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Women's reality in Arab movies

by Olesia February 14 2013, 02:04 films

Hello everyone!

 

Today I had a wonderful meeting with the most beautiful and intelligent spouses of ICRC workers here in Kenya. We disscussed our life in Nairobi, upcoming elections, we shared useful information about interesting places in the area and planed our further activities.

 

And after it we had a lovely dinner in Misono Japanese restaurant (inside the Green House on Ngong Road) with our friend Majeda.

 

So it was a nice day indeed. And as well as I spent it mostly in women's environment, talking women problems I came home, turned my TV, to dive into men's problems - and see some news. And what did I see?! More women's issues emphasised by mass media all over the world.

 

Then I thought about 4 Arabic films that I saw lately which impressed me so much. So this post would be dedicated to these films' reviews and thoughts that arose in my head after seeing them.

Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies

    1. The first film I want to tell you about is A 7 HOUR DIFFERENCE. It is a Jordanian film released in 2011. The action takes place in Amman these days and it highlihts the submerged cultural differences between the West and an apparently modern Arab country like Jordan in a larger scale. And a Muslim-Christian dating problem (when the girl is Muslim) in particular.

 

The problem of mixed religion dating, which can lead to mixed religion marriage and mixed religion children is core in this film. Dalia (Randa Karadsheh), a rich Jordanian girl studying architecture in Boston with a view to opening a company back home, has been going out with the loving and attractive Italian-American Jason (Thom Bishops). He wants to bring their relationship out in the open, but after three years of dating she still hasn’t worked up the courage to tell her family.

 

Dalia comes back to Amman for her sister’s big Jordanian wedding (some traditions shown i the film may be very interesting for those who are interested in Middle Eastern and Jordanian wedding traditions). Then her boyfriend Jason turns up uninvited. Dalia expresses shock and dismay, and is even more surprised (though also pleased) when he proposes to her. While she postpones talking to Dad, the script diligently piles up the pros and cons to their union. The main pro is Jason, loving and serious boyfriend not afraid to make the cultural leap. The cons are Dalia’s deep-seated fear of social ostracism and big temptations heaped on her by her family.

 

But such changes are also shocking for her boyfriend Jason. In fact it is not a secret that many people behave differently once they live in Western countries and once they come back to their native Arab societies.

 

Dalia asks herself questions like, “You think love is enough? What religion would our children be? Will you convert?”

 

This film is a sociological study as well. For example, when Dalia tells Jason there’s no boy-girl touching in public... This film is great for those who want to know more about Jordanian society, how close it really is towards foreighners in terms of their private life and deep rooted traditions and mentality.

Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies

2. The second film I wanted to talk about is older than the previous one, it is a 2004 film. The story deals with a Druze wedding and the troubles the politically unresolved situation creates for the personal lives of the people (especially women) in and from the village. The movie's plot looks at the Arab-Israeli conflict through the story of a family divided by political borders, and explores how their lives are fractured by the region's harsh political realities.

 

A young Druze woman, Mona, living at Majdal Shams in the Golan Hights, is about to marry a successful Syrian actor. Following the hostilities between Israel and Syria there is now the demilitarised UNDOF zone between occupied Golan and Syria observed by UN staff. Crossing of the zone is extremely rare as it is only granted by both sides under special circumstances. It has taken 6 months to obtain permission from the Israeli administration for Mona to leave the Golan. When Mona crosses she will not be able to return to her family on the Golan even to visit. Mona is a bit hesitant also because she doesn't know her husband-to-be.

 

Just imagine the possibility that you need to marry someone from another city or village, and the moment you do so, you won't eve come back. It is one way ticket. And now imagine you don't know the guy you are going to marry.

 

After the wedding feast, the bride is escorted to the border where her emigration runs into trouble, as the Israeli government has just decided to stamp the passports of Golan residents bound for Syria as leaving Israel. The Syrian officials still regard the Golan as part of Syria under foreign occupation, and a stamp like that is viewed as an underhanded plot by the Israelis to force the Syrian side to implicitly acknowledge the annexation. (Because Syria, like a number of other Arab states, refuses entry to those with a passport stamped at any Israeli border post.)

 

All these border procedures are managed by an ICRC delegate Jeanne who goes back and forth until the Israeli official who put the stamp into the passport in the first place finally agrees to erase it with some corrector. Yet just as the problem seems to have been peacefully resolved, the solution is threatened by a change of position on the Syrian side.

 

In the end when it looks as if the wedding will be delayed at least for some days (which is regarded as a bad omen), the bride takes matters into her own hands. In our final view of her, she is walking with energy and determination toward the Syrian border.

 

This film might be especially useful for those who are interested in Arab-Israeli conflict, Golan Heights, Druze people, their everyday life, reality and problems, customs and peculiarities of their spoken language.

Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies

3. Third film is Where Do We Go Now? It is Lebanese one, released in 2011.

 

Where Do We Go Now? tells the story of a remote, isolated unnamed Lebanese village inhabited by both Muslims and Christians (like most of Lebanon). The village is surrounded by land mines and only reachable by a small bridge. As the relations between men are tense, and Mass Media also emphasizes the Muslim - Christian tensions in the country, the women in the village aware of this fact and try, by various means and they actually succeed sometimes, to keep their men in the dark, sabotaging the village radio, then destroying the village TV.

 

The story begins with a boy named Roukoz, whose job is to venture outside the village and bring back much-needed merchandise such as soap, utensils, newspapers, lightbulbs. Roukoz lives with Nassim's family (his cousin), and it is made clear that Nassim has lost his father. Roukoz tries to fix the church speakers, and falls off his ladder, crashing into the cross and snapping it in half. The next day, the congregation is gathered in church to celebrate the Sunday mass; The Priest preaches about the need to fix the church, and blames the broken cross on the wind, telling churchgoers to keep their cool and that their fellow Muslims have nothing to do with it. Some time later the Imam discovers that some goats have found their ways into the mosque, and urges the Muslims not to blame the Christians for what had happened. As people starts to gather, however, a Muslim man blames the Christians for what has happened and a small fight ensues.

 

The village is slowly drawn into greater violence; but the women get along beautifully and cooperate to keep their men from fighting, even hiring Ukrainian dancers to entertain their men. But as Nassim is killed in a tensions between Christians and Muslims while in a nearby town, the women are faced with a real challenge. In an attempt to control the situation, they drug the men by mixing hashish inside sweet cakes and remove their weapons from the village. This ensured that fighting would not resume in the village during or after Nassim's funeral.

 

But the church and the mosque stand side by side, these people of different religions are neighbours, it is inevitable for them at least to try to solve the problem, and to keep peace and good relationship. But how long can these strong women suffer and undergo such inevitable everyday reality. This time and for the rest of their lives they should make up something more and more sophisticated.

Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies
Women's reality in Arab movies

What I liked about previous 3 films is that they are real. They show you how women actually live, what issues are they challenged with, what difficult everyday decisions should they make. 3 Middle Eastern countries, 3 different lifestyles (Jordan, Israel and Lebanon). And this is how many women from these countries live now, even when you read this post.

 

4. So the forth film that impressed me so deeply and motivated me to write this post is CAIRO 678. This film was reliesed in 2010 in Cairo, Egypt. And even after 2 years it keeps drawing attention.

 

678 was was an attempt to address the rampant sexual harassment that women face on the streets of Cairo every day. Describing the life of three Cairene women, from very different backgrounds, who each deal with the harassment in their own way. These women are pulled together in an uneasy solidarity to combat the sexual harassment that has become a general plague in the city of Cairo. Based on real-life incidents that led to Egypt’s first anti-harassment legislation, Diab’s deftly weaved narrative tells a gripping, timely tale of social injustice. This film brought the subject into the limelight for the first time and this created quite a controversy.

 

Controversies around the film include a threatened lawsuit by Egyptian pop singer Tamer Hosny for the films use of his song, as he did not wish it associated with the subject, and an attempt by an attorney to block the film from the Festival due to its poor portrayal of Egypt. The filmmaker denied any intent to defame Egypt, as the issues are universal. The Association for Human Rights and Social Justice requested that the film be banned as potentially encoraging women to injure men's genitals with sharp tools, but filmmakers argued that it did not encourage but merely documented the practice of some women carrying such tools for self-defense. Fortunately the team of the film makers managed to withstand the controversy and the film became a success in the Egyptian cinemas.

 

Anyway this film would be very interesting to see for every woman (and man as well), I think. There are 20 million people in Cairo. At least half of them are women. At least half of all the women faced at least once in their life street harassment, street remarks, invasions of privacy or even harmless girl-watching. This is not a statistic, this is not because it was shown in this film.

 

This is true because all mass media talk about demonstrations in Egypt and outside Egyptian embassies in various world capitals to denounce recent sexual attacks against women protesters in Tahrir Square. The protests were held in several world capitals including Rabat, Morocco; Tunis, Tunisia; Amman, Jordan; Copenhagen, Denmark; Brussels, Belgium; Washington D.C, USA; London, England; Paris, France; and Oslo, Norway.

 

This is true because a new term appeared: SEXUAL TERRORISM. Mass media talk about this new realia every day. Scientists try to figure multiple social functions of such harassment, and argue that all of these functions can be seen to work together to produce an environment of sexual terrorism.

 

There is a group on facebook "Global Protest Against Sexual Terrorism practice" where people from all over the world can't keep quiet and stay indifferent.

 

To motivate you and to convince you to watch this movie (if you have not decided yet), I would say that it was screened in MoMA, NYC. In late January of 2013 Cairo 678 was shown together with other 9 films from Iran, Serbia, Chile, Kazakhstan, and Iraq. This is how these films are described on MoMA 's site: 

 

"Accomplished, entertaining, and thought-provoking, these films are all deeply rooted in the social and political realities of the countries where their talented and resourceful makers live and set their stories."

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