Yemen’s film industry is experiencing a revival with Ten Days Before the Wedding, a locally produced film proving to be a hit with audiences and critics alike.
The film, which tells the story of a young couple whose marriage plans were nearly derailed by the Yemen war, premiered in the southern city of Aden earlier this month.
With a 9.8 rating on IMDB, the film follows the romantic relationship between Rasha and Mamoun and how their wedding was put on hold when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates entered Yemen’s war in March 2015 after Houthi rebels, traditionally based in the northwest of the country, overran much of the country.
The film branches out to cover broader issues in the country, including poverty, assassinations and the effects of the war.
“We wanted a movie to show what’s going on inside the homes of this city and the country as a whole and how families have been affected by the state of the economy, how the hopes of young people have collapsed,” Amr Gamal, the film’s director, told Al Jazeera.
“We tried to portray the mental state of the Yemeni people.”
‘This is a milestone’
The film has struck a chord with Yemenis in Aden, who have packed a makeshift cinema for each of the film’s screenings since last month’s Eid al-Adha festival.
“I heard this is a beautiful movie so I came with the family to watch it,” said Mohammed Adnan.
“Having a movie made in Aden is more than just entertainment. There is a sense of pride here about the production.”
Cast and shot entirely in the coastal city, the film had a reported production budget of around $30,000.
However, without a theatre in which to premier – local cinemas had shut down due to budget cuts or damage – there were fears the film would not have an audience.
“When you compare Yemen to the rest of the Arab world, we’re maybe more than 100 years behind on producing movies,” said Najib Siddiq, a cinemagoer.
“But this is a milestone and I hope the government and the private sector will continue to support such projects that create a cinematic awareness.”
Yemen once boasted a vibrant cinematic culture, having gone through many phases since the early 1900s.
In 1910, moviegoers flocked to mobile cinema shows in Aden. Later, Bollywood, as well as Arab and Western films were widely shown in more than 40 theatres across the city.
But since the 1990s, Yemen gradually lost its theatres and cinemas to negligence, poverty and war.
In recent years, a young group of filmmakers have refused to give up, releasing a handful of movies.
‘Karama Has No Walls’, an Oscar-nominated documentary produced by Sara Ishaq, was released in 2012 and told the tale of unarmed protesters who hit the streets of Sanaa during the Arab Spring.
Yemeni filmmaker Khadija al-Salami also made headlines with her 2014 film ‘I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced’.
The film told the real-life story of Nojood Ali, a 10-year-old child bride who rebelled against her father’s decision to marry her off.
The young girl walked herself to court, demanded a lawyer and became the first Yemeni child to be granted a divorce. The film garnered international recognition for Salami, herself a former child bride.