Arts Blog

Mariam Film Screening and Director Discussion

April 21, 2016

The Weitz Cinema will be hosting a screening followed by a discussion with Saudi filmmaker and the writer and director of Mariam, Faiza Ambah, on Tuesday, April 26th, at 7:00 PM. Ambah’s 45-minute film, Mariam, comments on Western prejudices against the hijab by following a French Muslim teenager in 2004 France who must choose between removing her hijab or getting expelled from school where a nationwide law promoting secularism is passed prohibiting religious symbols in public schools.

Mariam, a French Muslim girl who listens to rap and thinks that her school crush, Kareem, “isn’t like all the other boys,” also wants to wear the hijab, because it connects her to her faith. Faiza Ambah, unlike Mariam, does not choose to wear the hijab.

A leading figure of women's emancipation, Ambah was a pioneer of women's journalism in her home country; she was one of the first female Saudi journalist to write about well-known Saudi and international figures, politics, oil, social, and economic issues. She started at the Saudi-based Arab News, and then moved to the international press where she was a correspondent for The Associated Press, The Christian Science Monitor and The Washington Post, before she decided to focus on filmmaking in 2009.

To consider the veil as a symbol of freedom and independence seems quite paradoxical in Western society in the 21st Century. Yet the story of young Mariam brings another perspective to the question. By telling Mariam's almost ordinary life story, Saudi film director Faiza Ambah addresses a series of reflections on identity and multiculturalism, with a special focus on adolescence, friendship and love. Mariam is not a film about the hijab as much as it is a fundamental claim is probably as simple as difficult to achieve: the right to be yourself, whatever the consequences.