Through her work in poetry, Palestinian author Hind Shoufani disputes today’s stigmas that surround the modern Arab woman. Her work in film direction and production portrays to the audience the lives of the Palestinian diaspora, seamlessly addressing a tumultuous past while evoking a vision for a secular and free Palestine. Hind’s work may daunt, overwhelm or even impassion the viewer. Yet, at the end, the viewer is left with the truth.
Hind’s poetry is liberated and delivers an honest portrayal of human emotion. She is not afraid of darkness, violence or ugly truths and attributes this ability to DNA, telling bazaar that her family’s history in Palestinian politics is interwoven in every aspect of her work, “My parents were great storytellers, I grew up in a city where there was nothing to do but read books. I have a penchant for the dramatic, which is not surprising considering the history of our family in Palestine for the past 100 years, and therefore, when it was time to pick a major in college, my mom took one look at me, and said, why don’t you study theater, TV, film and radio? A small gleam lit up in my eye, and I have not looked back since.” Today, Hind currently resides in Dubai and is an established writer and published author, producer, director, translator and an editor.
Upon completing her BA in Radio/TV/Film Communication Arts from the Lebanese American University in 1999, she was awarded with the opportunity to become a FulBright scholar from Jordan to complete a Masters of Fine Arts from New York University in film writing and directing from the Tisch School for the Arts in 2002. Hind further earned a placement as a resident writer at the prestigious International Writing Program at Iowa University in 2011, also regarded as the best writing program in United States. By 2005, she had already written and directed a feature length fiction film, titled Carencia, in New York as well as a few dramatic shorts in the years before.
Her two main poetry publications, More Light Than Death Could Bear and the 300-page body of work, Inkstains on the Edge of Light, reveal her thoughts on Beirut, Dubai, Palestine and her time in the USA, love, loss, identity, lust and feminism. She’s extremely comfortable in a world where images and words reign supreme, even if trying to be a filmmaker can be painful at times.
Hind never received any poetry classes or training and she describes her relationship with poetry as one that is of “pure love and positivity.” She also founded the ‘Poeticians’ collective in 2007, in an effort to bring together a group of multinational writers, readers, listeners and all lovers of the written word to share their works, thoughts, ambitions and fears with small audiences through regularly scheduled events. The format in which the Poeticians is run is extremely elastic in nature, as the group has held events in Beirut and Dubai in a variety of languages. She also became the editor of the first anthology by the Poeticians collective entitled, Nowhere Near a Damn Rainbow, which includes the uncensored works of 31 poets based in the region. Most recently, Hind is working on her third poetry publication, and she recently completed editing Uncommon:Dubai, a new guidebook about the Gulf’s most glamorous city. Rather than delivering the over-stylized and overly hyped, Uncommon:Dubai portrays a more personalized look at the lives of the city’s multicultural inhabitants.
Hind’s most recent film, Trip Along Exodus, addresses the life of her father, Dr. Elias Shoufani, and speaks to a complex definition of the Palestinian resistance. He was a leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, an academic writer and leftist intellectual who worked with Fateh (but was one of the leaders of the opposition to Arafat) for 20 years. In this art house feature-length documentary, Hind aims to reconcile the past with the present, exploring seventy years of politics through the eyes of her late father. Though both of Hind’s parents were Palestinian activists, she barely spent time with her father as a child. Still, she went on to present his personal history since 1948 and up until today, where he had a life in the US, a green card and an opportunity that he swiftly let go of to pursue a dream and create a revolution.
She goes further to question the resistance; sacrifice and what people endured, and continue to experience, to realize a dream amongst an armed struggle for Palestine. She explains, “As our region becomes much more religiously extremist, and jihad wars are being fought, I think it’s important to show how secular people also have a place in the struggle, and are no less patriotic and committed to their cause, and how religious politics will not help us.” At the same time, the notion of revolution is revived, as Hind depicts that no matter how extraordinary the Arab Spring might appear, the generations that preceded and overlap with ours lived and breathed for freedom. She adds, “I think it is very important to remind people here of the revolutionary spirit of our people. How we should not totally lose hope for our future. How, if an old man of 80 was still working on educating the masses and leaving behind a legacy to free Palestine, then we should also be working toward the betterment of the region.”
Narrated by Hind in the English language, Trip Along Exodus is an Arabic film that illustrates how her father’s personal life was severely intertwined with politics. She depicts her courageous American mother, an activist at heart and an advocate of education in support of her husband’s cause, only to have both of their illusions of a secular, free Palestine shattered, and subsequently died at a young age in 1998. At the same time, the film is a private reflection that analyzes Hind’s earlier years as being brought up as more American than Arab, but more Palestinian that anything. She shows us how refugees, no matter where they hail from, are effectively the product of their parents, and not any society they might have grown up in. She portrays herself, the little girl that wishes to know her father, through the film’s production by weaving in color and kitsch to tell sad stories in an almost playful presentation. The glitzy poet presents the film in a series of chapters in a book, where each conveys a different tonality, era and style, attributing this decision to her father, the writer.
As with all of Hind’s projects, Trip Along Exodus is essentially multi-layered and overflown with both the harsh and gentle realities of life. She doesn’t seek sympathy, yet gains empathy from those who perceive her emotionally charged work. Trip Along Exodus is due to be completed this May.
For more information about Hind Shoufani, please visit www.hindshoufani.com . You can check out the Poeticians collective by visiting www.poeticians.com . ‘Trip Along Exodus’ DVD artwork by Zena ElKhalil. Hind Shoufani’s photos by Karen Kalou.