July 29th, 2009
Contestant No. 2
Filmmaker's Notes

by Ibtisam Mara’ana

I embarked on this film out of curiosity about whether traditional societies and beauty pageants could mix. I chose to document the Arab beauty pageant because it attracts Arab girls of all religions – Muslim, Christian, and Druze – from towns and villages in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

At first, I was nervous that I wouldn’t know how to communicate with the young girls. What would we talk about? Would they fit the universal stereotype that beauty queens are just pretty faces who are best kept quiet? My greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to develop a meaningful conversation with these contestants, who, I imagined, came to fulfill a naive dream or to sign a $10,000 modeling contract.

One of the events I remember most was on the day of the Arab beauty queen ceremony in Nazareth. I arrived two hours before the girls to shoot the ceremony. At 1 p.m. the girls were supposed to have a final rehearsal. At 2 p.m. they began getting ready for the ceremony. That’s when the rumors started circulating that Duah/Angelina wasn’t coming.

I realized I had to leave the ceremony immediately and drive two hours from Nazareth to her village to see what was going on with her and her family. When I got there I discovered that she had run off to Tel Aviv and wouldn’t take part in the ceremony because she had decided to compete in the Miss Israeli pageant.

Later on I drove back to Nazareth to continue shooting the final ceremony of the Arab beauty pageant. When it ended I drove to Tel Aviv, only to find that Angelina had caught the train back to her village. It was a day filled with fear alongside a glittery ceremony. I was concerned about Angelina, but I realized how much strength she had. It was then that I understood that she was not just a stereotypical beauty queen, but a young woman chasing hidden dreams.

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