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Aug
2023
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Courageous Yemeni Women at the Heart of Huffman’s Latest Documentary

Cinema is often at its strongest when we find ourselves inspired by individuals displaying extraordinary courage and conviction. Such is the case with Chicago filmmaker Brent Huffman’s latest documentary feature endeavor. Tentatively titled Saving the Cultural Heritage of Yemen, this documentary will expose viewers to the country’s rich heritage and the individuals fighting to save it. The film hopes to break harmful stereotypes about Yemen that only feature war and representations of victimization.

The documentary centers on courageous women heritage workers and archaeologists risking their lives to save heritage threatened by war and looting. These activists will remain nameless in this article, to protect their safety.

The vital importance of the sites the women are fighting to protect cannot be overstated. “I have been able to witness some incredible ancient heritage sites that feature some of the most significant discoveries,” Huffman shared with SCREEN. “For example, in Marib, a city that has become a ‘World Heritage in Danger’ from UNESCO in early 2023, I was able to film at several ancient sites in Marib, Kingdom of Saba, which was believed to be the biblical land of the Queen of Sheba and ‘the oldest and most important of the South Arabian kingdoms.’ The dates the kingdom are believed to be between 1200 BCE and 275 CE.”

Huffman and his team recently returned from a round of filming in many areas of the country including Sana’a, Aden, Mirab, Shibam, Dhamar, Hadhramaut, Taiz, Mukkalla, Al Mahwit, and Seiyun.

Here are some photos from Huffman’s recent rounds filming in Yemen…

Emmy Winner Joins the Team

Highlighting Huffman’s collaborators is Emmy-winning Yemeni producer Ahmed Baider. Baider earned Emmy wins for his effort with the PBS News program NewsHour program and the ABC News long-running series Nightline.

Click here for a recent interview with Baider for more insight into his storied career.

Huffman’s Intent to Make an Impact with Film

Huffman is no stranger to underserved stories and impactful documentary filmmaking. Huffman’s gripping 2015 feature Saving Mes Aynak centered on a race against time to save a 5,000-year-old archaeological site in Afghanistan threatened by a Chinese state-owned copper mine. The film won over 30 major awards and has been broadcast on television in over 70 countries.

Here is the trailer for the powerful doc, which you can watch by clicking here

Similarly, Brent served as a producer on Jiayan “Jenny” Shi’s Finding Yingying, which won the SXSW Breakthrough Voice Jury Award for 2020 before being nominated for an Emmy in 2021 in the Best Investigative Documentary category.

Here is a look at the trailer for Finding Yingying, which you watch in its entirety by clicking here

What’s Next for the Documentary?

This documentary has been a passion project for me for several years.  I have been working to get access to the country, a formidable process to obtain a visa and get permission to film at numerous locations.  Every city I visit features a unique challenge to obtain access.  With that said, Yemen is an extraordinary country and the making of this film has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

What’s next for the film? Huffman is deep into post-production, editing and assembling. He will likely return to Yemen for another production trip this coming Winter or next Spring.

This documentary has been a passion project for me for several years,” Huffman shared with SCREEN.  “I have been working to get access to the country, a formidable process to obtain a visa and get permission to film at numerous locations.  Every city I visit features a unique challenge to obtain access. With that said, Yemen is an extraordinary country and the making of this film has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”

Huffman is targeting an estimated release date of Fall 2025 for the film. Funders of this production include the Pulitzer Center and Northwestern University.

Be sure to check back here at SCREEN Magazine as this film forges ahead with filming and ultimately onto the festival circuit. You can also click right here to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter.

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