I first heard about the film The Source via a Mark Kermode film review. Put simply, it is a story set in a remote North African village (the country is not named in the film). The village depends on income from visiting tourists and the there is little work for men there, unless they move to the city. This poverty also means that the village does not have a central water supply. Instead, they rely on a water source atop a steep hill, the fetching of which is seen solely as women’s work, despite the fact that women have injured themselves and suffered miscarriages due to having to carry such heavy burdens. After yet another women miscarries, Leila, newly married and newly literate, suggests that they take action to make the men fetch the water – to go on a “love strike,” withholding sexual relations until the men agree to fetch the water, or better still, persuade the government to connect the village.
The Source manages to tackle the story with great of wit and humour, while, as Kermode says, not shying away from the negative reactions some men have towards the love strike. What helps is having well-rounded characters, female and male, whose actions the plot allows you to understand, even if you don’t always sympathise with them; while it would be easy to have the men as lazy, two dimensional chauvinists, they are instead given time to speak and provide an insight into their behaviour. Likewise, the film shows religion as being both a tool of oppression, with the men suggesting taking other wives to punish the women; and liberation, with the women turning to the Qur’an to put their case forward. Tradition, also, is shown as being both a source of bonding and entertainment, in the singing the women do together, as well curtailing female freedom, with widespread female illiteracy due to not educating women. In a cinematic world that tends to either have Islam the marvellous or Islam the terrible and Muslim women as either oppressed victims or saintly angels of the homestead, it is incredibly refreshing to see both sides interacting in a manner that many Muslim women watching will be able to relate to. [Read more...]