How Jordan's New Film 'Inshallah Walad', Addresses The Elephant in The Room
By: Menal Elmaliki / Arab America Contributing Writer
“All women speak two languages: the language of men and the language of silent suffering. Some women speak a third, the language of queens.”
Mohja Kahf from the poetry collection.
Inshallah Walad– “God Willing a Boy”
Films impact society and it is a means of bringing about social change, challenging the audience’s perspective on not only societal norms and attitudes but also our very own lives. Inshallah Walad, is a Jordanian film, directed by Amjad Al- Rasheed, that addresses the elephant in the room, highlighting the plights of Jordanian women in everyday society. The film challenges the way Jordanian’s see their own norms and laws through the story of Nawal, a widowed mother in her 30s who struggles to care for her daughter after her husband’s death and the denial of his inheritance money.
Nawal must deal with an unavoidable fate, a rude- awakening that her country does not see eye to eye, denying her right to live a life worth living. After her husband’s death, she is denied his inheritance money and she is forced into quiet submission with no one to turn to, suffering silently with the walls of conservative attitudes, norms, and laws that benefit males and hinder females, especially in Jordanian society when having a son makes life simpler and it is the difference between a privileged life and one of discrimination.
Throughout the film Nawal dances around emotions of fear and hopelessness but eventually she becomes the hero of her own story. The audience is awe- stricken by the unrelenting strength she shows as she is forced to grapple with a bitter reality. Despite the difficulty, she carries on knowing that victory is not about winning and there is beauty in the struggle as she holds on to hope that one day things will change for her daughter and future generations of women who feel trapped and left without a voice.
Laws of Equality of Equity
Dema Matruk Aloun, a women’s rights activist and professor of private law at Hashemite University, stated that “men are afraid of strong women. In Jordan … it’s a fact that men want to be one step higher than women. The change must start from the society itself, people themselves.”
The film sheds light on the perspective of Jordanian women, who are only seen but never fully heard or understood. Director Amjad Al- Rasheed creates a powerful story, using a strong character who is resilient, to unmask the hidden reality of Jordanian women who must survive to live and who feel at times deprived of options with nowhere to turn to help. In a society where men are the breadwinners of the family and are expected to take care of their welfare, the question is begged, what are left of women who have no breadwinners or protector and how can men provide if there are no men?
His film is a cinematic art form because it sheds light on the sensitive and delicate subject of inheritance laws in a subtle way without offending but rather to change perceptions and prompt thinking. The situation in Jordan is complex, the laws that inhibit women and in the same breathe is said to ‘honor’ and ‘respect are being called into question since it ignores the reality of special cases like in the case of Nawal.
Women are fighting to be heard and recognized and they not only deal with laws that favor men and neglect them but they must also deal with “deeply ingrained social attitudes towards women that need to be addressed.” Throughout the film it seems Nawal is fighting a losing battle going up against the norms, conservative values, culture and laws but she is fighting for a better future.
Compete in Cannes Film Festival
The film has earned international recognition, the Royal Film Commission of Jordan announced that the film will be the first Jordanian film to compete in the Cannes film festival this spring, the 76th edition of the festival. This film, earning international recognition, will be featured at the French’s 62nd Semaine de la Critique (Critics’ Week) in Cannes between May 17 and 25. The festival started in 1962 and this year marks their 62nd anniversary.
“Seven title competition features films from across the globe.” It will compete with 7 competitive films and 11 features (in total), showcasing films from across the globe including Tiger Stripes, Malaysian film, directed by Amanda Nell Eu, Power Alley, Brazilian film directed by Lilah Halla, Sleep, Korean film directed by Jasin Yu, It is Raining in The House, directed by Belgian filmmaker Paloma Sermin Dai, Lost Country, Serbian film directed by Vladimir Perisic and Le Ravissement from French director Iris Kaltenback. The film stars actors Muna Hawa, Haitham Al- Omari, Salwa Nakkara, Yumma Marwan, Mohammed Al- Jizawai, and Eslam Al- Awadi.
Jordan’s Cinematic Recognition
The passion of Jordanian filmmakers is evident and their purpose of creating films is to share their stories with the world and to highlight the lives of Jordanian people and its history. According to Jordan’s Royal Film Commission the film Inshallah Walad is huge achievement in the cinema scene in Jordan who is slowly becoming the mecca of cinema in the Middle East. Jordan has come a long way since 2003 when the Royal Film Commission was first developed. The commission was developed to encourage filmmaking and provide training to Jordaians who had an interest and passion in cinema.
Since then the country has been making strives, providing films full of passion that showcase the plight of real people. In 2015, Jordan gained international recognition and was lauded for their film Theeb, directed by Naji Abu Nowar. The film tells the coming of age tale of a Bedouin boy and his adventures with a British offer as they embark to their final destination. The story takes place in the province of Hijaz during World War 1 with Jordan still under Ottoman control. In 2016, Theeb, the first Jordanian film to made its way to the Academy Awards was nominated for best foreign language film.
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