Howfilms functionas discourse of national identity
Xalaby Ousmane Sembene is a Senegalese film produced in year 1975. Theword Xala means temporary sexual impotence. The film revolves arounda man called El Hadji a Senegalese businessman. He got cursed with acrippling erectile dysfunction when he married a third wife. The filmacts as a satire to corruption in the African governments afterindependence. The impotence of El Hadji symbolizes the post-independence African government’s failure. On the other hand, TheHidden Half by Tahmineh Milani is a controversial film. It gotproduced in the year 2001. The film revolves around the protagonistsAtila Pesiani, Mohammad Nikbin and Niki Karimi. The film entails NikiKarimi’s life story. It reveals her romantic’s past life to herhusband as well as her political activeness (Donmez-Colin2004, p.39).Both the films have discoursed national identities of theirrespective regions as the document discusses.
Thefilm Xala by Ousmane Sembene
Theauthor of the film, Xala holds a vision of a committed cineaste ofsocial transformation. In most of Sembene’s films, he offersconstructs that interpret the cultural mix up in Africa. In Xala, heportrays a man who seems to have succeeded in both systems, as wellas both worlds. The film concentrates on El Hadji whose title meanspilgrim while in Islamic religion it refers to a person who had beento Mecca and later came back being holy. The film reveals El Hadji asa prototype of the African bourgeoisie who destroy the entirecontinent both economically and politically in the name of progressand African socialism. Sembene regards this nouveau riche class inAfrica to bring about a more sinister force that the Europeancolonialists who were openly exploitative (Dönmez-Colin2007, p.34).
Inthe past years, the colonialists were readily identified by language,race, manner of custom and dress among others. In contrast,insidiously the then newly enemy shared the entire African’scultural attributes and outward aspects. It had assumed El Hadji’srole via conscious political choices. At the initial stages of thefilm, power transfer aspect in an unspecified state. As theindependence celebration’s spice, up, El Hadji one of the chambersof commerce’s board members announced of his third marriage toN’Gone who was only nineteen years old. El Hadji’s daughter wasalso nineteen years as his third wife. Unfortunately, El Hadji’spsychological make-up as well as his weight at the age of fifty yearsprevented him from consummating his third marriage (Gugler2003, p.12).
ElHadji believed that one of his enemies had put a spell of impotenceor xala upon him. He suspected one of his colleagues and his twowives. Desperate El Hadji moved from one place to another in searchof the cause and treatment of the loss of his virility. His walletwent on diminishing as he paid more each time he visited in searchfor treatment. He drew all his focus towards regaining his potency toan extent that he neglected his responsibility as the chamber ofcommerce’s member. El Hadji became impotent both in the bedroom aswell as the boardroom. El Hadji’s great desire of regaining hismanhood offers a moral tale of a man who loses all he has as a resultof trying to live beyond his means and age. The film in a higherlevel reveals a poignant satire concerning the neo-colonial leadersof Africa (Dönmez-Colin2007, p.35).
Thelanguage applied in the movie xala is a model of the poetics used inAfrica. They are referred to as sem-enna-worq and have the meaning ofgold and wax. The phrase also means lost wax method that is used bythe goldsmith to make a wax form and mold of clay on top of it laterdrain the wax to make space for the pouring of the gold. It was amethod used to make objects that were of importance. The conceptsmake the use of two interpretations that includes representation andalso distinct in theory. The use of the poetic forms is to achievethe use of minimum words to give maximum ideas. An understanding ofthe true meaning in the novel may be difficult on the case that theaudiences do not understand the culture of the people involved(Gugler2003, p.13).
Thestructural key in the film xala that is used to explain the surfaceof politics in the story links the sociological message with thesexual metaphor. It is important to understand the sexual metaphorand the content so as to unearth the gold. It becomes necessary toperform an autopsy and remove the wax so as to restore the pure gold.It includes the application of various symbols that get used in thefilm that display the manipulators of the current social behaviors. Africans who have adopted the western cultures have changed theirappearances so that they can keep their selfish behaviors. The peoplein the commerce chamber at the beginning of the film are in nativedresses as they assumed the economic and also political power. Theylater on changed to European suits when they reached the sanctity ofthe boardroom (Dönmez-Colin2007, p.36).
Onthe same idea, the secretary in the El Hadji`s warehouse is in atraditional dress of the Africans. On reaching the office, however,she takes off the old dress and reveals the European dress that hadbeen underneath the old dress. The wives to El Hadji are used toshow the duality that prevailed in Africa. Adja Awa Astou the firstwife had dignity and wore the traditional dress of the Africans. Shehad the understanding towards the issue of polygamy and understoodthat she was not in a position to change the institution. Theperformed the roles she was obliged towards her husband without theconcern of success or money (Gugler2003, p.14).
OumiN`Doye who was the second wife to El Hadji was not used to talkanything else except sex and money to her husband. He also addressedher husband and also children using French language. She would alwaysappear sexy in the European dresses she wore. She got used as asymbol of neo-colonial destruction in the film. The language appliedin the film is also symbolic. The people who spoke French in the filmwere separate from those who used the Wolof language. People who usedthe Wolof language got observed as preservers of the African culture.Rama the daughter to El Hadji was disgusted by her father who usedFrench throughout the film (Dönmez-Colin2007, p.37).
Thedirector of the film the hidden half has the responsibility ofadvocating important issues that faces the society as well asindividuals. Tahmineh Milani had the idea of making the public thinkdeeply about the issue of concerns that they encounter on their dailylives. The title of the film focuses to the issue of women in theIranian society they got discriminated by the customary law and thechador. It also focuses on the hidden life of the protagonistFereshteh. She got married for twenty years and her husband was notinformed that she is a communist. She could also be among the peoplewho were against the Islam ruling Iran. Islam did not allow equity inrepresenting all the parties in the country (Moruzzi2001, p.51).
Onthe occasion, Fereshteh needs to tell her husband her past due to theruling he had to make on a political prisoner. Mr. Samimi was ajudge and she was hoping by confessing her past she would change hismind on the case. Fereshteh writes a journal and states her past lifein it, them places in her husband’s suitcase so as to read it whilein Shiraz. She hoped he would read it before he heard the case of thecondemned woman. The youthful life of Fereshteh gets exposed when Mr.Samimi read the journal when she was a student in the period ofpost-revolution. The audience learns of the communist activities shegot involved with and also the affair she had with Roozbeh Javid(Farahmand2006, p. 86).
Fereshtehoriginated from a humble family who only moved to Tehran by goodfortune, suffering and also hard work. She joined the university withthe expectations of making a better future. She hoped to change thesituation in her family due to her personal reasons and alsobackground she joined the communist group. The group comprised ofwomen who wrote newsletters and also read revolutionary literature.They had the objective of swaying the development ofIslamicfactions in taking the control of the country. However, the group wasin fear due to the Islamic fundamentalist who searched for them andbeat them. Government forces such as the military also pursued themand arrested some of them. Those arrested were convicted to death(Moruzzi2001, p.55).
Fereshteh’sgroup met to discuss over the literature they had read as well as theactions they had to take in regards to their relationship with theleadership and the publications among others. Fereshteh one day met asuave older man in the meeting. The man was expounding on love whileFereshteh was talking of love in the revolutionary time. They gotattracted to each and met sometimes later. The man happened to be awell known magazine editor. They first encountered in a realsituation, in one of Iranian filmmaker’s commemoration when theman, Roozbeh called Fereshteh a little lady. Fereshteh retortedsomething along lines and claimed that she is not little at all andRoozbeh`s prestige did not sway her (Tapper2002, p.67).
Ittook long for them to meet until one day Fereshteh and her colleaguesgot attacked by religious fundamentalists’ gang who chased afterthem with the intention of beating Fereshteh. Fereshteh escaped andhid herself in the magazine editor’s office where they met again.Their second encounter reveals more as the two gets to know eachother. It comes clear Fereshteh’s interest in the movement of therevolutionary communist. On the other hand, Roozbeh’s interest inFereshteh is brought about as well as his take on the activists. Intheir latter meetings, their dialogues reveal that there were variousresistance currents to both Shah as well Islamic regimes(Zeydabadi-Nejad 2009, p.45).
Roozbehreferred to Fereshteh’s poetry as being sloganeering and it waswhat the party required. He later invited her to a party and latertook her for drives in his range rover. Finally, Fereshteh ran tohim for salvation when the police were arresting her comrades.Roozbey suggested to Fereshteh that she needed to get a passport andmove to England awaiting things to calm down. He sent Fereshteh toher village to get a birth certificate so that she could acquire apassport for England. She first hesitated to leave, but she thoughtotherwise when she thought of how she was willing to sacrifice for arevolution. Secondly, she had fallen in love with Roozbey. On herreturn, Fereshteh did not meet Roozbey but met his assistant whoexplained to her that he has a son and she should terminate thatrelationship (Donmez-Colin2004, p.40).
Fereshtehwas not sure whether she believed the assistant and met his wifelater. She then leant from the wife that she resembled Roozbey’sfirst love who was a revolutionary student from twenty to thirtyyears earlier. The student then disappeared in a riot the conditionthat led Roozbey to marry the current wife. Fereshteh felt doublybetrayed. First it was because she was not willing to involve herselfwith a man who got married and secondly because Roozbeh was not inlove with her but with the optical illusion of her similarity to therevolutionary woman who got disappeared (Zeydabadi-Nejad2009, p.46).
Thedocument above clearly indicates how well the films revealed thenational identities of their respective nations. Xala brings outexchange of powers from the colonial era to the independence regime.It also reveals how the post-independence government had failed. Onthe other hand, the hidden half describes a nation full ofrevolution, activism as well as riots. It is, therefore, evident thatthe films acted as mirrors to reveal the national identity of theirrespective nations.
Donmez-Colin,G. (2004). Women,Islam and Cinema. London,Reaktion Books. pp.39-40
Dönmez-Colin,G. (2006). Cinemasof the other: a personal journey with film-makers from the MiddleEast and Central Asia.Bristol [u.a.], Intellect.
Dönmez-Colin,G. (2007). Thecinema of North Africa and the Middle East.London, Wallflower Press pp. 34-37
Farahmand,A. (2006). ‘Perspectives on Recent (International Acclaim for)Iranian Cinema,’ in Richard Tapper, ed. TheNew Iranian Cinema: Politics, Representation and Identity. NewYork, I. B. Tauris. pp. 86
Farahmand,A. (2006). Atthe crossroads: international film festivals and the constitution ofthe new Iranian cinema.New York, UCLA.
Gugler,J. (2003). African Film: Re-Imagining aContinent. Bloomington,Indiana University Press. pp.12-14
Moruzzi,N. C. (2001). ‘Women’s Space/Cinema Space: Representations ofPublic and Private in Iranian Films,’ MiddleEast Report,No. 212 (Autumn), pp. 52-55
Mottahedeh,N. (2006). ‘New Iranian Cinema,’ in Badley, Linda, R. BartonPalmer and Stephen Schneider, eds, Traditionsin World Cinema.Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Tapper,R. (2002). Thenew Iranian cinema: politics, representation and identity.London [u.a.], Tauris.pp.67
Zeydabadi-Nejad,S. (2009). Thepolitics of Iranian cinema film and society in the Islamic Republic.London, Routledge pp.45-46.