Voices of the Morning

  • Rating: ***

  • Audience: College to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $200.00
  • Date: Copyright 1992. Released 1993.
  • Descriptors: Women - Muslim. Islam.
  • Production Information: Live action. Produced by Meena Nanji. Directed by Meena Nanji. b&w. Also available in 3/4 inch. 15 min.
  • Available from: Women Make Movies 462 Broadway, 5th Floor New York, NY 10013 (212)925-0606
  • Cataloging: 305.48'697 Women, Muslim - Conduct of life| |Feminism
  • Print Entry #: 5:818
  • Reviewer: Helen McCullough

    This stream-of-consciousness exploration of a Muslim woman's societal role is difficult to describe and is not an easy program to understand. The easiest way to describe it is to liken it to a music video; it shares the same hypnotic stream of images and photography. Instead of song lyrics, the program's soundtrack is a woman's voice narrating her experiences of growing up under Orthodox Islamic law. She talks about being groomed by her family to be a dutiful daughter and wife and her desire to break free from such expectations.

    On its most basic level the program tells the story of a young woman's subjugation and inculcation into a restrictive and repressive culture. If it were not for the opening scene that places her in an Islamic culture, the narrator's story could easily be placed in a Western culture. Just as the viewer smugly begins to think about the commonalities of all women's roles, the tables are turned. This is not a program about the universality of women's experience, nor is it about a Muslim woman's fight to emulate Western women's lifestyles. Instead, the narrator seeks to find liberation in her own culture; she has no desire for the fashion-model freedom offered by popular Western culture. This may be unsettling to a Western audience that uses the treatment of Islamic women as an indictment against Muslim culture. It may be even more unsettling to think about the fact that it is reasonable for an Islamic woman to criticize the West's treatment of women. This video tackles these issues and more in its brief 15 minutes.

    Because of its complexity, this is not an easily accessible program for most audiences. Viewers raised on MTV may be drawn into the montage of black-and-white images, which add an interesting subtext to the narrative. The photography and editing are on par with most music videos. Yet, the program is working against itself. Visually it wants an audience that will be content to merely watch the images. On the other hand, the narration requires a state of mental alertness and some familiarity with contemporary Islamic feminism.

    Public and academic libraries with large collections in women's or Islamic studies will want to consider adding this title. It should be noted, however, that the program is not suitable for viewers looking for an introduction to women's roles in Islamic culture.

    Copyright ABC-CLIO. Included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

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