Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Screening of British Film "Yasmine"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I was so footsore with all the walking I've done, I had to give my feet a rest today. Spent most of the day loading material into my website and preparing for my classes on Thursday.

Cabin fever set in by the evening, so I was glad to get out to our Bedford Square campus to watch a screening of Yasmine, a film by Kenneth Glenaan, maker of The Full Monty. I have made arrangements to attend a screening every Tuesday either on our campus or at the British Film Institute off Tottenham Court Road as part of the course on "British Cinema" being offered by Prof. Phillip Drummond.

This is a film that should be shown around the world, but while it was screened at the British Film Festival last year, it doesn't seem to have drawn much attention at all. Must have to do with the explosive nature of the material, though for readers of Monica Ali's Brick Lane, the themes and the treatment should come as no surprise.

The film traces the alteration in mainstream perceptions towards the Muslim community in the UK since 9/11 through the female protagonist Yasmine (superbly played by Archie Punjabi of East is East, Bend It Like Beckham and, most recently, A Mighty Heart fame). Through her sensitive performance, she shows that she can carry a film through independently.

Based on the life of a young British-born Muslim girl in Bradford who rejects her religion, culture and identity to adopt English ways, but who allows herself to be married against her wishes to a Pakistani relative who seeks British citizenship, Yasmine attempts to pursue an independent life for herself with a job, a car and a set of British buddies. Everything changes for her when the anti-terrorist raids in Great Britain turned Muslim youngsters against the establishment and led them to join pro-Muslim organizations for the defence of the world's poor oppressed Muslims. Yasmine, herself, becomes the subject of suspicion merely on the basis of her ethnicity and her religion, her innocent, simple-minded husband is arrested and locked up, her father and brother are manhandled by police, her colleagues turn against her and her female boss suggests that she take a leave of absence.

The end result is that her brother leaves home to seek his fortune in a doctrinal training camp in Pakistan and Yasmine turns to the Koran, seeking answers to her identity and her future in a world that has been senselessly rocked by Western hegemony determned to assert its ideological and military supremacy. She returns sympathetically to her husband whom she had earlier wished to divorce, reconciles herself with her warring father and moves on, determined to take pride in her Islamic heritage.

The screening had been preceded by a documentary film in which a young female Islamic reporter in Great Britain attempted through historical evidence and interviews with Muslim scholars to examine the origin of Muslims in the UK and to understand why attitudes towards them have roller-coastered throughout the past two hundred years. The end result of that film also was the decision on the part of the narrator, to assert her pride in her Muslimness, by donning the head scarf--something she had shunned for her entire life. The film brought home to viewers the deliberate steps that Muslims are taking all over the world to reassert their individuality and to express their desire to maintain a separate and individual community while retaining their unique culture in the face of global hostility towards them.

If you ever get a chance, I would strongly suggest that you grab it and see this movie.

Tomorrow, I am off to the Globe Theater to see a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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