Relating the trajectory of a young Franco-Moroccan woman who returns to her native city of Fez and embraces a mystical form of Islam, Farida Benlyazid's 1988 feature film A Door to the Sky has become a mainstay at international women's film festivals and in classes on gender and the Middle East. This article examines how Benlyazid's first feature at once engages and resists the burdens of representation that accrue to it as it circulates transnationally. Alternately proposing and withholding insights into Muslim women's lives, Benlyazid's film strives to adapt mainstream narrative film to celebrate Morocco's cultural history and to trace out a feminist trajectory that embraces the country's Islamic heritage. More specifically, it conveys its protagonist's embrace of Sufism simultaneously through a narrative influenced by Sufi poetics and a Sufi-influenced visual aesthetics. Yet relating its message almost exclusively through its protagonist's point of view, the film highlights her individuality, eliding the broader Moroccan feminist and cultural movements in which Benlyazid's film claims to intervene. For transnational feminist audiences, Benlyazid's film thus stages, whether intentionally or not, a series of misreadings that oblige us to ask again and again just what we were hoping to see.
Research Article| September 01 2009
Suzanne Gauch; Now You See It, Now You Don't: Transnational Feminist Spectatorship and Farida Benlyazid's A Door to the Sky. Camera Obscura 1 September 2009; 24 (2 (71)): 107–137. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2009-004
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