USA, QATAR / 2006 / English, Arabic / Color / Video / 10 min
Director, Script, Photography, Producer: Sally Van Gorder
Editing: Sally Van Gorder, Joe Wilson
Sound: Sally Van Gorder, Willie Elias, Joe Wilson, Aaron Keane
Music: Lubna Al-Essa
Source: Sally Van Gorder
In the massive “Education City” that is still expanding on the outskirts of Doha, there is a cluster of Qatar branch campuses of myriad famous universities, from the US and elsewhere. Direct desert sunlight blinds the viewer as it reflects off the steel beams of the Western-style buildings that are being built in succession. Particles of spoken words that overlap with water, wind, and shadows waver and are blown away by the hot winds. The director connects the rapid pace of the changes to how it feels to actually be there, by driving, as it were, the scattershot English statements of fifteen female students in the academic city. Birds fly away from here to elsewhere, as if to symbolize the murmur of the suburbanized, Western-style city of Qatar.
[Director’s Statement] I moved to Doha, Qatar, in the fall of 2002 to begin teaching at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. During my first year there, women received the right to vote and were permitted to run for office, the country approved its first constitution, a woman was elected to the Municipal Council, and stunned Qataris witnessed Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned deliver a public speech unveiled in front of newspaper photographers and television crews. A population of (at that time) 650,000 was increasing by 40,000 each year. The original neighborhoods of Doha were being torn down in a mad quest to replace an adobe past with a steel-and-glass future.
Though at the time much of Qatari society felt impenetrable and social norms unfathomable, I also identified with much of what I saw. My students—all Muslim women—were navigating and negotiating their way through an environment of shifting and often-contradictory expectations that I think must strike a chord with women everywhere. My own history of growing up in a conservative, Christian religious tradition and a military family that valued reputation and honor above all seemed somehow analogous to life in Doha.
Sift is an effort to provide a view into the lives of fifteen young Arabian-Gulf women and the remarkable development of their identities, as well as to document a place and the remarkable development of its identity. The challenges of filming in Qatar, which range from cultural to environmental, have shaped this film in a way that reveals the complexity of place and the excitement of possibility for these women and their country.
Sally Van Gorder
Sally Van Gorder is a multidisciplinary artist working with video, photography, sound, installation, and printmaking. She connects viewer directly to subject with an approach that reveals an intimate self-dialogue, and techniques that emphasize evidence of the artist’s hand. Her work has been exhibited at the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Duke University Museum of Art, the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, and screened in film festivals such as the Ann Arbor Film Festival, DOXA, and 1 Reel. She has received numerous awards, honors, and grants, and her work has been reviewed in the New Art Examiner and Art Papers. She travels widely and has lived in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Van Gorder recently returned to the US from four years in Doha, Qatar, where she was Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar.