The introduction to the book identifies the female pioneers of documentary in the Arab area. It paints the historical context in which these women have been making documentaries, looking across borders within the Arab World and across transnational regions, within the form, in the seventies and eighties, nineties and two thousands. The theoretical approach is rooted in feminist film studies and Third Cinema theory. Using Ella Shohat’s writings on women making films in a post-Third Worldist and feminist reality, the chapter specifies those aspects of Third Cinema that have been neglected. Painting a socio-political and historical context for the films under discussion, it looks at the cultural history of documentary as well as thematic and stylistic tendencies in the Arab world. From an examination of Third Cinema and its focus on documentary the chapter moves on to New Arab Cinema (or ‘Cinema Chabab’) and its attitude towards melodrama and realism. This ‘new’ approach to the transnational documentary includes a clearer, perhaps more practical look at developing ideas of production, distribution and spectatorship.
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