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November 08, 2013

Starz Denver Film Festival 2013 - Salma


Kim Longinotto - 2012
Women Make Movies

A bit of a step or two out of my usual zone(s). A documentary. A documentary about a poet. A documentary about a female poet, a Tamil Muslim. Salma has a website, and here is the part that is in English..

Part of her story is that in spite of living a village where girls become prisoners in their own homes when puberty hits, in spite of a lack of formal education, Salma somehow manages to write enough poems that are smuggled out of her house, she gets published, and is acclaimed for her work, while considered a criminal at home. Eventually, the husband she was forced to marry is accepting of her work and her public stature, enough so that she is voted to the public council. Her sons, though, are more conservative in their views about women.

In the larger scheme of things, Salma is about the schism between personal identity and institutionalized thought. Salma talks about how her recitation of the Koran five times a day relaxes her.
And I would not deny her the sincerity of her beliefs. Yet, at the same time, it is this same faith that kept her from getting the education that she wanted, where the norm is for girls to get married within months of their first period. If anything, the younger generation of men are more adamant in their fundamentalism, with Salma's nephew explaining that the burka needs to be worn to protect women's beauty and because men are so easily aroused. The film consists of Salma's visit to her home town of Thuvarankurichi, steeped in tradition.

Here is a link to some of her poems.

Kim Longinotto lets everyone speak for themselves. Salma's poems express what is unsaid by women, at least publicly. Even though she is able to use her fame to speak out on such matters as child brides, the film shows that consciousness raising is a challenge within one's own family, much less a region or a country.

Of course several issues are going to be raised here. From my own observation, it is easy for people outside of a specific faith to be critical about what is perceived as wrong about that faith. Certainly, Salma is aware that faith as interpreted and institutionalized as been a problem not only for herself, but for many women. Arguably, Salma's story can in some ways be applied to other religions as well.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 8, 2013 07:11 AM