Deborah Perkin Media Ltd presents
Every child deserves a future: how an illiterate woman took on tradition, her own family and the Moroccan legal system for the sake of her illegitimate child
“Extraordinarily intimate and moving portrait”
Geoffrey Macnab, Independent
“A keenly thought-through, sensitively executed, dramatically involving debut…genuinely refreshing to see a story of female empowerment from the Islamic world”
Trevor Johnson, Sight & Sound Sight and Sound
“Deserves to be seen widely.” Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
“Riveting…more gripping than many mainstream films.” Mark Kermode, BBC
“Gripping!” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
UK 2014 Arabic with English subtitles 82 mins BBFC rating 12A
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Selected by 28 international film festivals worldwide, and winner of Best International Documentary in Uganda and Mexico.
UK cinema release July 2014
Aired on Moroccan television channel 2M May 2014 – attracting 31% of viewers.
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Every child deserves a future: Bastards tells the moving and uplifting story of an illiterate young woman who took on tradition, her own family, and the Moroccan legal system, for the sake of her illegitimate daughter. A gripping, poignant and humorous documentary from the cutting edge of Islam, and a reflection of a Muslim society determined to modernise its attitudes to women. Director Deborah Perkin is the first person to film in a Moroccan family court, and she lived in a Casablanca slum to be close to her subjects.
PRESS RESPONSE TO UK THEATRICAL RELEASE
KERMODE & MAYO SHOW BBC RADIO 5 LIVE – Mark Kermode
“The story itself is so strong, and told with such clean firm strokes, done in a way that absolutely puts the thing together in a way which is riveting, so you start following the story and it becomes, I have to say, I think more tense, more gripping than many mainstream films out there in cinemas at the moment.”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VT1Php8q7HM (video of radio show)
INDEPENDENT – 4 stars Geoffrey Macnab “an extraordinarily intimate and moving portrait”
CLOSE-UP FILM – 4 stars Marianne Gray “Revealing, unique, humorous and brave”
SIGHT AND SOUND “A keenly thought-through, sensitively-executed, dramatically involving debut”…
“genuinely refreshing to see a story of female empowerment from the Islamic world”
GUARDIAN Peter Bradshaw “Gripping”
DAILY EXPRESS “Incisive documentary … one that burns brightly”
EVENING STANDARD ”Shocking, stereotype-busting documentary … heart-pummelling stuff”
EMPIRE MAGAZINE “An impassioned, fly-on-the-wall look at a serious social issue”
LITTLE WHITE LIES
“The language of God and morality is used to appeal to witnesses and authorities in place of the stiff terms we’re familiar with in equivalent UK settings. Perkin works in a similar way, appealing to core emotions.”
MAIL ON SUNDAY Jason Solomons “Stirring, emotive stuff…told in a rawly effective way”
OBSERVER “Powerful stuff”
CINE-VUE “Rewarding viewing by shining a light into darkness and finding warmth in its winning subjects”
WALL STREET JOURNAL “Deserves to be seen widely”
INTERVIEWS WITH THE DIRECTOR
BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour
BBC Radio Wales (approx from 1hr 40mins) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b048vq6s
At 14 Rabha El Haimer was forced into a marriage with a man she had never met. After her daughter was born, she discovered that the wedding, a traditional ceremony, had no legal status. Her child was therefore illegitimate.
In Morocco, as in all Muslim countries, sex outside marriage is illegal. But in rural communities like Rabha’s the ‘fatha’ ceremony is common, and in every respect the women involved are regarded as wives, who must obey their husbands utterly. But outside these villages, in modern-day Morocco, that fatha is not recognised as a legal marriage. So women like Rabha and their children exist in limbo.
These ‘illegitimate’ children are refused infant immunisations and kept out of the better schools. Their non-status means their fathers can reject them – and their mothers – and fail to support them, in the knowledge that the law is effectively on their side. And it doesn’t end there. Throughout the children’s lives the stigma remains. They are prevented from taking more lucrative and prestigious jobs, such as in the civil service or the police. They are second-class citizens, condemned to a life of discrimination.
Rabha el Haimer has made it her mission to challenge this. Despite not being able to read or write, she has embarked on a mission to get her fatha marriage recognised so she can register her daughter as a full Moroccan citizen. With unprecedented access to the Moroccan justice system, Bastards follows her journey from the slums of Casablanca, where she now lives, to the courts in Agadir. It is the first film ever to reveal this side of life in a modern Arab country, and to take cameras into the Moroccan courts.
In her quest, Rabha faces not only the judges and officials but her child’s father, a violent and uncompromising man who refuses to acknowledge or support their daughter. She also endures insults from his family, and the self-justification of her own mother, who married her off at just 14.
However the story is not all negative.
In 2004, the Moroccan government made the most radical attempt to date in a Muslim country to give women individual rights under Islamic law, with the reform of the ‘Mudawana’ or Family Code. And a pioneering Casablanca charity, L’Association Solidarité Feminine, is helping her and other disadvantaged women. Another ground-breaking aspect of the film is that it shows Muslim women in positions of some authority challenging the status quo, notably the fearless founder of the ASF, Aicha Chenna, and charismatic social worker Soumia Idman. But the battle is still a daunting one, with centuries of entrenched beliefs to overturn.
Rabha’s story is interwoven with those of a mistress fighting for child maintenance, a young student who cannot get the job he wants because of his illegitimacy and a single mother whose boyfriend tried to sell their baby.
Revealing the many facets of a modern Muslim country, Bastards is a deeply moving, funny, and ultimately triumphant portrait of courage in the face of adversity.
At the age of 14, her mother and her uncle forced Rabha into an arranged marriage to an older cousin she had never met. When she moved into his home, she discovered that he was deaf and mute, so communication was all but impossible – and according to Rabha, he was also violent.
After two years of rape and beatings, Rabha was pregnant and suicidal. The cousin’s family responded by throwing her out.
It was then Rabha discovered that her traditional marriage ceremony had no status in law. She had been compelled to submit to her husband’s authority like a wife, but had none of a wife’s rights. She was classed as a single mother and her cherished daughter Salma, a bastard.
But Rabha refused to remain a victim. Despite being unable to read or write she embarked on a crusade to compel Salma’s father and his family to face up to their responsibilities, and to gain full citizenship for her child. Helping her fight this battle was a unique and radical charity in Casablanca, L’Association Solidarité Feminine. And following her was award-winning filmmaker Deborah Perkin.
Over eighteen months, Rabha makes three journeys to Agadir to fight her way through the courts with the help of her determined and committed female lawyer Lamia Faridi. And Perkin’s camera follows them into court. There are shocking scenes as Rabha is made to swear on oath that she was a virgin when she got married, and her mute husband insists in sign language that he is not the father of her child. He even denies the ceremony took place – he wasn’t there. Rabha’s extraordinary courage and persistence in the face of such odds are further demonstrated when she persuades several of the witnesses from the wedding to make the hundred mile journey to support her in court.
Morocco – the background
In most Muslim countries sex outside marriage is taboo. But Morocco is leading the way with a more tolerant attitude to single mothers and their ‘bastard’ children.
With 6500 babies abandoned every year, Morocco is now encouraging single parents to be reconciled as the most constructive way forward. L’Association Solidarité Feminine (ASF), the Casablanca charity featured in the film, has been at the forefront of changing attitudes over the past thirty years, and at the centre of the campaign to reform the Family Code. While the women in the documentary remain victims of social and religious intolerance, they are at the same time beneficiaries of a society edging towards a breakthrough in human rights.
The Mudawana, is the personal status code, also known as the family code, in Moroccan law. It concerns issues related to the family, including the regulation of marriage, polygamy, divorce, inheritance, and child custody.
Originally based on the Maliki school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, it was codified after the country gained independence from France in 1956. Its most recent revision, passed by the Moroccan parliament in 2004, has been praised by human rights activists for its measures to address women’s rights and gender equality within an Islamic legal framework.
Although there were calls for reform to the family law in the 1960s and 70s, its religious origins made amending it a challenge, and no serious movement for reform emerged until the 1980s. As a result of newly created civil society organizations, including many women’s organizations, and increased international attention on women’s rights, modest reforms to the Mudawana were enacted in 1993 under King Hassan II. Following this initial change, increased activism resulted in the articulation of a Plan of Action for the Integration of Women in Development, which drew heavily from secular, rights-based frameworks. This sparked fierce debate and opposition within Moroccan political elites and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Moroccan society, and culminated in two rallies in Casablanca and Rabat in March 2000 – one in support of reform and one in opposition to it. This occurred shortly after Mohammad VI succeeded his father as King, and within a year of the rallies, he announced the formation of a commission to further reform the Mudawana. In 2003, he announced his intention to replace the code entirely, citing his authority as both spiritual and political leader of the nation, and by January 2004, the Moroccan parliament ratified the new version.
Major components of the reforms included raising the minimum legal age of marriage to 18 for men and women, establishing joint responsibility for the family among men and women, limiting the terms of polygamy and divorce, and granting women more rights in the negotiation of marriage contracts, among other provisions. Supporters of the reforms point to broad support for them among Moroccan society, especially among women, and cite the new law as a successful example of a progressive reform framed in indigenous, Islamic principles. Critics of the reforms point to the elitist roots of the movements that advocated for the reforms, the influence of Western secular principles, and the many barriers to the law’s implementation within Moroccan society.
OTHER FEATURED SUBJECTS
Aicha Chenna is an advocate for women’s rights – and particularly those of young unmarried mothers – in Morocco, and the founder of Association Solidarité Feminine (ASF) in Casablanca, which provides childcare, job and life skills training, and job placement services. Aicha Chenna and ASF (with support from the Moroccan royal family) successfully launched a public conversation over Morocco’s family law that resulted in the new code introduced in 2004 that combines positive values and the social benefits of religion and tradition with changing norms. Before founding ASF she worked in the Moroccan Ministry of Social Affairs. Chenna was awarded the prestigious $1 million Opus Prize in 2009, given in recognition of extraordinary work in fighting poverty. In 2013 she was awarded the French Légion d’Honneur – the highest honour the French state can give.
This remarkable woman, who founded the charity in the face of death threats from conservatives, features prominently in the film. She counsels Mohsin Naim, a 22-year-old law student, and his mother Fatima. They are angry and upset because the boy has been rejected for a job with the police despite his high marks in the entrance exams, and they are sure it’s because he’s illegitimate.
Fatiha Rabbah’s is the slum-dwelling mistress of a man who owns a large house where he lives with his wife. Although he refuses to support their eight year-old daughter Fatiha still sees him. In one scene she describes how he beats her up, gives the child alcohol to make her sleep while they have sex, and how he calls the little girl a slut. This material is disturbing by any standards, but for Muslim viewers it is deeply shocking. That she has retained her sense of humour through all this seems equally incredible.
Soumia Idman features throughout the film in her work as a social worker at L’Association Solidarité Feminine. She supports Rabha at the start of her legal fight, and advises the women who arrive on ASF’s doorstep every day. Her style is warm and irrepressible. She phones errant boyfriends to try to persuade them to take responsibility for their children, putting the fear of God into them with a smile: “How are you my son? Happy New Year!….Today we live, tomorrow we die, and we’ll be judged by God on what we have done in this life.”
Lamia Faridi is a human rights lawyer based in Agadir with her own law practice. She is living proof that Moroccan women can be educated and achieve great career success in the most male-dominated of fields. She represents Rabha in court and is a key player in her fight to win justice for herself and Salma.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
During the eighteen-month development period formal access was painstakingly negotiated with the Moroccan Ministry of Justice. The radical Casablanca charity L’Association Solidarité Feminine opened its case files to the production team. Although the charity is well used to media coverage, it had never before granted access to an observational documentary crew over a long period. Similarly, the Ministry of Justice also granted unprecedented permission to film in its courts in Agadir.
The production team Deborah Perkin (former BBC senior producer and director) and Nora Fakim (former BBC Morocco Correspondent) lived in a Casablanca slum for two months, to be amongst the single mothers. This gave them intimate access to a previously hidden world.
Why did you make this film?
Rabha is a remarkable character, an illiterate child bride with no legal rights, who fights back to claim a better future for herself and her daughter. I desperately want the world to see her story, to admire her battle for justice and to celebrate her success. I found her story through my passion to tell a good news story from the Muslim world. Excruciatingly hard as Rabha’s life has been, she does have access to the justice system, and she does have the support of feisty women lawyers and activists
I am tired of seeing negative media stories about Muslims as male terrorists and female veiled victims. I want to look behind the stereotypes, to explore the ordinary lives of Muslim people. Bastards looks candidly at sex, love, parenthood and money – the universal themes that concern us all.
So where did you start?
I went on holiday to Morocco with my mother! We were impressed with the way women seemed to be engaged in society, more than in other Muslim countries we had visited, though we didn’t claim to be any sort of experts. When I got home I discovered that Moroccan family law reforms of 2004 gave women a measure of equality within marriage. The position of single mothers and illegitimate children is slowly changing for the better too, as attitudes soften in Morocco. Even though many Moroccans think the reforms don’t go far enough, it seemed like a very unusual step in the right direction. So I started talking to Moroccan lawyers, and searching for a documentary subject that could show the law in action.
How did you find out about the plight of “bastards” in Morocco?
In my search for a subject I quickly came across Aicha Chenna’s pioneering work for single mothers. She’s a national heroine in Morocco, and increasingly around the world. The French government has recently awarded her their highest honour, the Légion d’Honneur and previously she won the American Opus Prize celebrating religion in social action. She’s determined that children shouldn’t suffer because their parents aren’t married, and wants them to be full members of Moroccan society. Her charity L’Association Solidarité Feminine advises single mothers how to use the law to their advantage. Over 50 years, Aicha Chenna battled religious and social prejudice and helped to reform the law. Compared with the West, the rights of Moroccan single mothers may be very narrow but compared with other Muslim countries, they are amazingly broad. No woman is jailed or executed for breaking the family law.
How difficult was it to gain access to film the lives of these women and their children?
In any observational documentary, first of all you have to win people’s trust. Why should a charity like L’Association Solidarité Feminine open its casebook to a British filmmaker without a lot of discussion first? We came to an agreement over the course of a year, shooting a taster tape, and discussing the ground rules. Crucially, I had to agree to hide the identities for the Moroccan audience, of any single mothers who preferred to remain anonymous. One of the women in the film lives in fear for her life, believing that her father would kill her if he discovered she had had an illegitimate child, so her identity is hidden for all viewers around the world.
The long negotiation and preparation over, and the agreement with the charity in place, I had the most wonderful welcome from the single mothers themselves. I had expected nine out of ten single mothers to be camera-shy, but the opposite was true. Very few women refused to be filmed and most wanted to tell me their stories and laugh and cry with me. It was a privilege to be allowed into their lives, and they seemed to enjoy the confessional nature of documentary making. My Assistant Producer Nora Fakim speaks Arabic, and I don’t, but it’s amazing how much communication can take place non-verbally. I think it also helped that Nora and I lived in a slummy part of Casablanca where the single mums live, and word got round that we were sharing a room, sleeping on two mattresses, in a house without a bathroom, cooking on a stove in the corridor and using the local hammam. We certainly didn’t come across as pampered media types.
How did you get access to film in the courts?
I believe I am the first Westerner to film in a Moroccan family court – and it wasn’t easy. As a news journalist working for Al Jazeera and the BBC, Nora had good relationships with the Moroccan authorities. We secured the normal filming permission from the Ministry of the Interior, and then once we had identified Rabha’s story, we approached the Ministry of Justice. We explained that we wanted to show Morocco’s far-reaching 2004 legal reforms in action.
Why should non-Muslims care?
Well, we are all human beings, living in a global village and we should take an interest in each other, and help where we can! Having said that, this isn’t a film that people “ought” to watch because it’s politically correct. Quite the opposite! It’s closer to being a gritty courtroom drama, or a soap opera, with women and men talking frankly about sex, money and marriage. It’s the stuff of everyone’s lives. And it’s not so long ago that illegitimate children were stigmatised in the West…
Illegitimate children were stigmatised in the West?
Sex outside marriage was never illegal in Britain, but it was severely frowned upon right up to around the 1970s. Some families cast out their pregnant unmarried daughters, and charities existed to provide for single mothers and their children, just like in Morocco today. The word bastard itself means illegitimate child but also carries the shocking sense of being an obnoxious person. I don’t make this point in the film, but Morocco reminds me of what I read about Victorian Britain, with housemaids falsely promised marriage by their employers, women who had lost their virginities being considered not fit to marry, and fathers telling their pregnant daughters never to darken their doors again.
Is the film relevant now?
Good stories are timeless and Rabha’s story will be an inspiration for years to come…. but there’s never been a better time to watch Bastards. Every day we hear about abuse of women’s and children’s rights around the world – sexual harassment of female Egyptian protestors, acid attacks on women in Pakistan, child brides in Yemen – and it’s not just in Muslim countries, but on our doorsteps in the West, with continual coverage of domestic violence and paedophilia. In Britain recently, a woman was threatened with rape for campaigning to put the author Jane Austen on our £10 banknote.
Who is on your team?
My inspirational Executive Producers are Peter Grimsdale (former Channel 4 and BBC commissioner) and Angela Holdsworth (BBC and Channel 4 Executive) who made the groundbreaking BBC women’s history series Out of the Doll’s House and the Channel 4 drama-doc, The People’s Duchess, which inspired the recent Kiera Knightley film, The Duchess. Now I have a third wonderful Executive Producer in Adam Partridge from the Film Agency for Wales. Assistant Producer Nora Fakim was the BBC’s Morocco correspondent from 2011 to 2012, and now reports for BBC World across North Africa. Dubbing Mixer Tim Ricketts and Sound Editor Paul Jefferies are the BAFTA-winning BBC Wales team who have mixed all 100 episodes of the modern Dr Who series. The editors are Jane Greenwood and Amanda McGregor. The original score is by Debbie Wiseman MBE, which she recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
How did you fund the film?
I asked for voluntary redundancy from the BBC, and after three requests they finally agreed. I used the money to fund the shoot. Armed with my compelling and extraordinary footage, I launched a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, which raised £10,000. Not only did that get me into post-production, but also just as importantly, it gave me 229 individual backers in 16 countries around the world. Then the Film Agency for Wales came on board as an equity investor, putting in the vital funding for completion. Thank you to everyone who has helped to make the film. Now we want to make sure it gets seen around the world.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
DEBORAH PERKIN (Director, Producer and Cinematographer)
After working for 15 years as Producer/Director, Series Producer, Executive Producer and Head of Development, Deborah left the BBC to make Bastards, her first feature length film.
An award-winning documentary maker, Deborah has specialised in making accessible and entertaining films of substance. From criminal psychology in ‘My Son the Killer’, to archaeology in ‘China’s Terracotta Army’, to music in ‘Quincy Jones: The Many Lives of Q’, she embraces the quick, the dead and the quirky.
Each of her 24 single films has been pick of the day in the British press, and the BBC has sold many internationally. Head of ITV Factual Richard Klein wrote that her films “are always of the highest quality, intellectually and visually”.
Bastards (Theatrical release, 2014)
The Man Who Discovered Egypt (BBC4, 2012)
Ban The Boss (BBC1 and BBC HD, 2010)
Just Read (BBC4, 2009)
Quincy Jones: The Many Lives of Q (parts 1 and 2) (BBC4, 2008) BAFTA award
China’s Terracotta Army (BBC2 and BBC HD, 2007)
Kew Palace Revealed (BBC2, 2006)
Britain’s Lost Coliseum: Timewatch (BBC2, 2005)
Battlefield Britain: The Battle for Wales (BBC2, 2004) BAFTA award
My Son the Killer (BBC1, 2003)
Rocket and Its Rivals: Timewatch (BBC2, 2003)
The Mystery of the Iron Bridge: Timewatch (BBC2, 2002)
Child of Our Time: Active or Idle (BBC1, 2002)
Roman Soldiers to Be: Timewatch (BBC2, 2001)
The Good Doctor: NHS Pioneers (BBC2, 1996)
Labours of Eve: Joan’s Story (BBC2, 1995)
Labours of Eve: Mary’s Story (BBC2, 1995)
Breach of Faith: Everyman (BBC1, 1993) Front page news in UK
Call to Prayer (BBC1, 1993)
Visible Harm: Dispatches (Channel 4, 1992)
Children of the Fire: 40 Minutes (BBC2, 1991)
Taking Liberties: Cold Comfort (BBC2, 1990) Front page news in UK
Taking Liberties: Positive Discrimination (BBC2, 1989) Held by National Aids Library
Taking Liberties: Trooping the Colour (BBC2, 1989) Front page news in UK
Out of the Doll’s House: Breaking Free (BBC2, 1988) Press and Broadcasting Guild Award
PETER GRIMSDALE (Executive Producer)
Former senior commissioner at BBC, Channel 4 and Five with a wide range of experience in all TV genres. Under his leadership, Channel 4’s ‘Witness’ won an RTS Award. Recent Executive Producer credits include ‘Hugh Grant – Taking On The Tabloids’, Films of Record for Channel 4 and ‘The Dark Ages – An Age Of Light with Waldemar Januszczak’, ZCZ for BBC4. He has EPed, produced and scripted programmes for all the main terrestrial channels, Sky Atlantic and Virgin, in the US for Discovery and History Channel, and was Editorial Director at Yahoo Europe. He is also a scriptwriter and novelist.
ANGELA HOLDSWORTH (Executive Producer)
A writer and producer who worked for 20 years for the BBC and Executive Produced the groundbreaking women’s history series ‘Out Of The Dolls House’ as well as many other documentaries and current affairs programmes including ‘Crimewatch UK’. She was a trustee of the annual Grierson Documentary Awards for nine years. Since leaving the BBC, she produced and wrote the Channel 4 drama-doc ‘The People’s Duchess’, based on the life of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, which inspired the recent film, ‘The Duchess’.
NORA FAKIM (Assistant Producer)
A multi-lingual journalist specializing in North Africa, Nora was the BBC’s Morocco correspondent from 2011 to 2013 and now contributes to BBC World television and radio, and Al Jazeera English MENA online.
KARIMA ZOUBIR (Assistant Producer, Post Production)
Karima Zoubir is an award-winning Moroccan documentary-maker, a pioneering female director whose film Camera/Woman is distributed by Women Make Movies http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/makers/fm842.shtml
Directed, Produced and Filmed by Deborah Perkin
Executive Producers Peter Grimsdale
Assistant Producer Nora Fakim
Music composed by Debbie Wisesman MBE
Music performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Edited by Jane Greenwood
Dubbing Mixer Tim Ricketts
Sound Editor Paul Jefferies
Films Transit International
Jan Rofekampf for World [except USA]
US PRESS & DISTRIBUTION
UK PRESS & DISTRIBUTION
Deborah Perkin Media Ltd
+44 7710 099087