“I carried a sonogram of the child I miscarried, the wedding ring my mother gave me and a few polaroids of me, my husband and Ghazal & Zina – our little cats. I was burdened by a story and in order for me to heal, I knew I had to tell it.”
She was not able to pursue her dream of becoming a filmmaker in her homeland as a decent life meant going in to medicine or engineering, and everything else was just a waste of time. She has indeed settled for medical school, leaving her passion for media and journalism aside if only for a short while. In 2011, she along with her friends started a production company where they learnt by practical applications rather than theory; as there was not a single educational facility from which they can learn. Their first production was We are the Peace, a short film that gained immediate recognition and won 5th place in the first Yemeni Film Festival in Sana’a, 2012. Later in 2014, and after preparing Yemen’s Chalkboard Animation titled Wishes for the New Year, Mariam was contacted from Qatar to mimic something similar for Qatar’s Chalkboard Animation which later materialized in Let it be Your Year. The war then erupted; she got married in a small ceremony under the bullets and left for Qatar to start over with a new person and an old dream: to join the world of Media and Journalism. Mariam AlDhobahani – the 30 year old who has confronted trauma, loss and finally resurrection is a live example of the Yemeni pride rising right from under the rubble.
During her bachelor journey in Journalism and Strategic Communication, Mariam joined a workshop hosted by the Doha Film Institute in 2018. The workshop was run by Rithy Panh, an Oscar nominated documentary filmmaker. Through this workshop Mariam decided to narrate her own personal story, the story of being in a war zone, fleeing it, yet carrying its burdens in her heart.
“I haven’t healed and I wanted to deal with it through this documentary. I wanted to process my own pain through storytelling.”
And this was how Just Another Memory came to life. The film is a story about Maryam and her husband, Mohammed AlJaberi. The narration revolves around two individuals who, over a night, found themselves in a war-torn country and had to deal with the trauma package a war usually offers. Luckily, the couple have gotten a chance to leave, carrying however; the residue of the war with them, and having to deal with its physical and psychological effects even after leaving its geographical area. The film basically tackles the theme of healing, where Mariam and her husband try to overcome the pain of leaving their families back home, having their homeland on newsflashes around the clock and of Mariam’s unfortunate miscarriage. The film highlighted open conversations about loss and trauma, confrontation and moving forward. The produced documentary was more to the French European genre element where image and silence speaks for itself and the output is entirely poetic.
Just Another Memory premiered in Ajyal Film Festival in Doha and was awarded the Best Documentary Award in 2018.
“It was that moment after the film, when everyone stood up, clapped through their tears and hugged me and my husband that I knew how important it was to share pain in order to realize that you are never alone.”
Aside from Just Another Memory, Mariam managed to film two other documentaries back in her homeland, Samsarat AlNohas – a 360 short documentary highlighting Copper brokers and Silversmiths in the old city of Sana’a and Fi AlMontasaf (In the Middle) – a narration of a young soldier called Ali. Through the three projects Mariam attempted different styles, yet through them all, she succeeded in manifesting all that she has learnt and her touch was remarkably dominant.
After years, Mariam finally succeeded in pursuing her dream as a filmmaker. She is almost done with her Master’s Degree in Museum and Gallery Practice at UCL Qatar, and is currently enrolled in another workshop where she is working on her new documentary. She hopes to be able to show Arabs and the world at large the other side of Yemen and help them relate to us Yemenis as more than just that violent illiterate nation that did nothing good to deserve anything good. She aspires to bring something different than the stereotypical news cycle about Yemen that is defined currently by the war and by the poster child of poverty long before that. Her ultimate goal is to get to contribute to something that is acknowledged as the Yemeni Cinema and give it weight both locally and internationally.
“I believe that if us Yemenis were given the chance and the tools to tell stories we will do and thus we will project a better future. We lack the resources for now, but we can use what little we have and we will.”
Watch Mariam’s briefing on Just Another Memory.