Secularism in Middle Eastern Documentaries: Filmmakers’ Views, Productions, Industrial Challenges, Limitations and Censorship

Shami, Khaldoun (2022) Secularism in Middle Eastern Documentaries: Filmmakers’ Views, Productions, Industrial Challenges, Limitations and Censorship. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Despite the familiarity of the discussions about secularism in the Middle East, it has yet to be considered for depiction in documentary films. Nevertheless, the treatment of secularism in a documentary film is challenging, not only because it is classified as a genre for the elite of the audience but also because of the problematic nature of the term in the Middle East due to connecting it to atheism, colonialism and westernisation.

This research explores the definition of secularism from the point of view of documentary filmmakers and media professionals in the Middle East. It investigates the approaches used to treat secularism as a controversial issue in the region. And it examines the limitations facing filmmakers. Finally, it shows the strategies used by filmmakers in response to the political implications in their countries and the region in general to overcome the difficulties they face in making, screening, or distributing their works.

Filmmakers in the Middle East are aware of the particularity of their region. Therefore, they prefer to adopt a Middle Eastern model of secularism that is compatible with their society’s variety and define it from their personal experiences. This research investigates the discourse and films of many Middle Eastern filmmakers and producers by exploring their willingness to introduce secular values in their production and the approaches they used or prefer to use to tackle secularism as a controversial issue in the region. The research also discusses the filmmaker’s treatment of minorities and militarism as controversial issues related to secularism in the Middle East and how the filmmaker sought secularism as a solution and salvation to overcome the region’s problems.

Television channels do not have policies prohibiting producing documentary films treating secularism. However, this type of production is rare and restrained by hidden censorship caused by the power structures of the television format and the majority’s values, with Islam's stance on controversial societal issues on top of it. Therefore, this research explored the documentary film's efficiency in addressing secularism if treated in a cinematic style rather than the television channels’ production regulated by the journalistic style and the news values.

This research is considered an addition and a foundation stone in the film studies literature as the research on secularism and the treatment of secular values in documentary films in the Middle East is an unprecedented topic. The analysis uses video-recorded face-to-face interviews as a qualitative methodology to add further depth and a severe atmosphere to gather and generate rich data for the research. The research is combined with a documentary film of the interviews conducted for this study. The film shows the methodology used and visually documents the filmmaker’s different views and discussions about ideology, religion, sectarianism, authorities, industry limitation and censorship in the region.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Kitty Laine
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2023 13:45
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2023 13:45


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