JASAD AND THE QUEEN OF CONTRADICTIONS is a short documentary about Lebanese poet and writer Joumana Haddad who has stirred controversy in the Middle East for having founded “Jasad” (the Body), an erotic quarterly Arabic-language magazine. Dedicated to the body’s art, science and literature, “Jasad” is one of the first of its kind in the Arab world. It is sold in many bookshops in Lebanon and has an active subscription service to other Arab countries where the magazine has been banned including Saudi Arabia. It has caused a big debate in the Arabic region not only for its explicit images, erotic articles and essays on sex in Arabic but also for the fact that an Arab woman is behind it all.
Being brought up in a conservative Christian family in Lebanon, Joumana wanted to break some of the taboos the human body is associated with which is one of the reasons for founding and being the editor in chief of “Jasad”. She was “fed up with the hypocrisy” in the Arab world, especially in a place like Beirut, which she nicknames “the Queen of Contradictions”. Despite Beirut’s external appearance of freedom portrayed through its infamous nightlife and women’s stylish and often revealing fashion sense,
virginity is still a deep taboo.
We get to meet the passionate woman behind this controversial magazine at her Beirut home office and hear the reasons behind coming up with such a project. We also get to hear and the obstacles and challenges she faced as editor in chief. She works from home and has no team. One year on she still finds it challenging to find advertisers, as many think the magazine is too “bold”, she regularly receives death and rape threats and apart from Lebanon; her magazine is still banned in every Arab country. We also get to meet some of the contributors of the magazine like Nenar Esber,one of the rare Arab female artists who uses her body in her artwork; and whose art was used as the first ever cover of “Jasad” magazine.
The documentary also uses “Jasad” as a mean to tackle the subject of sexuality in Lebanon. It gives us an insight on the rare use of the Arabic language to discuss sex and erotica. We also get to hear the different views regarding the magazine and sexuality by
meeting students, a feminist group, the head of a women’s rights organization, a sexual health educator and Doctor who performs hymen reconstruction surgeries. We also get to hear some of the shocking revelations by some of the attendees at a “Jasad” event, hosted by Joumana when the issue of Virginity is discussed. Despite the debates, the threats and the lack of funds, one passionate woman shows no signs of slowing her small steps toward a “sexual revolution” int he Arab world.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR:
Amanda Homsi-Ottosson is a Lebanese producer currently based in London. She was brought up in neighboring Syria during the civil war period in Lebanon. Amanda went back to her native Lebanon to pursue her university studies at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, and graduated with a BA in Communication Arts with an emphasis on Radio, TV, and Film. Since, she has worked in TV Production in both Lebanon and the UK, on topics usually involving the Middle East. Credits include the BBC2, BBC3, Dubai TV and the Travel Channel. Currently based in the UK, she founded her company, Black Unicorn Productions, in 2009 in order to make documentaries on topics that she is passionate about.