IDFA WorldView winner Karima Zoubir talks to WorldView about her project ‘Camera/Woman’, and offer tips for filmmakers tackling similar subjects.
Can you give us a brief synopsis of your film?
Set in Morocco, “Camera/Woman” chronicles the life of Khadija, an illiterate, divorced Muslim woman determined to go on working as a wedding videographer in Casablanca despite overwhelming resistance from her family and the society around her.As the wedding season in Casablanca unfolds, “Camera/Woman” follows Khadija closely as she moves back and forth from her home life of conflict to the hopeful world of the wedding parties, full of fantasy.
Khadija is part of a new generation of divorced women, who have been given the right to choose divorce. Mother of an 11-year-old boy, she faces daily harassment from her parents and her brother Abdellatif who are ashamed of her being divorced and back home. Despite the fact she is the biggest earner in the family, her brother wants her to stop working as a wedding videographer.
This sweet and sour chronicle will take us into a world of women trying to build something new for themselves without hurting or offending anyone. Will it be possible?
Where did you find the idea and know that it was a film? That this could work as a visual story?I have never stopped being interested in the extraordinary complexity of the conditions women face in Morocco. I was interested by how the video camera has brought unexpected freedom to the life of Khadija and how paradoxically thanks to a certain wave of growing conservatism, there is new work opening up for women especially at wedding ceremonies: shooting videos, taking photos, working as waitresses, and dancing and playing music. These are all roles formerly held by men, as families now exclude the idea of having men outside the family take any part in the ceremonies.
The struggle of Khadija as a divorced wedding videographer convinced me that it was the story I was looking for. Compelled to be married early to someone she was not compatible with, Khadija took advantage of the relatively new opportunity to divorce. Once she got divorced, her family became alarmed, urging her to remarry. But Khadija did not want to. All she wanted was a job. Khadija’s video camera which has brought her such unexpected
freedom also gives my camera, and thus the viewer, an inside look at the extraordinary complexity of women’s position in contemporary Morocco. And the marriages of the young couples she films starting a new life will stand in sharp contrast with her own life as a divorcee.Why is this film important? Working as a wedding videographer, Khadija is now the sole breadwinner of her family, taking care of her mother and brothers as well as her young son. To do so, she works late hours which is a source of shame to her family. They and the neighbours gossip, criticizing her when she comes back at night. The impossible double standards that have emerged make Khadija’s life a constant challenge. She enjoys her job and wants and needs to earn a living. But in the context of the Arab world, where unemployment is so high, a woman holding a job creates havoc.
Far from the political and media debates held all along the reform of the family code, “Camera/Woman” aims to show, as simply as possible, the numerous obstacles facing women; obstacles set by an each day poorer and more conservative Moroccan society. In this context, the stigmatization hitting divorced women adds up to the economic problems already weighing them down.
Before the argument is turned against women, justifying a regress on their access to divorce by the growing number of isolated women in total distress, I think it is time to adopt these women’s point of view to observe the harsh reality that our society keeps in store for them. A reality which I propose here to reveal through their eyes.
What were the main obstacles in the production? How did you overcome them?
The main obstacle was finding support to produce my film; in my country there is no support for independent creative documentary. But thanks to independent funds like AFAC, IDFA fund, Britdoc foundation and recently Worldview I was able to keep working on my film despite the lack of support in my own country.
I lost my beloved mother last february and it was so hard for me to keep working on my film, but I see in Khadija, my main character, how a brave mother is she and my own mother was a brave one also. I decided that I have to finish my film and the it will a tribute to my beloved mother and to all the brave and courageous mothers.
Why is this film important for audiences outside your country as well as inside?
I am becoming increasingly connected to the rest of the world as I work to bring this film into the global documentary community. It is changing the way I think about story-telling and visual language, but most of all giving me the great desire to communicate Khadija’s experiences to the world because I think her position reflects so much about what it means to be a divorced woman in the Muslim world, attempting to live within the context of changing social standards for women in the Muslim and Arab world today.
It is my strong belief that a Moroccan and international audience would benefit immensely from seeing and understanding the intimate struggles of Khadija. There are very few portraits of such women both within Morocco and out in the larger world, because people are so reticent about women being filmed throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The portrait of Khadija that I am creating from my own point of view as another young Muslim Arab woman who faces these challenges will be a window in a world rarely understood. As the changes of the Arab Spring continue to spark the attention and imagination of all, “Camera/Woman” will bring rare and important insights into the challenges faced by half of the Arab population who so often go unseen and unheard – the women.
As a director, what advice and tips would you give to filmmakers about to tackle similar subjects?
To believe in their story and to keep the faith. To find creative solutions if someone doesn’t want to be in the image. The brother of my main character didn’t want to be in the image although he is the one who doesn’t agree with her kind of her work and who’s the center of the conflict. I tried to convince him but it was in vain. So, I decided that his absence would be as revealing as his presence. In our conservative societies, it is often women who have to hide to express themselves when they don’t have the courage to do so directly or when they risk something. For once, the perspective would only be reversed… That’s why I decided to ask Abdelatif (Khadija’s brother) to hide behind a curtain to express himself about his sister’s job.
Anything else you would like to say about IDFA WorldView award and support for IDFA academy travel?
My editor and I will benefit a lot of our participation at IDFA Academy summer school and this wouldn’t be possible without the partnership with IDFA and Worldview. I didn’t have any support for post-production costs but thanks to this award I will be able to pay part of the costs and hopefully to finish my film in time for IDFA.
To see the trailer and read the Q&A with other IDFA WorldView winners click: ‘Red Wedding‘.