‘Casablanca Calling’: Berlin Feminist Film Week Review

‘Casblanca Calling’, directed by Rosa Rogers, is a documentary that follows the lives of Islamic women living in Morocco today, and the social revolution that is quietly taking place. The film centers around a new generation of women who have started work as Morchidats; Muslim leaders and spiritual guides. As Morchidats these women work in some of the most impoverished areas of Morroco, helping women and society to distil the true values of Islam, in regards to women’s rights, from the misunderstandings and prejudices of its present day situation.

Director: Rosa Rogers, 62 mins

Throughout the film we see several Morchidat women working in various ways throughout the community. Some work in schools and dormitories, supporting girls’ education, and promoting the empowerment that comes from the act of learning. This type of support and encouragement that is offered by the Morchidat is key, as 60% of women in Morroco have never been to school. The Morchidat teach these young girls the power that comes from having an education, and remind them that the original teachings of Islam, as stated in the Quran, stress the importance of learning and education, not just for men, but women also.

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In the schools and dormitories, as well as at local mosques and visits to rural communities, the Morchidat women undertake a pastoral role. They provide guidance and advice to women struggling with the difficulties that have been brought on by the clashing of traditional Islamic values, with the more progressive modern day understandings of the religion. Many women, particularly in rural areas, are forced to work all day and be the sole provider for their families, whilst others are suffering from the difficulties that their daughters early marriages have brought upon the family, many being married off at the age of twelve. Although it is now the law in Morocco that girls cannot be married until they are eighteen, it still seems that some do not want to progress and adapt to changing ideas about traditional Islamic teaching. However, the fact that this law has been introduced shows that progress is happening in Morocco, empowering women to take legal action, and protect their basic human rights.

However, as the film progresses we see that the Morchidat and their teachings still have a long way to go in educating a population whose ideas and beliefs are rooted in a misunderstanding of women and their place in Islamic culture. For example, at one of the dormatories where young girls from rural areas far away from school stay, we are heartbreakingly reminded of the threatening impact that these injustices have on the lives of young women. A Morchidat woman is called into the dormitory late at night; a young girl has taken her own life. She calls together the girls the next day to speak to them about the devastating event, as they sit and pray and silently weep into their hands. We later find out that the girl who had taken her life had been seen talking to a boy outside of the school where her father was waiting to pick her up. On seeing his daughter talk to the boy, he had pulled her by the hair to the car, telling her that she was never to go back.

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Although the film entails great sadness and struggle for the majority of women in Morocco, ‘Casablanca Calling’ is also a celebration of women; their strengths, their faith, and their ambitions. Through their work the Morchidat are able to create a great sense of community and inclusion for women in varying communities all around Morocco, exemplifying the power of sisterhood and the strength that comes from women working together. One part of the film that exemplifies this is when a group of school children, both boys and girls, are taken on a school trip to Fez to visit a grand and statuesque mosque created by a female Islamic scholar. The female Morchidat teacher shows the children the mosque as they gaze in awe, before spontaneously getting them all to hold a round of applause for the achievements of women.

The film encompasses the radical nature of these inspiring Islamic Morchidat teachers superbly, demonstrating the progress that Islamic feminists have made in reclaiming their place in their religion and culture. The film makes an incredibly important statement, especially at a time when in the Western World Islamophobia is at an all time high, and white feminists are deeming Islam as oppressive of women and anti-feminist. The film speaks out against these beliefs, exemplifying the many ways in which Islamic women are empowering themselves through their religion, and through working together to teach their society about the progress that still needs to be made. This ambition for the future of Islamic women is demonstrated perfectly in a scene towards the end of the film, where two young girls excitedly talk about their dream to become doctors and have surgeries right next door to each other on the same road. It is through the Morchidat and their inspirational efforts that young Islamic girls living in Morroco have been given a new faith in themselves and their ambitions; the future is a reality waiting to be seized.

 

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