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Closing Night: Leila and the Wolves

Director Heiny Srour, Year 1984, Country UK, Lebanon, Duration 90, Format Digital, Audio Arabic spoken, English subtitles,

It took Heiny Srour six years to make Leila and the Wolves, a film that reveals a hidden past of women’s struggle in Palestine and Lebanon in an attempt to rewrite the history of the region from a feminist point of view. As John Akomfrah has written, Leila and the Wolves “weaves a rich tableau of history, folklore, myth and archival material.” The film is structured in a series of sketches, each of which features the same actors. The female protagonist (Nabila Zeitoni) is a modern Lebanese woman living in London, where she is staging a photography exhibition in which women are the unsung heroines and martyrs of political conflict. She time travels through the 1900s to the 1980s, wandering through real and imaginary landscapes of Lebanon and Palestine. In an interview from 2020, the filmmaker says: “Nowadays, Leila and the Wolves is travelling the world again, more relevant than ever; my unconscious and the collective unconscious of the women of the Middle East spoke together throughout the extreme conditions of making this film.”

Born in Beirut in 1945, Heiny Srour studied Sociology at the French University of Beirut and read Social Anthropology at the Sorbonne in Paris. Without training she became a successful script writer, director and producer in documentary and feature films. Since initiating a feminist study group in Lebanon in the early 1960s, Srour has been vocal about the position of women, particularly in Arab societies. She has also written and spoken extensively about the images and roles of women in Arab cinema.

On the occasion of its 40th anniversary, we are honoured to close the 2024 edition of Open City Documentary Festival with a new digital restoration of Leila and the Wolves, co-presented with Cinenova. Cinenova is a volunteer-run organisation preserving and distributing the work of feminist film and video makers. Leila and the Wolves was originally distributed in the UK by Cinema of Women, one of Cinenova’s predecessor organisations.

Leila and the Wolves has been restored by CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée.

In collaboration with Cinenova.
With an introduction by Nadia Yahlom (Sarha Collective).

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