The documentary “Women of the Silk Road” showcases the work of craftswomen from the Middle East

The award-winning documentary “Women of the Silk Road” (2017) puts the spotlight on the role of women in different disciplines. This incredible work portrays the lives of four women involved in textiles from rural and urban areas of four different countries of the famous Silk Roads – Oman, Iran, Turkey, and Tajikistan. Directed and filmed by Iranian actress and filmmaker Yassamin Maleknasr, who also owns the production company Yas Films, the documentary was recognized by UNESCO, which screened the film at one of its headquarters in Paris. 

The Silk Road is a system of routes that for a very long time in the history of mankind, transported all the technological innovations that were made in the East to the West. The name comes from the silk trade, which began to be produced in China and from there reached Rome and the rest of Europe. 

Obviously, there were no roads as we know them today. There were camels, people, and caravans that went from one place to another passing through Kabul, Tehran, Central Asia, Turkey, India, etc. In the end, they were not only carrying products, but also knowledge and wisdom. These were roads traveled by historical personalities such as Marco Polo, Genghis Khan, Attila, and Alexander the Great. 

Over four chapters, “Women of the Silk Road” explores the story of these four women who brought the designs of the European Renaissance through their crafts. The unknown artisans of the East through textiles have for centuries connected the East with to the West, despite the vast cultural gap. 

Through the narration of Yassamin Maleknasr, the documentary aims to show a different angle, far from stereotypes and prejudices, of Muslim women. Maleknasr tells us stories of overcoming, courage, dreams, and resilience. It is also a story about the economic empowerment of these women. As mentioned, the film is told from a female perspective. It is worth noting the achievements of its director, who was the first Iranian filmmaker to graduate from the University of Southern California with a degree in Film and Television. Although generations separate these women from the director, the visibility of women’s work is a key element in this documentary. 

“Women of the Silk Road” also stands out for the photographic work that shows the beauty of each country. One important route is, of course, Oman. On the waters of the Arabian Sea, with easy access to the Gulf of Oman and close to the Iranian border, the point where the corridor ends is strategic for a new “Silk Road”. This is largely because Oman is one of the most peaceful countries in the Arabian Peninsula and is strategically located. 

Oman was founded as an Imamate in 751, making it the oldest state in the Arab world. Since the 17th century, it was an important maritime power, being part of the so-called maritime silk route, led by the incense trade, being in a strategic location on the Indian and Near East trade routes, extending its influence through the Strait of Hormuz to Iran and present-day Pakistan and reaching Zanzibar to the south. Its power declined during the 19th century and the Sultanate came under the influence of Britain.

When Sultan Al Qaboos came to power in 1970, he inherited from his father a country anchored in the Middle Ages. Since then and until his death in 2020, Sultan Qaboos transformed and modernized the country, highlighting the significant improvement in the quality of life of its inhabitants, making Oman the most stable country in the region and never forgetting its culture and traditions. Omanis are proud of their glorious past, the achievements of their present, and their promising future.

Unlike cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Bahrain known for their skyscrapers, Oman is a very quiet place that still keeps houses with bright colors, to keep the country as it always was. Even the capital is a picturesque village rather than a super-city. It is very nice because you can see the Arab hospitality without any filters. Although a large percentage of the territory is desert, the contrasts it offers are striking as the magnificent Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, contemporary in style, the ancient coastal neighborhood of Muttrah, a labyrinthine souk, kilometers of almost virgin coastline on the Persian and Indian Gulf, mountains over 3000 meters high, deep canyons, green oases in riverbeds, imposing fortresses, endless dunes, among others.

The Silk Roads are part of an undocumented legacy of craftsmanship and unknown stories. As “Women of the Silk Road” makes clear, these routes signify a profound exchange between East and West, beyond historical distances. Director Maleknasr has also tried to send a conciliatory message by showing the experiences of the Muslim women of the Silk Roads through her sensitive lens in order to promote greater tolerance among the people of the world. Oman is a clear example of Arab hospitality and peacefulness. Beyond the beautiful locations as diverse as those mentioned above, Oman is a country that looks forward with respect and diversity. 

“Women of the Silk Road” received the award for Best Documentary at the 2017 Salento International Film Festival and Best Director at the 2017 New Delhi International Film Festival and the 2018 Cascadia International Women’s Film Festival. Maleknasr She also received the 2019 UNESCO  Award at the Almaty Independent Film Festival Acceptance Speech. The documentary was recognized with a Best Documentary Feature nomination at FilmBath Festival 2017, Oaxaca FilmFest 2017, and Bentonville Film Festival 2017.

More details about “Women of the Silk Road” on IMDb and the official website.

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