Editor's note: This film is no longer available online
Filmmaker: Sara Ishaq
The daughter of a Yemeni father and Scottish mother, filmmaker Sara Ishaq grew up in Yemen but decided to live with her mother in Scotland when she was 17. Her father only approved under the condition that she would not foresake her Yemeni roots. A promise the made - but struggled to keep.
Ten years later, in 2011, she returned to Yemen for a visit just before the upheavals of the Arab Spring. She wanted to reconnect with her family and the place that was once so close to her.
When spillover from Tunisia and Egypt ignited dissatisfaction with the dictatorial regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh and people were protesting outside the gates of their home, the Mulberry House, Sara's family joined in and cooked food for the protesters. She began reporting the events as they unfolded to the international media.
This highly personal film records events during this tumultuous period, as change was taking place both outside and inside Sara's home.
By Sara Ishaq
By February 2011, I had grown detached from my former life in Yemen and had barely spoken to my family there in four years.
I was living in Scotland at the time, where I was born to a Scottish mother, and was studying filmmaking. My Yemeni father, who stayed in Yemen, had become increasingly critical of my 'Western lifestyle' and newfound career path. But the time had come to return home for a courtesy family visit - and more importantly for me at the time - to try to find an enthralling story for my graduation film.
In late February, the day after I returned to Sanaa, Yemeni protests were calling for the fall of former President Saleh's regime erupted and I felt compelled to witness the popular uprising of my once-indifferent countrymen and women, initially against my family's wishes, of course.
Having my camera on me however, gave me the opportunity to maintain a safe distance from my family and events on the streets, while I observed shifting familial dynamics and political upheaval. I knew things were changing and the unique moments of hope, courage and vulnerability taking place before me were gems to be captured. But I did not foresee the extent of the change to come, nor that my footage would amount to an actual 'film'.
My position behind the camera also gradually allowed my father and grandfather to express themselves more openly, in a manner peppered with love and humour. This subsequently opened doors to discuss issues which had long been swept under the proverbial carpet, such as gender equality, dresscode, marriage and participation of women in the social and political arena.
The more I observed my family indoors and the protests outdoors, the more I became closer to both. I realised that my struggle to assert my own independence with the authoritarian figures in my family was being mirrored by the struggle of the entire country.
The events outside the house also began to captivate those within. Family members helped by cooking food for those protesting in the square and donating blood to those lying injured in Change Square's field hospital.
Eventually, the revolution became the unanticipated catalyst to challenge relationships, culture and politics. It also offered me (like other women and youth of 'my country'), a platform to speak my mind and become the modern-Yemeni woman once deemed unacceptable, with the growing approval of my once indignant family and society.
Through mass chaos, the cracks in familial bonds began to mend and laughter was ever-present, despite growing despondency about Yemen's future after the revolution. Personal confrontations were pushed aside and supplanted with bigger questions about a collective national identity and survival.
The 2011 spring season that I spent with my family, filled with hope and excitement about Yemen's future and reaping the fruits of my grandfather's carefully nurtured Mulberry trees, was swiftly followed by a season of fruitless desolation.
This film is dedicated to the people in Yemen who dared to hope and believe and to those who relentlessly nurture their barren trees as they await the next Mulberry season.
Source: Al Jazeera