I make films to get closer to understanding the physical and emotional consequences of the cultural and societal pressures to conform. I’m drawn to characters who carry, for better or worse, a desperate desire to “fit in” - to find their place.
May Ziadé is a French-Lebanese writer, filmmaker based in London and the co-founder of Other People’s Films – a production company that produces and aims to create bridges between moving image work and more conventional cinema with a strong artistic voice. In her work she explores the physical and emotional unfoldings of the cultural and social pressures to conform.
Her latest short film, Neo Nahda, tells the story of a young Arab woman in London who becomes obsessed with archive images of women cross-dressing in the Middle East in the 1920s. It has screened as part of the BFI Flare Film Festival, MIX CPH, MIX Milan, Encounters Film Festival, Safar Film Festival, SET Film Festival, Mezipatra, London Short Film Festival, MIZNA Arab Film Festival, and is continuing its festival journey.
Statement: I want to make films to get closer to understanding the physical and emotional consequences of the cultural and societal pressures to conform. I’m drawn to characters who carry, for better or worse, a desperate desire to “fit in” – to find their place. I’m also drawn to artificial worlds that question the extent through which film and stories can create possibilities for testing our understanding of our experiences – always through a queer diasporic Arab female lens.
I am inspired by the performing arts and the sensibilities that come to life on a stage as well as worlds that weave naturalism and theatrical underpinnings, like those brought to the screens by Elia Suleiman & Miranda July. Finding the my own balance between artifice and naturalism is an active question that occupies my artistic process. For every project this balance varies, & I make decisions collaboratively, by trusting the instinct that my collaborators and I build together. I encourage myself and our crew to question the extent through which artifice can be the key to revealing some of humanity's hidden truths - and to evaluate the tensions that arise when non-fiction & fiction cohabitate.
HD Video / 12:10 min / 2023
00:26 min excerpt
Neo Nahda tells the story of Mona, a young woman in London, finds archived photographs of Arab women cross-dressing in the 1920s. Somewhere between her fantasies and reality, she starts a feverish journey of uncovering lost histories and her own identity.
Through a coming-of-age narrative, the film explores the euphoric relationship those who are marginalised create with images and symbols, and how archive images can be a portal for the world of inner projections, creating meaning and grounding one's identity.