Despite the increased focus on the Arab world that we have been witnessing over the past decade and a greater awareness in the West of the need to open a dialogue with the region, many stereotypes still prevail in Western discourse. The Arab world or entire Middle Eastern region is still in many ways seen as a static entity, hardly differentiated and frozen in time as opposed to the dynamic societies of the West. In this respect, not much has changed since Edward Said's groundbreaking work "Orientalism".
However, this attitude fails to see important changes that have taken place in the recent past in the region. It has often been said that the Arab world is on the threshhold between tradition and modernity and where this image is in itself another example of the Western tendency to simplify this part of the world and therefore to be avoided, certain aspects of a perceived clash between forces of progress and conservation are being vigorously discussed in many countries of the region. Like in all other regions of the world, globalization presents itself as a major challenge and forces societies to rethink their structures. Should the Middle East follow global trends, such as the tendency towards greater digitalization and individualization or should it turn itself towards its own cultural, religious and ethnic roots and remain loyal to its traditions, however these are defined? These are questions that are very present in the mind of the public and every citizen has a feeling of obligation to redefine him- or herself.
Individuals often find themselves facing society alone and unfit to fight the pressures placed on him/her or meet the expectations of society. This is a particularly dramatic situation for young people, trapped between the attractions of our time with its glittering consumer culture and personal freedom and the traditions of their parents with its tight social bonds and clear cut roles. How does the individual negotiate the boundaries of society and reclaim a place in it? And how does the individual deal with larger issues such as war, occupation and violence that have a large impact on the lives of human beings and are potentially life-threatening?
The short films and videos of this program all deal with issues of individuality, in a variety of approaches. Some works make use of a subtle irony and humour when dealing with personal endeavors to find a place in the world, others use the same principles to address far heavier issues like war and occupation. What connects them is their commitment and sincerity. They all bear witness to the ongoing debates in Arab societies, debates that are largely disregarded by the West.