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Myopia

Director: Sanae Akroud
Starring: Sanae Akroud
Type: Feature
Origin: Morocco
Year: 2019
Screening time: 1H26

Vimeo link on LPAC site available to stream from Tuesday April 26 - Tuesday May 3, 2022
Short Intro Video about NYFAF and the film by NYFAF founder Dr. Habiba Boumlik
RSVP for Zoom Webinar Discussion on May 3 at 1pm EST (you will need to log on first, be patient :) – a direct link will be posted on May 3 on the LPAC website.

Synopsis: “Myopia” follows the journey of Fatem, a mother and six months pregnant, who leaves her remote Amazigh village in the Atlas mountains of Morocco to repair the eyeglasses of the village elder, the only person who can read the letter her migrant husband may send. She transits from station to station only to arrive in town in the middle of a social protest. This will turn her trip into a test of her stamina and moral compass.

Background:

“Amazigh” is the singular of “Imazighen” which means “free human.” Formerly known by the pejorative term “Berbers,” these ethnically diverse people are the native or indigenous inhabitants of Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa. They now extend to Europe and North America as one of the first African immigrant diasporas in the 20th century. Grouped into numerous communities, including the Kabyle, Tuareg, Chleuhs, and Siwis, they developed and have maintained diverse cultural practice for centuries. Successively colonized by waves of invaders and influenced by global exchange, the Amazigh people hold Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths and share unique powers of resistance and a relationship with land with all indigenous peoples. They have preserved their language, Tamazight, which is written with the Tifinagh alphabet, and their rich cultural expression. Today the Amazigh are known for their contributions to world music, artisan crafts, and transnational film. For more information on the Amazigh, watch an
overview of Amazigh history/identity/politics from Turkish Television:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Swh8898LBps&feature=youtu.be
and read: Maddy Weitzman, Bruce. 2017. “Berbers and the Nation State in North Africa.”
https://www.centreforpublicimpact.org/case-study/moroccan-moudawana-reform/

Key insights of Amazigh Cinema:

• Since the mid-1990s, shorts, documentaries and fictional films have emerged to represent the challenges and resiliency of Amazigh identities in changing times and in relation to dominant cultures, especially Arab culture. The stories they tell bridge locations and mentalities - village and city, nation and diaspora - and use multiple languages including their native Tamazight.
• No one film captures Amazigh identity or life – only a wide variety of films and videos can offer viewers a grounded sense of contemporary issues and values impacting these diverse communities.
• Film is one way to understand and to preserve an ancient culture in active transformation.

FILM THEMES

Education

Education in much of the world is now viewed as a human right, but not every society believes it should be provided equally or freely, especially to women and certain social classes. Education is a gateway to economic mobility and independence, which can fundamentally change a person’s, a family’s and a society’s experience. It is one area where the rights of the individual and the needs or morals of the collective can come into conflict. In Morocco education is constitutionally viewed as a right, but in reality limited funds are applied and cultural taboos remain active. In this film we see how the Amazigh villagers both deny and are denied education and the attraction as well as the cultural gains and losses that literacy can signify.

Gender Roles and Beliefs

The Mediterranean has always been a stronghold of patriarchal rule in the public square and matriarchal power in private spaces. Female characters in literature and film often symbolize the emergent nation from the male point of view, and the threshold between these two gendered spaces is a theater of tension. No doubt, Amazigh women suffer today from societal and often familial patriarchal dominance whenever they seek to fulfill themselves personally, sexually and professionally, as well as when they attempt to act in favor of the family or collective. Even though women have legal rights, many are discouraged by social expectations. They can also choose to abide by narrow cultural norms rather than new laws, perhaps an impact of a lack of educational opportunities. Yet, as the film shows, there are also traditions of female skills and power. Amazigh women can provide for themselves and their families; they know what they and their families need, and have inner resources of resistance, satisfaction, and creativity. Myopia investigates the ways socially marginalized women are viewed and exploited and the strength they find to decide their own paths, however others may see them.

Language, Gender, and Amazigh Cinema.

While North Africa is often depicted as largely Arab-speaking from the viewpoints of pseudo-homogenous political and ideological agendas, its linguistic heterogeneity has gained visibility at local and transnational levels. Media and new technology communications have accentuated its multi-ethnolinguistic realities against all odds. The fact that Tamazight continues to be marginalized - despite its legal inclusoin in Algerian and Moroccan constitutions - does not prevent the language from infusing cinematic work and cultural space with an existential imperative. Amazigh film, on several occasions, has put women’s role in sustaining Tamazight language in focus. It is a recognition of a reality where Tamazight women indeed play a vital role in maintaining the language, thereby in preserving the identity and diversity. “Myopia” is one example. Fatem, the female protagonist in the movie, is a fluent speaker of Tamazight. She probably would not have switched her mother tongue to Darija or ‘colloquial Moroccan’, should access to organizational powers did not necessitate it. And yet, her mastery of two languages must still be valued as cultural capital that helped her navigate through regional, religious, and ethnic boundaries, face hardship and voice demands. A bilingual Tamazight woman [and so all bilingual disfranchised indigenous women] , despite the lack of literacy, is bestowed with psychological flexibility and skills to accommodate different identities to resist the loss of one.

Film Assignment

Prior Reflections:
- What are common stereotypes of gender and of indigenous people?
- Describe an example in your own family of a cultural belief about education or gender.
- How do you understand social or political exploitation? What is an example?
- What gives you strength to resist stereotypes and discrimination?


Making Observations:
1. Early in the film there is a long scene of Fatim gathering brush by herself in the mountains. How did you feel watching this scene? Why did the filmmaker choose to include this scene?


2. What do we learn about Amazigh life and beliefs in the beginning of the film? How do they live? Which religious practices are seen? How do the men and women communicate? Why does Fatim go to the city to repair the glasses?

 

3. In the city, how do people in the city see Fatim, her social identity, skills, and needs?
What are their “agendas”? For example, why do the police not believe her story?


4. What pushes the young men and women to migrate to the city? Who stays in the village? What are their roles? Could we say those who stay are custodians of the culture and identity? How so?


5. Fatem was not given time to grieve the loss of her unborn baby. How is patriarchy unpacked here? What other patriarchal practices are shown in the movie?


6. What do we learn about Fatim in the course of her travels? For example, how does she respond when the journalist asks her who owns her house? Was Fatem given enough space to tell her story? Did she achieve her objectives?


Analysis:
1. Members of groups that face discrimination can encounter bias or stereotypes as well as a kind of social blindness. It’s like no one sees them. How does this film represent an experience of social invisibility?

2. One can argue that the point of view in this film is intersectional and feminist, representing an identity that combines ethnicity, gender, and social status yet is outside of the norms. Yet one could also argue that the film confirms stereotypes of a rural, indigenous woman who is illiterate, ignorant, and conservative. What do you believe is the filmmaker’s message about Fatim’s social position and agency?


3. This film is fictional. How can we read the film metaphorically or symbolically? What is “the village,” ‘the city” or “the glasses’? How do you interpret the title, “myopia”?


Connections:
1. Did this film reinforce ideas you’ve discussed in other classes? Link the film to a topic, assignment or concept you have examined this semester.


2. Have you (or a family member) ever faced an experience that challenged your core beliefs? What was at issue and what did you do?

Things you can do to promote cultural visibility

Think about how your culture informs your behavior and expectations when it comes to relationships and actions.
Reflect on the way you treat people of different cultural identities.
Question how your cultural upbringing influences your awareness of diverse identities.

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