“I’m French, and I love my home country. But I am deeply troubled by what I see happening. Members of my family wear hijab and it just breaks my heart to imagine them, or any other women, in that situation.”
New French film looks into the lives of seven French Muslim women
Marianne is a new feature-length French documentary that follows the lives of seven French Muslim women, all from diverse backgrounds, and how they navigate their way through Islamophobic media headlines, deeply-embedded stereotypes, and France’s ideology of “laïcité”, or secularism. Showcasing moments of joy, hardship, confusion, and just every-day life, this documentary is one of the first of its kind for French Muslim women.
Speaking to TMV, the film’s director, Valentina Canavesio, hopes that this documentary will help build bridges and open up the conservation about what it means to be a women, be French, and be Muslim in France today. Canavesio is a documentary film and television producer, who has previously been behind producing projects such as Footprint (2016), My Italian Secret (2014), These Birds Walk (2013), One Day On Earth (2011), and Welcome to Detroit (2010). Her films have been showcased at film festivals around the world.
Passionate about social justice issues, Canavesio explains that the idea for a project like Marianne started from an argument on Facebook:
An old schoolmate in France complained about seeing a young girl wearing a hijab in the street and how we should stop imposing our religion on others and keep it to ourselves. I made a comment about how laïcité (French secularism) was itself applied like a dogma and that imposing a dress code on women -whether forcing a woman to wear a headscarf or to remove it- was equally wrong.”
The comments and backlash that Valentina received were shocking to her, she explains, as it showcases the larger issue at hand in France: the idea of French secularism is repeatedly being used to suppress and discriminate against those who want to express their freedom of religion and freedom of expression.
I did not expect the avalanches of responses (mostly from people unknown to me) with comments ranging from ‘it should be forbidden to tell children that God exists’ to ‘the day Valentina will be forced to wear a hijab or be stoned…’ I was profoundly shocked. These comments did not come from the Far Right, but from people who in all appearance, consider themselves open-minded liberals. After the initial anger, I felt profound sadness, and then the need to take action, in the way I knew best, through film.”
This documentary is therefore one of the first of its kind – looking at the ordinary lives of seven French Muslim women, the film hopes to bring together conversations about Islamophobia, secularism, French identity, and the wider global issues of feminism and toxic masculinity.
Having completed production, the team is now fundraising to raise money to help the advanced stage of editing needed for the final product. Any contribution given towards the project will go towards finalizing the editing, color corrections, sound mix, archival rights, and music. To find their Kickstarter page and to learn more about how you can contribute, click here.
Hoping that this film will be watched not only in France but across the world, Valentina tells TMV that she has high hopes for Muslim women in the West, despite the constant onslaught of hate that many receive:
I’m French, and I love my home country. But I am deeply troubled by what I see happening. Members of my family wear hijab and it just breaks my heart to imagine them, or any other women, in that situation. I hope to build bridges with this film and foster a dialogue, but I also want to challenge my (non-Muslim) audience about what they think of as feminism, liberty, or national identity.”
In a world with growing Islamophobia, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and manipulated toxic masculinity, films like this remain more important than ever: by providing a platform to let French Muslim women speak on uniquely French, Muslim, and women’s issues, this may well be the exact remedy we need for the growing rise of hatred and divisiveness.
To find out more information about the documentary and how you can contribute, click here.