In the past, filmmakers needed heavy cameras, expensive film stock and huge budgets for editing, production and distribution. If your name is Spielberg, the aforementioned description still applies to you. But for aspiring filmmakers, changes in video and computer technology are making it possible to experiment with making movies without having Hollywood budgets (or without a budget at all in some cases).
Small, handheld video cameras, cheap PCs that are powerful enough to handle digital video and affordable software for video and sound editing are opening up the film medium to the masses.
Even famous Hollywood directors are experimenting with low cost video technologies for movies that are shown on the silver screen. This is both blurring the line between film (shot an actual Celluloid stock) and video (stored magnetically or digitally on tape) and generating a huge discussion about film/video-making and the future of the field.
In Jordan, filmmaking has always been a marginal activity at best. Early attempts to make films in Jordan in the fifties (with films like “A Struggle in Jerash”) did not flourish into a real industry. Some Jordanian filmmakers went on to film careers outside Jordan and with the advent of TV, the video production industry started to develop, but never really broke out of the local and Arab markets for drama series and some documentaries.
All of this is not a pretty picture. So someone thought that this should change and decided to do something about. This is how the Amman Filmmaking Cooperative was born www.alif.com/afc . The founder, Hazim Bitar is the energy behind the Cooperative which describes itself as an informal social gathering of like-minded people. It is not a professional organization and it’s reason for existence is to promote and encourage local filmmaking talent through peer support, discussions, and experimentations.
Hazim Bitar, who currently works with UNICEF as a documentarian, has recently moved to Amman from Washington D.C. and brings with him the enthusiasm of the independent filmmaker culture in the US. His film credits include the documentary Uncivil Liberties: Secret Trials in America , as well as Jerusalem’s High Cost of Living
Two weeks ago the cooperative held it’s first introductory filmmaking workshop at Books@Café . The participation of around 15 people, all of whom got to know about the workshop through email, surpassed the expectation of the organizers. Students where introduced to digital filmmaking from a technical, aesthetic and organizational perspective.
The workshop has emboldened the organizers who are now pushing an ambitious plan that includes film festivals and workshops.
Riding the wave of the technological revolution that is transforming Filmmaking in the world might open a window of opportunity for aspiring Jordanian filmmakers to experiment and create films that could attract a local and, eventually, an international following. The internet is also changing the rules of film distribution and promotion, enabling filmmakers to reach potential buyers more easily.
For all we know, this moment of newfound enthusiasm for filmmaking coupled with digital technology might signal the re-birth of film in Jordan.