DOK Leipzig 29 October – 4 November 2018
61st International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film
DOK Leipzig Film Festival

The Poetess

The Poetess

A pair of eyes watched by millions. In 2010 the Saudi poet Hissa Hilal entered a stage where she could not be overlooked by any stretch of the imagination: the “Million’s Poet” television show, a prime time poetry competition and hit television programme in the Arab region. Her appearance, though, from the facial veil to the floor-length black robe up to the practiced gestures of reticence, complied with all the rules for women and was therefore meant to remove her from all looks. She had gotten her husband’s permission, as prescribed, and made it through the preliminary rounds. Then Hissa Hilal recited the poem in which she spoke out against the blind rage of religious fanatics.

The rest is recent media history. The event, reconstructed by Stefanie Brockhaus and Andreas Wolff in talks, but also from the visual memories of television entertainment, reached Western television stations, was interpreted there and broadcast back: a slightly shifted echo. Hissa “The Poetess” Hilal may be the personal centre of this film and her television appearance its obvious subject, but the visual and interpretative transfers between broadcasters and receivers, even between different cultures of outrage, play a pivotal role in this portrait. The veil may be black, but it shows the true colours behind it.

Sylvia Görke

Nominated for Goethe-Institut Documentary Film Prize


Original Title: The Poetess
Country: Germany
Year: 2017
Language: Arabic
Subtitle: English
Runtime: 89 min.
Format: DCP
Color: Colour
Director: Stefanie Brockhaus, Andreas Wolff
Producer: Andreas Wolff
Cinematographer: Tobias Tempel, Stefanie Brockhaus
Editor: Hansjörg Weißbrich, Anja Pohl
Sound: Christoph von Schönburg, Michael Hinreiner
Music: Sebastian Zenke

The annotations to the films in the Official Selection were written by the members of the selection committee and guest authors. All quotes from DOK Leipzig 2018 catalogue articles must be identified as such and cite the author's name. All articles where no author’s name is given are production notes.