Challenging the Agents of Patriarchy in the Moroccan Film ‘Ain Nssa’


 

Boujamaa EL KOUY
PhD. Candidate

  The Source (French: La Source des femmes) is a 2011 comedy film directed by Radu Mihăileanu, starring Leïla Bekhti and Hafsia Herzi. Set in a remote village in North Africa, the story largely focuses on women who go on a sex strike against having to fetch water from a distant place. It shed light on women’s marginalization and subordination in the middle of frontiers that are constructed by the patriarchal doxa; The Source perfectly demonstrates the uphill battle of equality. In other words, the story is about some young women in a totally marginalized rural village that is situated somewhere between North of Africa and the Middle East go on a sex strike to protest having to search water from a distant source. In other words, it is about backbreaking journey up to the mountain and come back carrying heavy pails of water that usually leads to frequent and recurrent miscarriages subjecting women to accusations of sterility and threats by their husbands of repudiation or taking another wife:

Women in a marginalized rural village “somewhere between the North of Africa and the Middle East,” go on a sex strike to protest having to search water from a distant source.  The arduous trek up the mountain and back carrying heavy pails of water leads to frequent miscarriages, subjecting women to accusations of sterility and threats by their husbands of repudiation or taking another wife

This film is a must-see for anyone interested in going beyond stereotypes and understanding contemporary realities of women’s lives in North Africa. Here in the film, women use sex as a pressure tool to challenge men’s domination over women. Also, the film conveys the idea that water and women are source of power, love, reform and human rights.

In their aforementioned article, Stephanie Willman Bordat and Saida Kouzzi, and Houda Benmbarek claim that ‘Ain Nssa’ effectively weaves together a host of hot issues those contemporary North African societies are grappling and struggling with such as economic development, women’s rights, unemployment, girl’s education, the impact of foreign television, conflicts between generations, the growing popularity of religious extremism, and States’ failure to provide basic public services.

The Source successfully weaves together a host of hot issues that contemporary North African society in transition is grappling with – economic development, women’s rights, unemployment, girl’s education, the impact of foreign television, conflicts between generations, the growing popularity of religious extremism, and States’ failure to provide basic public services.  It depicts the tensions and negotiations around the competing imperatives of tradition and modernity.  The women’s campaign to bring water to their village illustrates advocacy strategies for change.  And finally, it tackles evolving male–female relationships and the struggle to redefine them based on love and equality.

Despite condemnation by the Sheikh, Imam and the rest of the burg’s outraged men, the ladies maintain their resolve, even to the point of enduring physical and psychological maltreatment. Their rebellion is totally voiced in several kitschy song-and-dance numbers and eventually expands to encompass aspirations for equal rights in education, mosque and home. 

The Source is indisputably a movie about the urgent need for gender equality. More importantly, it explores themes of injustice, sexism, determination and personal convection. Like and wise,   The Source stresses the importance for individuals to find their inner strength and fight for their beliefs:

 The Source is undoubtedly a film about the need for sexual equality; it is also a love story. The extremely tender drawn-out sex scene between Leila and Sami is almost more of a climax than news of the strike’s eventual success. Exploring themes of injustice, sexism, determination and personal conviction, The Source underlines the importance for individuals to find their inner strength and fight for their beliefs.

The women adopt Leila’s tactic. Happy marriages become tortured, sometimes violent. The village men are hurt and offended. The women, some consumed with guilt and longing, begin to question their ‘strike’. Meanwhile, the very social foundations of this village, governed by religion and tradition, begin to look shaky as the strike forces the men and women into a conflict over every aspect of their lives.

The Hammam scene is remarkably significant in the film; it is the almost obligatory scene in North-African texts and films. It is a sexually segregated space in which no members of the opposite sex are allowed to enter. In the Hammam women are liberated from the socially determined corporality. Also, they are freed from the social policing of their bodies and from the limiting sexual roles set by society for them. In other words, the women, in the Hammam, find a refuge from the corrosive prejudices of society and from the threats posed to her in the body politic.

‘Ain Nssa’ ostensibly intends to portray the wretched lives of women in the isolated space. In this village, as a masculinzed space, women are relegated to the margins of society. Here, women frequently attempt to break through these patriarchal borders in multiple ways to infiltrate those forbidden spaces.

The plot offers a cinematic mix of sex, religion and politics.
The film has a socio-political content; it deals with a sensitive subject. It has symbolic and emblematical meanings, especially in this political historical stage, the stage of the spring of peoples, though it starts with the touch of poor folk drama. Another explanation of the film is that Morocco uses the latest technology products, while it is still dominated by the outdated and obsolete patriarchal mentality.

 Rerefences:

1. Tephanie Willman Bordat and Saida Kouzz. ‘The Source: a Story of Moroccan Women Going on Sex Strike to Protest for Living Conditions’. Morocco World News :New York, June 3, 2012. Retreived from 🙁 http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2012/06/42875/the-source-a-story-of-moroccan-women-going-on-sex-strike-to-protest-for-living-conditions/). Accessed on November 30th, 2012. At 09:00 am.

2. DVD Review: The Source Wednesday, 18 July 2012 17:55 | by Leo Owen . Retrieved from (http://www.shadowlocked.com/201207182715/reviews/dvd-review-the-source.html).  Accessed on 05/12/2012 at 15:02

 

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