Sunday, 2 May 2010
About Ellie is a fantastic Iranian movie. Not so much of the subject - some people go on holiday and a girl disappears - but because it unravels the layers of the modern Iranian - and muslim - culture and lifestyle.
We know we are in a poor country - the BMW is an old model and the beach house terrible - yet they find it superb. Already the setting is clear from the start. People only travel in families and people find their bride or groom from friends. Either fixed weddings or people would choose among someone else's choices for them.
If a girl smiled to someone - or worst yet if a girl stayed with someone alone for 5 minutes, even if they had two arms lengths distance between them, they dated!
And someone - a girl that is - can be engaged to a man, only because of the man's wishes, even if she does not want to!
Ok, there are some good things. Women do have the power to chose over their husband - but not for critical decisions- Men would only marry once. They can divorce and marry a second wife but not simultaneously. A woman can be the driving force behind a group. All group decisions are made by voting. No leader assigned! No one is more important than the other. And men would like to please the women and accept their wish. For a holiday resort that is.
But women would cook and service men while they would play. .!!!
Now, the consesus is all good in happy times. When things go wrong, there is still consensus in decision making, but the blame is put elsewhere. It takes only one strong person to admit their wrong doing and that person is a woman and is 'crucified' because she overstepped her boundaries and her freedom that her man allowed her. In fact this makes him so angry - her freedom of speech and action that is - that he actually strikes her.
If you need to understand what is happening inside the closed doors of a muslim household - moderate muslim would be my humble guess - then absolutely watch this movie. Twenty times more powerful than reading 2,000 books on the subject. And overall a very good movie, great acting and directing.
It is absolutely a mystery to me the attractiveness of Dubai to so many people for holidays. For business I totally understand. It is the most western - or rather - not too arab - location in the middle east, where west and east (far east as well) can share the distance and do business.
By not too arab, I did not want to sound cocky but the outer shell of arab culture can be too shocking to western eyes, especially women...well..fashion.
First of all Dubai has absolutely no color. It is fake. It is a city of scyscrapers - some half finished that could be the manifestation of rich arab competitiveness. Not of doing better, but of showing off bigger than the next guy. To my mind I find no other excuse of not keeping any of the color of the magnifiscent and long arab civilization with so much to offer the world in aesthetics and architecture. Would it be a burden to all the western architects that were flown in on a golden flying rug (or lear jet) to build such monumental buildings to give some of the color of this ancient civilization. Dubai looks more like Gotham City and one would expect Batman and the Batmobile to turn the corner than a reminder of the thousand years old descendants of a thousand and one nights people.
There is an 'old Dubai' which is about forty years old, but would rather be the 'poor Dubai' where the indegenous population and workers are housed.
I assure you, the only thing that reminds the visitor that you are in an arab country is the heat and the burkas.
Now, this I can not tolerate. I consider myself a relaxed person when it comes to religion and someone who welcomes differences no matter how big they are. Actually 'live to be different' could be considered my motto. Ask anyone who knows me. On the flipside, I consider myself a deeply liberal person. The theocracy of the arab world shook that liberalism to its core. From one hand, I am damned if I dont accept others no matter how different they are. They have the right to live anyway they want as long as they dont harm others. On the other hand, being a woman, I consider equality as a natural given. Nope. Not in the Arab world. Islam means surrender. Man surrenders to God and Woman to both Man and God who have almost equal power of soveignty over her.
Now I am in rebellion. My inner self is extremely aggravated to watch these poor - in my eyes - women walk a few feet behind their husband, not talk to anyone other than the husband or be talked to - not to be touched by their husband in public and not show anything of their body or face besides the eyeline - it would be impossible for them to walk if they did not. And of course they are covered in black - a sign of modesty and mourning for the loss of innoscent as they are responsible for the world's biggest sin: desire. They being the object of desire for men they are evil. And they have to cleanse their sin by total surrender to God and His intermediary, their father, their older brother, their husband or older son..
Yet, I have to understand that these women are for the most part not forced into that religion. They are born into it and they feel it is the right thing to do. They are proud to wear the burkas, those in Saudi Arabia have no choice they have to. The ones that have a choice and are proud to do so are a mystery to me. Men's outfits on the other hand are crispy white and of course they dont hide the face...
If only they had lost the Crucades....