; Fun! Fun! Vancouver!: VIFF: I Am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced

Saturday, 26 September 2015

VIFF: I Am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced

(reviewed by Meaghan Smith)

I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced – A Harsh Examination of Yemen’s Rural Customs

            I knew what I was getting myself into when I decided to go see this movie, but watching a child abused because she is a girl is never an easy thing to do no matter how much you’ve prepared yourself.  Thankfully, Nojoom’s story starts with her escape, which gives the viewer a glimmer of hope to get them through the next 60 minutes of increasing sadness. Reham Mohammed does an exemplary job as Nojoom and brings spunkiness and an adorable face to this horrifying story. She stands out as one of the best actors in the film and is one of the best child actors I’ve seen in a long time, especially in such a serious role. 

Although the subject matter is tense and difficult to sit through, the film is beautifully shot featuring some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve seen on film in a long time. The use of time-lapse photography was done amazingly and helped present the natural beauty of Yemen’s rural areas. Use of symbolism added weight to scenes that could not be shown directly for obvious reasons such as Nojoom’s wedding night. 

The film is built around two major contrasts: the contrasts between city and country (or “tribal”) life and the differences between the lives of men and women. Tribal life in the film is focused on family honour, revenge and justice. Nojoom’s family must flee the village where she grew up because her father’s honour is besmirched when his eldest daughter is raped. It was difficult for me to sympathize with a man who discusses his daughter’s rape in terms of his own sadness instead of realizing how devastating that act would have been for her. Nojoom’s husband similarly seems to care a few times throughout the film when she’s trying to harm herself, but it’s hard to see it as anything more than protecting a commodity after the multiple rape scenes. These two men along with the Sheikh of Nojoom’s new tribe are the main antagonists of the film. Their villainy completely stems from the misogynistic way that they treat the women of the film. Additionally, one of the saddest factors of the film is the way that the elder women in her community treated Nojoom. She looks towards her elders for help on a number of occasions and is met with “this is the way it is” type responses. They choose to tear down of Nojoom and other young women for not being as “strong” or “hardworking” as they should be based on customs instead of trying to improve the lives of young girls so that they don’t need to live the same hardships that the elder women already have. 

Nojoom’s salvation lies in the city with the judge she petitions and his more Western ideologies. The entire third act of the film is a scathing rejection of “out-dated” customs that allow for grown men to marry children. The film doesn’t push past the subject of child brides in its final speech, but the issues faced by women in Arab countries are shown throughout the film including rape, abuse, and general sexism which treats women as lesser in a plethora of ways.    

            The film is definitely worth seeing. I am a firm believer that people should inform themselves on what is happening around the world (with that in mind most of the films I will be reviewing for VIFF will be documentaries), and this dramatization of a true story is a great place to look for if you prefer to have a happy ending. Unfortunately real life rarely ends happily and if you don’t want the happiness of the films final moments to wear off I suggest not looking up what has happened to Nujood Ali (the author of the book that this film is based on) since her book was published. 

I Am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced plays on Sept 26 at 6pm at International Village and again on Oct 7 at 10:30am at International Village.


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