Documentary tackles issue of Muslim veil
London - The hijab — the Islamic veil — is the subject of an in-depth documentary that uncovers the history and motivations behind arguably one of the most polarising religious symbols in both ancient and modern history.
The Tainted Veil, an Anasy Media production, premiered on June 15th to more than 75 guests at a private screening in London. The Emirati production, which comes with the tag line “Damned if you wear it and damned if you don’t”, took seven years to make, and scenes were filmed in nine countries.
The ambitious documentary portrays Muslims as they share stories behind their decisions to wear the veil or not.
Complemented by historical context presented by leading specialists and academics, the documentary seeks to introduce the audience to a choice of clothing that has had much misrepresentation over the years and lays the facts bare about the hijab.
In the past few decades, the hijab has been the subject of a global debate, particularly in the Muslim world, where fluctuations in its popularity have been tied to socio-political factors.
The hijab in Egypt saw a significant drop in the 20th century; however, today estimates show that around 90% of Egyptian Muslim women wear it. In Tunisia the Islamic veil was banned in government buildings in 1981, while Turkey banned it in 1997. Today, both countries have lifted the ban, which underscores that the debate is not exclusive to European countries such as France and Belgium.
Moreover, with the spread of Islamic extremism, integration among communities in Western countries diminished even further causing a palpable knowledge gap towards Muslims and their customs.
“In recent years the concept of the hijab has been politicised,” Nahla Al Fahad, one of the three filmmakers involved in the production, said. “I believe the choice of documenting this issue is timely, in order to reveal the hijab’s accurate history and origin.”
The Emeriti filmmaker went on to say the goal of The Tainted Veil was to be informative while highlighting the motivations behind some Muslim women adopting the hijab and giving an accurate historical narrative.
“Let’s keep politics out of it and understand that the veil is not exclusive to Islam since it is a part of different religions as well,” Al Fahad said.
Regarding the reasons it took filmmakers seven years to produce The Tainted Veil, Al Fahad revealed that deciding on the nine countries to focus on took a while, however finding the right individuals to interview proved even more difficult.
“These types of films require a lot of research. It’s not a simple subject that you can just tackle with simple resources, and it needs preparation from the very roots of the issue because you are looking at something that existed before Islam, during the rise of Islam and in our modern times,” she said.
“After filming, we have spent the last year and a half on post-production. We had a lot of content, and it was not easy cutting things down to fit the hour-long documentary length. Besides that a lot of documentaries take years to complete from conceptualisation to release, some as long as a decade.”
Among the guests at the London premiere were Abu Dhabi Minister for Culture Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, British model and actress Suki Waterhouse, designer and Tank magazine Executive Director Caroline Issa.
After the event, Nahyan said: “I was pleased because I think the film enlightened people to the origins of what the hijab represents and that there are different opinions on the issue.
It emphasised the subject matter should be applied with discretion and that women have the choice to wear it or not.”
Issa added: “I found the documentary fascinating. Any film exploring the hijab and the veil is important, but I found this one really educational and eye-opening.”
Anasy Media plans on touring The Tainted Veil at global film festivals in 2015, and producers are in discussions regarding distribution rights.