‘Alem and Asrat’ Screening


We are very pleased to invite you to the following.

There will be the screening of “Alem & Asrat” a film by Vanessa Bowles, about domestic workers in Lebanon at Nasawiya Cafe. It starts from the personal experience of the film maker, who like so many others in Lebanon grew up cared for by various maids, Asrat being the current one employed in her family’s household. Most of these women come to the Middle East from countries such as Ethiopia, looking to support their families in their home countries. Once arrived, they have no formal rights or regulated working conditions.

Alem Dechasa’s story is one of a search for opportunity that ended in violent and tragic loss. Her case rose to prominence after an anonymous bystander took a video of Alem being beaten by her agent Ali Mahfouz in front of the Ethiopian embassy in Beirut. The video went viral, causing uproar both in Lebanon and in Beirut. Two days after the video was made public, Alem committed suicide. What drove a mother of two to do this?

The film maker visited Alem and Asrat’s families in Ethiopia to find possible answers, encountering the pressures to succeed in their new lives that these women face, the grief of Alem’s family and a group of activists working on awareness an raising funds to alleviate the suffering of Alem’s bereaved relatives. Back in Beirut, she interviews Alem’s agent, the perpetrator of the violent attack against her, who is unrepentant. Through these encounters, the film shines light on a social injustice that is still accepted unquestioningly by most in the Middle East.


Vanessa Bowles had lived her entire life in Lebanon where she did her Bachelor’s in Audio Visuals at ‘Académie Libanaise des Beaux Arts’ before going to London where she has recently completed her Masters in Screen Documentary at Goldsmiths, University of London.
She has just completed editing a short campaign film which demands the release of Shaker Aamer the last Londoner in Guantanamo; he has now been there for 10 years without charge or trial. Vanessa hopes to pursue a career in film-making where she can interact with different people and tell stories of humanitarian and socio-political importance.

Date: Friday, January 4, 2012 at 7:00pm

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