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by Helin Çelik

grade: 8

Details of hands that write or draw eyebrows on the faces of little girls, but also tired eyes, gazes staring into space and thinking faces that try to process wounds from the past become the absolute protagonists in Anqa. At the Berlinale 2023.

Invisible stories

Violence against women is a sadly topical issue. It is often talked about nowadays. Yet, few are aware of the fact that, in certain contexts, it is precisely women who have suffered acts of violence at the hands of their husbands, fathers or brothers who are imprisoned “for logistical reasons”, that is, because it is much easier to arrest one woman, in order to protect her, than ten men. But how do these women live? What are the shocks they have to try to overcome every day? Young director Helin Çelik told the story of three women living in Jordan in her documentary Anqa, which premiered at the Berlinale 2023 in the Forum section.

Anqa, therefore, sheds light on an issue that is hardly ever spoken about. An extremely urgent issue, which absolutely cannot go unnoticed. The lives of the three women are almost non-lives, forced to spend their days exclusively inside their homes, since leaving the house would be too risky for them.

Their names are never told, yet from the first minutes we immediately feel close to each of them. A woman lives at home with her four children. She is a loving mother, but, in the past, has even thought of killing her children in order to protect them from all the suffering that life might have in store for them. Another woman, on the other hand, is used to listening to films on television. She cannot see the images, as she was made blind by her husband some time ago. In this respect, the film The Nightingale’s Prayer (Henry Barakat, 1958), from which we hear a few lines, the first important film dealing with violence against women, is particularly significant. Finally, the third woman is practically always invisible before the camera. Yet, her personal story makes her inextricably bound to the other protagonists.

In Anqa, each of them has the opportunity to recount their past, to confide, to process what has happened, to make important considerations regarding the society in which we live. Wide open spaces at the opening of the feature film convey a strong sense of agoraphobia, suggesting a “threatening” and insidious world and contrasting strongly with the warm colours of the protagonists’ homes. Particularly interesting in this respect is the handling of the spaces. Of the three women’s houses we see, in fact, only details. The camera (masterfully handled by Raquel Fernández Núñez) never moves away from them and, in this way, gives us the idea of how small the environments in which they live really are, almost as if they were even the same environment.

Details of hands that write or draw eyebrows on children’s faces, but also tired eyes, gazes staring into space and thoughtful faces trying to process wounds from the past become the absolute protagonists in Anqa. An extremely intimate and mature directorial approach makes each of the protagonists incredibly vibrant, able to find the necessary strength to go on, to be “reborn”, just like Anqa, the Phoenix of Arab mythology. Despite the fact that many consider her almost as “what remains of a woman”. The story of the three protagonists is also the story of thousands of other women now forgotten by the world. Anqa has given a voice to each of them and, besides being an extremely necessary film, it also stands out for its very high artistic quality. Helin Çelik is a filmmaker of great talent and sensitivity. And who knows what else she will have in store for us in the future.

Original title: Anqa
Directed by: Helin Çelik
Country/year: Austria, Spain / 2023
Running time: 91’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Helin Çelik
Cinematography: Raquel Fernández Núñez
Produced by: Kepler Mission Films, Helin Çelik

Info: the page of Anqa on the website of the Berlinale; the page of Anqa on iMDb