Interview with Sarah Francis, Filmmaker

Sergi Doladé

Director of the International Association of Independent Producers of the Mediterranean (APIMED)

Young Arab women directors are making their mark with documentaries tackling subjects ranging from personal experiences and feelings to depicting love stories. There is a new generation of Arab filmmakers worthy of praise, constantly striving to perfect their craft and take Arab narratives to global heights. And in that, they have succeeded. Time after time, Arab directors are making history, and they are doing so with apt portrayals of what Middle Eastern and North African societies are really like, defying the cultural stereotypes that for decades were perpetuated by Hollywood. One of our favourite emerging Arab filmmakers to keep an eye on is Sarah Francis, who grew up and studied in Beirut. Since 2005 she has been working as a freelance director for many production companies and has participated in several workshops and labs. Her first feature documentary film Birds of September (2013) premiered in the CPH:DOX Festival main competition and was screened in various international festivals. The film was recognised with several awards in France, South Korea, Ireland and Morocco. Her work also includes short films such as Nawal’s Rituals produced in 2014. In 2020, her second feature film As Above, So Below premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and was very well received internationally. The same year, she reconnected with painting, a practice she had been exploring sporadically and privately over the years.

Sergi Doladé: What was it that made you decide to make films?

Sarah Francis: I was a curious teenager and interested in arts and humanities. Growing up in Beirut in the 80s and 90s, films were a way for me to question the world, I guess, but also to reinvent it. There was something magical about films on a big screen, and the prospect of creating one myself was inspiring. I was fascinated by the idea that I could dive into any mood and subject for a certain time, and explore different mediums: writing with words and with the image, with sound, diving into people’s intimacy. And then I felt I could alternate between working alone and being part of a community. It was all of that really. It was the promise of something spacious and exciting enough to contain all of my enquiries and experiences with the world, like living several lives all at once. It held a sense of possibilities. In retrospect, I guess I demanded and expected a lot from it. It was idealistic, but it was perhaps an act of emancipation, of rebellion, a sort of personal pact with the world.

Read the full article by downloading the PDF.