A translated version of this piece is Available in: العربية (Arabic)
Cafes is a short documentary about Samaser, the old and modern cafes in Sana’a. The film chronicles these spaces in a beautiful and artistic way, and weaves their history, development and social role for the elderly and youth alike. In his film, Zakaria Mohammed focuses on the social and cultural importance of cafes for young men and women who have turned to them because of today’s war and crisis – especially as the country lacks safe spaces and suffers from a decline in leisure and recreational spaces. In addition, they value the facilities and services that these cafes are able to offer, against a background of collapsing public services across the country. Electricity and an Internet connection are among the main services that cafes provide, and that many people across the country have been unable to access at home. In his story, Zakaria oscillates poetically between the past and the present. Through a series of clips he conveys the suffering of his generation to the world, and highlights the ways in which youth resist the circumstances of war and escape their painful reality.
Photo Courtesy of Zakaria Mohammed
The film shows some of the cafes that remain open, even as many other places frequented by youth have had to shut down. Due to the poor financial situation of many, the most popular cafes are those that maintain their old charm and quality of products, while managing to keep their prices low in comparison to the newer cafes. These places provide safe spaces and help break down long-standing barriers between the sexes. In the last few years, the number of young people visiting these cafes has increased significantly, as they present an opportunity to meet friends, artists, readers and creative people who share the same hobbies and interests. “Although I encountered a lot of difficulties, and on some occasions a lack of cooperation from some, and fear of the camera from the cafe visitors and owners alike, the general atmosphere was beautiful”, Zakaria said. “I was reassured that there were still spaces that still allow me to be here”.
About the filmmaker: Zakaria Mohammed was born in old Sana’a. He holds a BA in Media and Communication and began his career in filmmaking in 2014. Since then, Zakaria has produced many films, including a short film, Short Fax, and a documentary, People’s Street. He has also worked as an assistant director and editor on a film about autism. Zakaria has participated in various filmmaking camps and workshops, most notably in Comra Documentary Filmmaking Camp, which aims to support and develop the practice of young documentary filmmakers.
To follow Zakaria’s most recent films, visit the link below: