insisted that when she writes a film with a strong female lead such as Solitaire, the creation of the female characters is very much a subconscious affair: “I’ve never thought ‘I want to make a film to empower women,’ I just write about what I know,” she said. “I think for films that men make too that maybe don’t pass the [gender balance] test, I don’t think they go out to make a film that demeans women. It’s just a story that they want to tell. So we should stop saying ‘bravo, well done - you made a film and you’re a woman, and just get on. We still have a very long way to go.”