Friday June 1, 2018
“Can an ad campaign change attitudes towards Sexual Harassment in Egypt?”
The short Egyptian film, The Campaign, by Egyptian-American director Jenny Montasir will be screened on Wednesday, June 6th at the Arab Film Festival organized by the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, MI. The Campaign will be paired with Tunisian feature film Beauty and the Dogs (Aala Kaf Ifrit). Montasir will also participate in a panel following the screenings to discuss sexual harassment and how to support transnational solidarity with movements like Me Too.
The 17-minute documentary, The Campaign, sheds light on the efforts of the anti-harassmentadvocacy HarrassMap, to create a massive ad campaign that brings an anti-harassment message to the masses. In 2010, HarassMap began as an initiative to combat the growing epidemic of sexual harassment in Egypt bydeveloping online and on the ground programs to combat it. When a UN report revealed that 99% of women in Egypt had experienced harassment, HarassMap realized that fighting this crisis required “more creativity.” That led them to create the campaign.
For two years, Montasir carried a handheld camera and intimately followed the organizers of HarassMap on their journey to produce the TV campaign. “HarassMap is a small group of advocates with really limited resources but a lot of will. I was curious to see what they would do when given the rare chance to reach bigger audiences through a TV campaign, and how the public would react to their message,” said Chicago-based filmmaker Jenny Montasir.
From the start, their production was “plagued by creative disagreements, staff changes, financial issues, and the unusual challenges that follow a political revolution.”
Along recording all these challenges, Montasir also filmed them as they brainstormed concepts, collaborated with an ad agency and secured airtime on influential TV networks.
Montasir, a documentary filmmaker and video journalist,was born and raised in the US. She traveled to Egypt for the first time in 2010 to visit her father’s family. At the time, she was working on documentary projects in the US and had been considering working on projects in Egypt. In the wake of the 2011 revolution, she returned back to Egypt. She spent four yearsin Cairo covering women’s rights and social justice issues. Her work has been featured on the BBC, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Huffington Post, Voice of America, Time and The Guardian. Her widely shared documentary short Speak Out: Domestic Violence in Egypt was selected to screen at the 2012 Women Deliver global forum.
In 2013, she learned that HarassMap was preparing to produce a major ad campaign “that would be much larger in scale than anything they had done in the past.” Montasir was curious about the content of the ad and what would happen behind the scenes to produce it. HarassMap agreed to allow her to follow the “making of” their campaign, and that’s what she did for two years until “The Harasser is a Criminal” campaign launched in 2015.
“I wanted The Campaign [the film] to act as a record, and a deeper look into what works and what doesn’t as we try to eradicate a pervasive problem,” said Montasir.
The release of Montasir’s film concurred with the global #MeToo hashtag, that has triggered conversations around the world on the sexual harassment women face in the workplace and in public.
“I was inspired to make this film because while it is fairly well known that sexual harassment is a big issue in Egypt, we rarely hear about the people actively trying to put an end to it. The Campaign is especially important and relevant today because it provides insight into the fight to end sexual harassment, and a deeper look into what works and what doesn’t as we try to eradicate this pervasive problem in Egypt and around the world.”
After they launched their ad campaign, HarassMap had to phase out their community mobilization street teams because of the security situation, but they continue to work with businesses and universities to give trainings and to support them to take action against sexual harassment.
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