Current Films

CHEF!

Jean Marie Teno
Camerun, France 1999 | 61 Min. | 16 mm, OmeU
Q&A with:
Jean Marie Teno
Chef! is a film about frus­tra­tion. Frus­tra­tion in the face of grow­ing misery in a coun­try rich in nat­ur­al resources which are exclu­sive­ly there for the ben­e­fit of a pow­er­ful … read more

CROSS ROADS

Hillie Mollenaar
Netherlands 1997 | 60 Min. | 35 mm, OmeU
Q&A with:
Hillie Mollenaar
From Tan­za­nia and from Rwanda to Zaire, some half a mil­lion refugees from Tutsi-Hutu vio­lence streamed in to create boom town called Benaco. The new­com­ers – whose roles in Rwanda … read more

DIVORCE IRANIAN STYLE

Kim Longinotto
Great Britain 1998 | 80 Min. | 16 mm, OmeU
Q&A with:
Ziba Mir-Hossini

Iran­ian women seek­ing divorce meet with strong oppo­si­tion. Often, they stand help­less while their hus­bands win in law-suits and get the cus­tody of their chil­dren, even if they abuse them or attach little value to the edu­ca­tion of their daugh­ters. Film­mak­er Kim Longinot­to and the Iran­ian anthro­pol­o­gist and writer Ziba Mir-Hos­sei­ni observed three law-suits in Teheran in which the dig­ni­ty of women and jus­tice are the big losers. Jamileh is mal­treat­ed by her hus­band, Maryam fights for the cus­tody of her chil­dren, and 16-year-old Ziba wants to divorce her 38-year-old spouse. If she suc­ceeds, she will have to go through life as out­cast, due to the loss of her vir­gin­i­ty. Judges rec­og­nize argu­ments like »my wife leaves the house with­out my per­mis­sion«, and they think that chil­dren should be allowed to marry as soon as they have reached puber­ty, »even if they are nine years old«. Under Islam­ic law, men can divorce their wives at will but women must first obtain their hus­bands’ con­sent. If the divorce is con­test­ed, Iran­ian women must be able to prove in court evi­dence of impo­tence, insan­i­ty or lack of finan­cial support.

»(…) After our arrival, with let­ters of intro­duc­tion from the Min­istry of Guid­ance, and aided by the Public Rela­tions Sec­tion of the Min­istry of Jus­tice, we vis­it­ed sev­er­al Judi­cial Com­plex­es. There are six­teen of these, scat­tered around Tehran. Each con­tains a number of courts, and deals with dis­putes filed by local res­i­dents, which differ in nature, given Tehran’s geo­graph­i­cal divi­sion on socio-eco­nom­ic lines – broad­ly, the middle class­es in the north, the work­ing class­es in the south. This posed a prob­lem for us. Our Min­istry guides wanted us to show the diver­si­ty of the courts, and the range of dis­putes heard; they were keen for us to film in courts headed by both civil and reli­gious judges, and to cover mar­i­tal dis­putes in dif­fer­ent socio-eco­nom­ic strata – to do a kind of soci­o­log­i­cal survey. But we wanted to work in a single court, to cap­ture some­thing of the life of the court itself. We knew that in Tehran, with a pop­u­la­tion of over ten mil­lion, no court could be rep­re­sen­ta­tive, and we did not want to do a ‘soci­o­log­i­cal survey’ on film. We wanted to focus on char­ac­ters and devel­op sto­ry­lines. We also knew that our project depend­ed much on the good­will of the judge and court staff, so it was impor­tant for us to work in a court where they wel­comed us, under­stood our project and were will­ing to be part of it.

This was dif­fi­cult to explain to the offi­cials, but final­ly we set­tled for the Imam Khome­i­ni Judi­cial Com­plex, the largest one, locat­ed in cen­tral Tehran near the Bazaar. It housed some Min­istry of Jus­tice offices, includ­ing the Public Rela­tions Sec­tion, as well as thirty-three Gen­er­al Courts. Two courts dealt with family dis­putes, both headed by cler­i­cal judges: Judge Deldar, who sat only in the morn­ing, and Judge Mah­davi, who sat only in the after­noon. We were intro­duced to both judges; both said we could film in their courts.

At first we filmed in both courts, but soon we con­fined our­selves to Judge Deldar’s, which we found more inter­est­ing. As Judge Mah­davi dealt only with divorce by mutual con­sent, that is, cases where both par­ties had already worked out an agree­ment, there was little room for nego­ti­a­tion: the dynam­ics of the cases heard were rather uni­form, and the cou­ples rarely revealed the real rea­sons behind the break­down of mar­riage. Judge Deldar, on the other hand, dealt with all kinds of mar­i­tal dis­putes, thus we found a much wider range of sto­ries and a more spon­ta­neous envi­ron­ment. Besides, the court staff were also fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ters in their own right, espe­cial­ly Mrs. Maher, the court sec­re­tary, who had worked in the same branch for over 20 years. She was an extreme­ly capa­ble woman who under­stood our project, and her daugh­ter Paniz was a real gift. Both soon became inte­gral to the film. After a week, we too became part of the court life. The pres­ence of an all-woman crew changed the gender bal­ance in the court­room; and undoubt­ed­ly gave sev­er­al women courage. Like­wise, the fact that the crew had both Iran­ian and for­eign mem­bers, I believe, helped tran­scend the insider/outsider divide. The camera was a link here too, as well as between public and pri­vate. We never filmed with­out people’s con­sent. Before each new case, I approached the two par­ties in the cor­ri­dor, explained who we were and what our film was about, and asked whether they would agree to par­tic­i­pate. I explained how we wanted to make a film that for­eign audi­ences could relate to, to try and bridge the gap in under­stand­ing, to show how Iran­ian Muslim women, like women in other parts of the world, do the best they can to make sense of the world around them and to better their lives. Some agreed, others refused. On the whole, and per­haps not sur­pris­ing­ly, most women wel­comed the project and wanted to be filmed.

We filmed for four weeks in Novem­ber-Decem­ber 1997. Back to London, we start­ed edit­ing our over 16 hours of footage. (…) In going through the mate­r­i­al, rather than focus­ing on the exotic and the dif­fer­ent, we tried to focus on com­mon­al­i­ties: how dif­fi­cult mar­riage can be and the pain involved in its break­down. We also tried to show what it is like inside a Tehran law court, and to give glimpses into the lives of ordi­nary people. Although clear­ly some ‘con­tex­tu­al infor­ma­tion’ was essen­tial, we were anx­ious not to over­crowd the film with facts and fig­ures, not to tell view­ers what to think, but to allow them to draw their own con­clu­sions. Above all, we wanted to let the women speak, to show how they are strong indi­vid­u­als going through a dif­fi­cult phase in their lives, and to com­mu­ni­cate the pain – and the humour – involved in the break­down of mar­riage.« (Ziba Mir Hosseini)

Extracts from ISIM Newslet­ter 2; March 1999; p. 17 

Kim Longinot­to: PRIDE OF PLACE (1978); THEATRE GIRLS (1979); CROSS AND PASSION (1981); UNDERAGE (1983); FIRERAISER (1985); EAT THE KIMONO (1989); HIDDEN FACES (1991); THE GOOD WIFE OF TOKYO (1992); TRAGIC BUT BRAVE (1993); DREAM GIRLS (1993); SHINJUKU BOYS (1995); ROCK WIVES (1996)

Ziba Mir-Hossi­ni: DIVORCE IRANIAN STYLE (1998)

IN HET HUIS VAN MIJN VADER

Fatima Jebli Ouazzani
Netherlands 1997 | 67 Min. | 35 mm, OmeU
»In our islam­ic soci­ety , it’s always the woman who pays the price, why?« With these words a young Maroc­can woman sums up, the until today unbro­ken patri­achal dom­i­nance of … read more

JEF JEL

Moussa Sene Absa
France, Senegal 1998 | 52 Min. | BetaSP, OmeU
Q&A with:
Moussa Sene Absa
JEF JEL is a doc­u­men­tary about the Islam­ic con­fed­er­a­tion of the Mourides in Sene­gal. Trav­el­ling from Dakar to Touba, where the move­ment was born, dis­ci­ples bear wit­ness to their reli­gion. … read more

KISANGANI DIARY - LOIN DU RWANDA

Hubert Sauper
Austria, France 1997 | 45 Min. | 35 mm, OmeU
Along an over­grown rail­track south of Kin­san­gani, ex-Stan­leyville, lost refugees are dis­cov­ered by an expe­di­tion of the UN. There are 80.000 (!) Hutus from far away Rwanda. They are the … read more

L’HONNEUR DE MA FAMILLE

Rachid Bouchareb
France 1997 | 90 Min. | 35 mm, OmeU
Nora has had a strict upbring­ing. Her familiy comes from Alge­ria and her par­ents are rig­or­ous in their main­te­nance of tra­di­tion­al cus­tomes. Nora has learned over the years to make … read more

LA BARAKA DES MARCHANDS MOURIDES

Jean Paul Colleyn
France 1997 | 57 Min. | BetaSP, OmeU
Q&A with:
Jean Paul Colleyn
Wrapped in their long boubous, car­ry­ing huge striped plas­tic bags, Sene­galese streetven­dors have become a common sight in big cities all over the world. From Dakar to Mar­seille, from Antwer­pen … read more

LA NUIT DU DESTIN

Abdelkrim Bahloul
Algeria, France 1997 | 90 Min. | 35 mm, OmeU
In Paris, Mon­sieur Sli­mani, an old man, wit­ness­es an assas­i­na­tion. Per­sued by the mur­der­ers, he escapes into a mosque. Dis­cov­er­ing, that the mur­der­er is a mighty person, he becomes anx­ious … read more

LECHE

Naomi Uman
Mexico, USA 1998 | 30 Min. | 16 mm, OF
Q&A with:
Naomi Uman
Made with the most rudi­men­ta­ry tools of film­mak­ing LECHE is a black and white film which exam­ines details of the lives of a rural mex­i­can family. The film was hand … read more

MÉMOIRES D’ IMMIGRÉS

Yamina Benguigui
Algeria, France 1997 | 160 Min. | BetaSP, OmeU
This three-parted film allows maghre­bin­ian immi­grants to speak: fathers (part I), moth­ers (part II) and their chil­dren (part III). With archive­ma­te­r­i­al and inter­views Yas­mi­na Ben­guigui analy­ses the »machin­ery« of immi­gra­tion. … read more

MOBUTU, ROI DU ZAIRE

Thierry Michel
Belgium, France 1999 | 135 Min. | 35 mm, OmeU
At the end of 1965 in the ex-Bel­gian Congo torn and exhaust­ed by five years of unrest, Gen­er­al Mobutu and the army set up a pow­er­ful state soon to be … read more

PAULINA

Vicky Funari
Canada, Mexico, USA 1997 | 88 Min. | 16 mm, OmeU
Pauli­na Cruz Suarez, now just turned 50, has worked as a maid in Mexico City since she was 15. She talks of her house­hold tasks and her cook­ing, until we … read more

QUATRE FEMMES D’EGYPTE

Tahani Rached
Canada, Egypt 1997 | 90 Min. | BetaSP, OmeU
How do we get along with each other when our views col­lide? This is a modern, urban ques­tion which is vital and uni­ver­sal. Four Egypt­ian women dare to answer this … read more

WOUBI CHÉRI

Laurent Bocahut, Philip Brooks
France 1998 | 62 Min. | BetaSP, OmeU
WOUBI CHÉRI is a doc­u­men­tary that looks at gay life in con­tem­po­rary Africa. The film takes place in the Ivory Coast and fea­tures a range of char­ac­ters from Vin­cent, a … read more

YMAKO

Laurent van Lancker, Robin Shuffield
Belgium 1998 | 52 Min. | BetaSP, OmeU
‘Ymako Téatri’, a the­atre com­pa­ny based in Ivory Coast, uses street the­atre to ques­tion some con­tem­po­rary West African prob­lems. Their orig­i­nal­i­ty con­sists in using the ‘invis­i­ble the­atre’ method in order … read more

ZONE RAP

Bouna Medoune Seye
France, Senegal 1998 | 52 Min. | BetaSP, OmeU
»Que la parole soit claire / la vie tient en deux jours / le jour de la nais­sance, le jour de la mort / Laiss­er sa cul­ture pour une autre … read more