Femme à Alger
Alongside the film, Mozzaika has provided some further context on the process behind the piece - an artistic, timely, and vital reminder of the ubiquity of global gender inequality.
I went to Algiers to create a video about a subject matter that seemed to be a priority to talk about as an Algerian woman.
My writing methodology started with a survey. The focus turned very quickly to sexual harassment in the streets, as public space is segregated by gender. Women have been denied free access to public space due to years of religious propaganda using terrorism to divide the population, targeting women’s rights.
It creates a double standard of citizenship; your rights are different if you were born female or male (a set of laws inspired by the sharia called ‘Code de la Famille’ - family code). It becomes dangerous to walk the streets of Algiers after 6pm as a woman. Body shaming is a daily practice. You are constantly reminded of your gender. Your body, how you are dressed, how you present yourself… is subjected to judgement.
Shaming and hiding the female body is one of the consequences of the “black decade” (10 years of civil war between 1991 and 2002) and the political lethargy that followed. Women can be refused to be served in cafes and restaurants when they are alone, without a male, or a guardian. There is an underlying expectation that women should be at home cooking, cleaning and taking care of the family. Therefore when they are outside women are targeted and relentlessly subjected to discrimination, harassment and moral, verbal or physical violence just because of their female condition.
Technical difficulties made it very hard to create the initial video I had in mind. It’s forbidden to film in the street in Algeria. So I decided to work on the interviews and conversations I had with the amazing women I met along the way. I wanted to collaborate with Fabrice Bourgelle (videographer and co-director) on this project due to his interest in human rights in his own work (There’s Only Love) and the several collaborations we've done together (Dar Souiri; Big Room; Skin Me). We shot the interviews of four young women indoors. In their own room, when possible, to try to catch the worlds they evolve in, without compromising their safety.
I felt the need to embody their voices, I wanted their words to resonate in movements, in flesh, outside and free. We shot the choreographic parts on a rooftop, in the Casbah - the historic neighbourhood of Algerian resistance. Their voices’ echoes fall in the long history of Algerian female freedom fighters. The absence of the female body in the public space is not only an Algerian problem – most places on earth face gender inequality issues.
FEMME à ALGER was projected in Delhi, India (Inside/Outside Dance Film Screenings) where female oppression is very similar. It was also projected in Costa Rica, and twice in Paris for different humans rights festivals (Feministival, Forum France-Algérie) where women could relate.
Sexual harassment has been part of women’s daily lives for too long. It is time to break the taboo that half of society deals with, as if it were their fate... The #metoo campaign shows how deeply rooted and wildly spread this issue is. In order to create a constructive future where all Humans are equal and free, it is an absolute necessity to establish a dialogue on gender equality, based on the Female reality. Only through debate can we find solutions.
Freedom for all!