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Morocco: The Past And Present of Djemma el Fna

Produced by Steven Montgomery
Music by Hassan Hakmoun

Marrakech's famous square, a historic crossroad of Arab and Berber cultures, has for years stirred the imagination of Westerners. This documentary captures the color, romance and spiritual atmosphere that once led visitors such as Edith Wharton, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill to marvel at its magic.

More than a tourist spectacle, the square with its storytellers, musicians, acrobats and snake charmers, embodies centuries-old cultural traditions. Our Moroccan guide informs us of the square's history as a destination for caravans from the Sahara and how from earliest times it has been a center for the dissemination of ideas. He weaves his way through the square which is overflowing with performers including the snake charmer, Blaid Farrouss and his young son who hopes to carry on his family's profession. We watch visitors enjoy their exchanges with people who at first appeared strange and exotic. In turn Moroccans show their interest in foreigners and the world beyond Morocco they represent. Always, our guide points to the importance of tradition and hospitality in the Arab world.

This short, lively film will show viewers of all ages that there is more to the Islamic world than religious fundamentalism or The Arabian Nights.

Silver Award, WorldFest, Houston, 1995
Middle East Studies Association, 1995
Director's Choice, Atlanta Film & Video Festival, 1995
Museum of Modern Art, What's Happening? series, 1995

18 min. Video. Sale $175. Rental $50.

Women of the Arab World series

Harmke Pijpers

Despite the repression of women by Islamic fundamentalist groups, there are examples of highly educated, successful women who have attained emancipation. This series gives us portraits of three such women in different countries and gives insight into the complex position of the educated Islamic woman. What kind of struggle did this require? Which dilemmas face them? How do they combine their prominent position with the traditional subservient role of the woman in Arab culture?

1. Egypt: To Live With the Differences

This video focuses on Soraya Altorki, originally from Saudi Arabia, who is now a professor of anthropology at the American University in Cairo. She had to get her education abroad because schooling was not possible for a woman in Saudi Arabia. She recalls with humor the incongruity of being a sheltered Saudi Arabian woman at the University of California, Berkeley, during the radical sixties. After receiving her Ph.D. and stirred by the Arab defeat in the Six Day War, she decided to return to the Arab world.

In this candid portrait, she and her educated women colleagues express their fears that the fundamentalist movement will take away their hard -won achievements. Yet, they also resent the lack of understanding of their culture among Westerners and the tendency to regard Muslim women as all the same, without regard to class or education.

2. Jordan: Democracy for Our Children

Toucan Faisal of Jordan is the first and only woman in the Jordanian parliament. A former television personality, she decided to go into government to rectify the abuses her investigative reports uncovered. Though publicly decried by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, she refuses to be intimidated as she speaks out for human rights and democracy. There are constant threats against her life and for a time there was even a fatwa against her. But her convictions compel her to continue her crusade.

3. Morocco: The Rights of Women

Aicha Belarbi of Morocco is professor of sociology at the University of Rabat. Though educated at French schools for the daughters of the elite, she too was subject to the restrictions imposed on girls. She was politically involved as a university student in the 1960's when Morocco was trying to win its independence from France. When the new constitution was drafted it granted women equality. In reality "family law" based on the Islamic code prevails even to this day.

Professor Belarbi has written books about gender roles, child welfare, women and power, and the modern Muslim woman. One of her projects is to foster literacy among the women of Morocco, especially in the neglected rural areas. Along with her progressive outlook, she believes strongly in the importance of traditional family ties of which her own close-knit family is an example.

Each: 25 min. Video. Sale $225. Rental $55. Series: Sale $595. Series rental $125.

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