Machtat (still), 2023

Sonia Ben Slama, Machtat (still), 2023. Image courtesy of Les films de l’Altaï


Organised by Istanbul Modern in collaboration with Sharjah Art Foundation, The Tale of Two presents a selection of nine films by female directors exploring conflicting dualities. The event runs from 9 to 19 May 2024 in Istanbul.

The programme is part of the Sharjah Film Platform Montage series and includes films featured in the sixth edition of Sharjah Film Platform, Sharjah Art Foundation’s annual film festival.

Among the films highlighting the blurred lines between reality and fantasy as well as the boundary between personal and public identity, standouts include Tiger Stripes, Malaysia's Oscar nominee; Animalia, a sci-fi film from Morocco; and Joonam, the story of an American filmmaker seeking to uncover her mother's past in Iran.

Speaking about the collaboration between the two institutions, Istanbul Modern Film Curator Müge Turan said: 'In 2021, we introduced films by five female filmmakers from Turkey to audiences in Sharjah. This time, Istanbul Modern Cinema is collaborating with the Sharjah Film Platform to showcase films directed by women spanning from the Middle East to the Americas, which made their mark last year, to Istanbul Modern for audiences to enjoy. The selection, mostly comprising documentaries, focuses on the states of being a woman and the societal and cultural roles of women.’

Hoor Al Qasimi, Director and President of Sharjah Art Foundation, said: ‘It is with great pleasure that we continue our partnership with Istanbul Modern through Sharjah Film Platform Montage, following our initial collaboration in 2021. This curated programme consists of women-led films from Sharjah Film Platform, the Foundation’s annual festival of independent cinema. Like its title, we hope that this selection can offer the audience in Istanbul an inspiring and transformative montage of cinematic practices today.’

The nine films are:
Animalia, 2023
Director: Sofia Alaoui
Languages: Arabic, French and Berber

Itto is a young woman from a modest rural background in Morocco. She is slowly adapting to the privileged codes of her husband’s family, but when supernatural events put the country in a state of emergency, Itto finds herself separated from her husband and new relations. Alone, pregnant and looking for her way back, she finds emancipation.

We No Longer Prefer Mountains, 2023
Director: Inas Halabi
Language: Arabic

We No Longer Prefer Mountains, set in the Druze town of Dalyet el Carmel in northern Palestine, pulls the viewer into a surreal world of geographic isolation and shrouded mysticism. It is a locale shaped by co-optation, coercion and control. Weaving together intimate engagements with members of this community, in both shared domestic spaces and outdoor environments, the film explores how the inner politics of the Druze have been controlled and reshaped as a result of the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Feet in Water, Head on Fire, 2023
Director: Terra Long
Languages: Spanish and English

Along the San Andreas fault line in Southern California, indigenous palm trees and date palms imported from West Asia flourish. The people who tend to them reflect a landscape of frictions and affections formed over generations by agriculture, luxury real estate and border politics. With textural detail created by hand-processing 16mm black and white film with fruits of the date palms, Feet in Water, Head on Fire explores how landscape and community have been shaped by economic and seismic forces.

Joonam, 2023
Director: Sierra Urich
Languages: English and Persian 

Spurred by a provocative family memory and a lifetime of separation from the country her mother left behind, a young filmmaker delves into her mother and grandmother’s complicated pasts, alongside her own fractured Iranian identity. Sierra Urich’s personal film poignantly reflects the experiences of the Iranian diasporic community and speaks to anyone affected by the dislocation that accompanies immigration.

Four Daughters (Les Filles D’olfa), 2023
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
Languages: Arabic, French and English

Between light and darkness stands Olfa, a Tunisian woman, the mother of four daughters. One day, her two older daughters disappear. Kaouther Ben Hania depicts the family’s trauma, inviting professional actresses to fill in the daughters’ absence and invent a unique cinema experience that will lift the veil on their life stories. Four Daughters is an intimate journey of hope, rebellion, violence, transmission and sisterhood that questions the very foundations of our societies.

Machtat, 2023
Director: Sonia Ben Slama
Language: Arabic

Fatma and her daughters, Najeh and Waffeh, work as ‘machtat’, traditional musicians who perform at wedding ceremonies in the Tunisian city of Mahdia. Their music evokes love and its promises, but the reality is much more complex and painful. As the sisters follow opposite paths in life—divorced Najeh wants to remarry to escape the authority of her brothers while Waffeh wishes to divorce her violent husband—Fatma hopes and prays that things will get better one day.

Tiger Stripes, 2023
Director: Amanda Nell Eu
Language: Malay 

In this horror film, twelve-year-old Zaffan, the first amongst her friends to hit puberty, discovers a terrifying secret about her body. Ostracised by her rural Malaysian community, Zaffan fights back, learning that to be free she must embrace the physical changes she feared and emerge as a proud, strong woman.

Babygirl (La Hembrita), 2023
Director: Laura Amelia Guzmán
Language: Spanish 

Dominique, a middle-aged socialite with ‘empty nest syndrome’, unexpectedly finds herself caring for Yanet, her longtime maid's granddaughter. She must decide between giving the girl back or keeping her in the family.

La Bonga, 2023
Directors: Canela Reyes, Sebastian Pinzon
Language: Spanish

In the middle of Colombia’s civil war, the inhabitants of La Bonga flee after a death threat from right-wing paramilitaries. Two decades later, they embark on a symbolic journey, on foot, through the jungles of the Colombian Caribbean to resurrect a home that only exists in their memories. Led by matriarch Maria de los Santos, the erstwhile townspeople and their descendants navigate the wilderness in anticipation of a bittersweet homecoming.

To book your tickets, please visit Istanbul Modern Cinema’s website.