Asma Bseiso: Aisha

Thank you for letting me be in the company of Aisha for 70 minutes. You invited me to get to learn a young girl and woman full of Life living in a country I know very little about, Jordan. And yet, could it not have been everywhere that an abandoned child, who has spent 18 years of her young life in orphanages and foster homes, have to fight to find herself, love and a place to be in society?

It starts with a conversation between Aisha and Asma, the one behind the camera, the director. In a desert, at a place where there is nothing to disturb, where Aisha has the time to reflect on her life and on how she changes personality according to situations and people, she meets. And where she out of own experience claims that few people are able to ”think outside the box”. That is what she says and says in English language. This location for intimate conversation comes back later in the film and closes an amazing and fascinating story about Aisha, filmed over many years. (The still photo is taken there). It is very impressive how the film goes to the level where the social problems – harsh – stay in the background to let the personal stand out and become universal.

It is sometimes a bit confusing that Asma Bseiso cuts from one year to the next and back again, but getting used to this ”rule of the

game”, you simply enjoy to watch the changing hairstyle of the star of the film! Yes, Aisha is a film star, the camera loves her face and her smiles, and the older she gets, the more she knows how to act in front of the camera. Like when she is suggesting Asma behind the camera to get her notebook, after having shown pictures of herself, in which she writes ”you have to watch out for yourself and dream about your future”. And – as said on another occasion – turn the negative into something positive.

In 1997 King Hussein and the Queen visited an orphanage that was far beyond any decency. The King decided to move the kids to a wing of his Palace, where Aisha had a good life until she was taken to an orphanage in horrible condition – Asma Bseiso filmed there without permission. When she was 17 she got married, but that did not last long as the (English)man was already married! At a certain point Aisha is asked how many places she has been living. 12 she says, without counting the places where ”I was for some days”. The camera visits her when she lives with Noura and another girl, whose face is blurred, and in another appartment where her birthday is celebrated. There are several uplifting girlish scenes, as there are scenes where she can not hold back the tears, a girl who knows her parents, who are well of but abandoned her.

Aisha goes to university, studies psychology, gets a job at Save the Children Jordan, changes her looks into having tattoos and being pierced, constantly searching for ”who am I”, ”rebel for freedom” is the text of one of the tattoos and indeed she could be a role model for young Arab women with a tough background.

I asked Asma Beseiso about the title, the name – she answered that ”Aisha means “alive”, the title in Arabic “lissa aisha” means literally Still Alive..” As is the film “very much alive”, quite an achievement from the side of the director, who I met on Corfu in 2011 in one of the Storydoc workshops. The film will have its premiere in March in Jordan and from there go to festivals.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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