Screens and Veils: Maghrebi Women's Cinema

Screens and Veils: Maghrebi Women's Cinema

Screens and Veils: Maghrebi Women's Cinema

Screens and Veils: Maghrebi Women's Cinema

Synopsis

Examined within their economic, cultural, and political context, the work of women Maghrebi filmmakers forms a cohesive body of work. Florence Martin examines the intersections of nation and gender in seven films, showing how directors turn around the politics of the gaze as they play with the various meanings of the Arabic term hijab (veil, curtain, screen). Martin analyzes these films on their own theoretical terms, developing the notion of "transvergence" to examine how Maghrebi women's cinema is flexible, playful, and transgressive in its themes, aesthetics, narratives, and modes of address. These are distinctive films that traverse multiple cultures, both borrowing from and resisting the discourses these cultures propose.

Excerpt

Shahrazad’s tales included other tales in a mise en abyme that deepened as the Nights unfolded. Contemporary Maghrebi women’s filmic narratives often follow a similar pattern. the resulting films offer a complex narrative web of embedded tales. in Barakat, for instance, the surface narrative of the quest for a disappeared woman soon reveals another narrative embedded within it: the story of a past mujahida (woman freedom fighter). Shahrazad also embedded political messages in her narratives: this Sultan whose story I am telling you, she whispered to the caliph prettily is “fair,” is “wise,” and acts in a politically courageous way. Similarly Rachida, for instance, tells a fictitious story focused on one female protagonist that embodies the plight of Algeria during the 1990s (see chapter 3); and Bab al sama mafiouh/Une Porte sur le del/A Door to the Sky by Farida Benlyazid, for instance, tells a fictitious story focused on one female protagonist whose spiritual and feminist choices reach into the history of women in the Maghreb, and shows how to make significant personal/political choices.

Yet the narrative mise en abyme of Maghrebi women directors seems even more whimsical than Shahrazad’s: it plays with the possibility of one narrative before skipping circuitously to another, peripheral, one and returning to the original one. Assia Djebar’s Nuba points to sev-

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