ABC Shoots Film on Qat [Archives:2000/21/Last Page]

May 22 2000

A three-member crew from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Australia’s public broadcasters flew to Yemen last week to shoot a film on Qat. They are Trevor Bormann, network editor, Geoff Clegg, cameraman, and Kate Graham, sound operator.They are working for a program called” Foreign Correspondence.” This program looks at different people, situations and stories around the world. The crew visited various places like Shibam, Kawkaban, Haraz, Dula’ and others. Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi, Yemen Times Managing Editor met the crew and interviewed Mr. Trevor Bormann. Excerpts.
Q: You made a story about chewing Qat in Yemen. Why did you choose to make this story? And what impression do you have on the Yemeni people and the chewing Qat tradition?
A: People in Australia don’t know a great deal about Yemen. They may have seen pictures of Yemen and they know it is very beautiful. They also know that Arabs in general are very hospitable people. I think they are kind of curious what kind of a place Yemen is because it is very remote to most Australians.
The the reason we chose to make a story on Qat is that we were aware that Yemen is a very tribal society and Qat is an important part of the tradition of that society. We have come here with no preconceptions about what we will find. I had no idea until I came here of what I would see and find. So, we came with open minds to talk to as many people as possible to find the true situation of Qat. We wanted to produce an open, objective and honest story. We wanted to have a look at how Qat was used in a traditional “Mafraj” and why students used it; how the new generations of Yemen like Qat. We also wanted to explore the problems associated with Qat. We heard before we came that it is very much an important part of the daily routine to chew Qat. We were aware that many people claimed that it produces social problems. So we wanted to investigate all the facts.
Q: What were the results of your investigation?
A: We found that Qat is a very important institution in the Yemeni society and it has its place because it has been chewed for hundreds of years. But we also get the sense that in many ways it is out of control. We saw young children chew Qat and to us they were too young to chew Qat. We might ask where are the parents? What is happening to these young children who chew Qat? The other observation we had is that everywhere we go everyone chews Qat and it is very surprising. We did not come here to make any judgments about Qat, but we are very curious that so many people chewing Qat in the streets, in the Mafraj and wherever you go.
Q: What are your impressions on the tribal society?
A: The tribal society is a very close community, family ties are very strong and wider tribal ties are also strong. This is a good thing because in Australia we suffer from the same problems like many other western societies; families break down and there is no sense of community. Many Australians think the tribal aspect in Yemen is very good because people are close.
Q: How do you think this film would expose the Yemen to Australian people?
A: We have been to many beautiful places and we spoke to many interesting people. I don’t think it would be at all a negative film, it will be a very honest film. Australians love traveling so much and Yemen is one place that I think they would like to visit. They do not know about Qat so much, but there is more publicity about things like kidnappings here. I think that Australians know a little about Yemen but still they are aware that Yemen is a beautiful place. When watching our television story, they would see a beautiful place, very good people and probably Qat.
Q: Could you give us more details about this film?
A: The program it self would cover 20 minutes of an hour-long program called ” Foreign Correspondent”. The film deals with Qat and Yemen; the positive and the negative aspects of it. So it is very handy. I think it will leave it for people to make their own judgments; we would not make judgments ourselves. We will stimulate their thoughts and will provide people with different viewpoints. Then, Australians can make their own judgments about what they think.
Q: What is the impression that the Qat issue left on you?
A: I get the impression that it is a national obsession. The economy is dependent upon Qat and the working day is determined by Qat. In addition, it spreads its effects to the society and the economy as well. I think many people are sorry that Qat is so damaging because there were other crops like coffee which would have brought more money to the country. Most people tell us that Qat is useless because it does not provide any revenue.
Q: Any last comment?
A: Yes, I was quite interested in things people tell us about Qat. They always say I am going to give it up after the exams or I am doing this for the rest of my life. I come from a country where there is a problem of alcohol, smoking and drugs and people say the same thing. They say I am not addicted and I am going to give up tomorrow or next week.