"A Fool's Paradise: The Belly Dancer"

An experimental short ethnographic film. I was invited one night while in Damascus, Syria, to go to a "club" with a bellydancer. To my surprise, the club was out of town and we had to drive a while to get to it. When we arrived I was explained little except that somehow the club wasn't a good place — that, really, we shouldn't have even come. But we still entered a huge dome, were seated close to the stage, and I was told a bellydancer would soon appear. I started noticing how many middle-aged men there were... and all the women had faces carved out of plastic looking like Nancy Ajram (the singer), wearing tight clothing and smoking shisha. I tried to shrink in my chair not to attract attention. When the bellydancer started, everyone's attention was riveted to the stage, so I draped my scarf over my camera, which had been tucked away in my purse, and stole some shots. As a male Syrian friend later explained to me, "Ah, yes! I know exactly this kind of place... it's a place of failed marriages, deadbeats, and losers... this is where you take your hired girl for the night to go have fun."

Shot by Isabelle Carbonell. Edited by Sarah Cannon and Julie Rios Little.