Drama Therapy and Theater Inside a Lebanese Prison in Zeina Daccache’s ‘Scheherazade’s Diary’

The closing night of the 25th annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival is happening this weekend. The festival, which spotlights a broad spectrum of human rights issues through film will end with a story about theater. Scheherazade's Diary by Zeina Daccache documents a 10-month drama thereapy/theater project known as the "Scheherazade in Baabda," a features women inmates at the Baabda Prison in Lebanon. Through this project, participants reveal their stories, ultimately holding a mirror up to female repression and ultimately comtemporary Lebanon. Scheherazade's Diary closes out HRWFF Sunday, June 22 at the IFC Center followed by a discussion with Daccache.

FilmLinc asked the directors included in the upcoming Human Rights Watch Film Festival to give some insight on filmmaking and tackling issue-oriented work prior to the launch of the series.

Scheherazade's Diary
Zeina Daccache, Lebanon, 2013, 80m

Responses by Daccache:

On the use of drama therapy inside prisons:

This is my second documentary set inside a prison. The first one 12 Angry Lebanese: The Documentary was done in 2009 with male inmates. Both films follow prisoners who experienced a long path of drama therapy. I am a drama therapist, and since 2008 through my NGO called Catharsis, I implement drama therapy/theater projects. Prisons in Lebanon are overcrowded and sentencings are so slow. Not much is known about life there because we typically only hear about life there when riots occurr. In 2006, I had the thought that people inside prisons have a lot to say to the outside world, but perhaps riots are the only tool they have—so, why not try theater?

On communicating by means of film:

The kind of documentary I make gives a marginalized population the chance to get their message a lot further than the prison walls. This film can travel whereas they can’t. The plays and films I do hold messages that come straight from these people to society as a whole. Policy makers in Lebanon are invited to the plays we direct inside prison, then to the film premieres. They start seeing the individual inmate as a partner for change, not  simply as "an angry person." I believe that best advocacy comes from the person in question… Filming, theater, etc. are the tools that assist these people to advocate for their rights.

On negotiating with prison authorities:

It took a year and a half to get the clearances from prison authorities back in 2006 to start with the drama-therapy project, and filming inside took another year of negotiations.

On what she hopes to get from audiences:

A genuine smile.

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