Palestinian Designs Featured In New Film Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara

Film still of Rooney Mara in the Mary Magdalene trailer

The hand-embroidered creations of 27 Palestinian refugee women from Jerash camp in Jordan will be featured in the upcoming biblical drama film “Mary Magdalene,” which tells the story of one of Jesus’ most important followers.

The film, which is set to be released mid-March, is directed by Garth Davis and stars world renowned actors such as Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Tahar Rahim.

Rooney Mara

The craftswomen behind the beautiful pieces are part of SEP Jordan, an organization that empowers Palestinian refugee women by providing them with opportunities to secure a stable source of income. Established in 2013 under the motto “Every Stitch Tells a Story,” SEP started with just 10 women and has now expanded to 300 beneficiaries who work on creating distinguished pieces with intricate embroideries and geometric patterns.

“We are so honored to see the work of these 27 SEP artists being featured in this movie, which is a rendition of a story that took place in the land where their own ancestors lived,” said Roberta Ventura, founder of SEP.

Joaquin Phoenix

According to Arabian Business, Jacqueline Durran, the movie’s Academy Award Winning costume designer, said it was an “incredibly rewarding experience” working with the team of artists at SEP. She felt that the women’s work was of a quality that could not have been found anywhere else and it played a key part in the bringing the film’s scenes to life.

“Their talent far surpassed my expectations… The result of each woman’s unique creativity and skill had an incredible subtlety and beauty,” she said.

Speaking to The Jordan Times, Ventura stressed that the purpose of SEP has always been to disrupt the phenomenon of the “pity purchase” by developing the crafts and entrepreneurial skills of the women. She explained that “all SEP artists are trained at the SEP-Tamari Academy established at the camp, where they learn the technique details, which date back to the 1800’s, the golden years of Palestinian embroidery. The result is a premium-product, which restores pride, emotional and economic independence”.

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