Fati Walet Mohamed Issa is a documentary filmmaker in Timbuktu. In the distant northern region, female filmmakers are a rarity.
The 24-year-old just shot a 10-minute film titled “Tamadjrezt” or “Regret” in the Tamasheq language of her Tuareg ethnic group.
The film follows Fatma, a 15-year-old girl whose family fled to neighbouring Mauritania to escape the conflict in northern Mali but later returned. The adolescent attended a straw-bale school destroyed by the Malian rainy season. Her father, despite her wishes, refused to let her pursue her education.
According to Issa, “the film is a manifesto for the filmmaker as much as a work of art: In our society, everything concerning women is an issue since the community overly regulates them. I made this film in the hopes of having an impact on our community, of changing people’s minds towards young girls and their access to education. I’m also hoping to get in touch with the government and the authorities. It is, in fact, a matter of raising awareness, and I do it as a type of advocacy.”
During the screening, scores of members of the local community sat in rapt attention. The film, which puts awareness on the condition of women in the conflict-torn Sahel region and has the potential to influence minds, was discovered by both girls and boys. “Cinema is a fantastic vehicle for increasing awareness about the issues that are the major challenges facing Mali today, particularly in Timbuktu and the region,” says Abel Kavanagh, a Timbuktu Minusma spokesperson.
The 24-year-old applied and was chosen by Accountability Lab, an American NGO, to develop a short film highlighting women’s issues, which resulted in “Tamadjrezt.” The NGO also commissioned nine other films, all of which dealt with taboo subjects like prostitution or domestic violence.
“According to Zeina Mohamed Ali, an Accountability Lab delegate, the initiative primarily consists of training ten young women from diverse regions of Mali and covers a wide range of themes. Themes that deal with issues that communities in Mali face regularly. The idea behind the programs is to give women a voice and allow them to express themselves.”