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The Journey of Khadija

The Journey of Khadija

Director: Tarik Al Idrissi
Starring: Khadija El Mourabit
Type: Documentary
Origin: Netherlands/Morocco
Year: 2017
Screening time: 71 min.


Khadija, a woman born in Amsterdam to immigrant parents from the northern Rif region of Morocco, returns after twenty years to Beni Chikar, the village near Mellia where she used to go every summer as a child. Her mission: to reconcile with her community and confront the patriarchal values that still shape relationships. To guide her, she evokes memories of her paternal grandmother, Mamma Allal, a strong and courageous woman who defied gender expectations and remains a living legend to this day.
About the Director:

Tarik El Idrissi, born in 1978, studied film in Madrid before settling in Rabat where he founded the production company FARFIRA FILMS. His career is distinguished by three documentary films for which he obtained a dozen national and international prizes. He is currently immersed in the preparation of his first feature, SOUND OF BERBERIA.
Location: Beni Chiker, where the documentary was filmed, is located in the Rif region in north-eastern Morocco. A village where inhabitants speak a dialect of Tamazight, the Amazigh language, known as Tarifit, this part of Morocco was liberated from the Spanish protectorate in 1956. Interesting fact: a recent French Minister of Education, Najat Belgacem, was born here.


Women’s Rights

In recent years, Moroccan women have gained more legal rights. In 2004, the Mudawanna or Personal Status Code was reformed and restricted polygamy, raised the age of marriage to 18, gave women the right to divorce, and made sexual harassment punishable by law. In the reformed Constitution of 2011, Article 19 states that: “The man and the woman enjoy, in equality, the rights and freedoms of civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental character.” It also sets a goal: “The State works for the realization of parity between men and women.”


At the practical level, however, Moroccan women still suffer from patriarchal dominance. Even though women have legal rights, many are discouraged by social expectations and abide by cultural norms rather than new laws. In the last decades, especially after the 2011 uprising, many women have insisted on having their voices heard. They participated in protests side by side with men, including protests in the northern Rif region and in the Jerada, south-east of Morocco. The Journey of Khadija investigates the power relation between genders and challenges social practices that govern and perpetuate male authority.


Besides narration in Dutch, conversation in the film occurs in Tarafit, the Amazigh dialect of northern Morocco. We do not hear standard or local Arabic. Khadija’s conversations range between everyday social interactions to discussions that invoke the status of women from a religious perspective. Language in The Journey of Khadija reflects a resistance to the cultural hegemony of Arabic and an intercultural sense of awareness. Young Moroccan women, whether living at home or abroad, are questioning the patriarchal notions of gender and how it has shaped the lives of women, particularly in rural areas.

For more information:
Overview of Amazigh history/identity/politics. Turkish Television production.
Maddy Weitzman, Bruce. 2017. “Berbers and the Nation State in North Africa.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History. DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190277734.013.10

Background: Amazigh Cinema

“Amazigh” is the singular of “Imazighen” which means “free human.” Formerly known as Berbers, these diverse people were the original inhabitants of Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa, and 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 have developed diverse cultural practices. Successively colonized by waves of invaders and influenced by global exchange, the Amazigh people have shown unique powers of resistance. Despite cultural hegemony, they have preserved their language, Tamazight, which is written with the Tifinagh alphabet, and their rich cultural expression. Today they are known for their contributions to world music, artisan crafts, and transnational film.

Key insights of Amazigh Cinema:
•Amazigh films present sites of multidirectional memory - they tell stories by translating between national, regional and global communities
•Space is rendered in a gendered fashion and points to key elements of Amazigh identity
•No one film captures Amazigh identity or life – only a wide variety of films and videos can offer a grounded sense of contemporary issues and values impacting these diverse communities
•Film is one way to preserve an ancient culture in active transformation

General discussion questions:
•What is the physical world of the film? Describe the landscape, clothing, food, music.
•What is the social world of the film? Who are the characters? What are their relationships? How are these characters similar or different from people you know?
•Which kinds of activities do you see? Can you identify the languages spoken?
•How are the spaces gendered? Do men and women occupy specific locations?
•Describe the central story or plot. Is there a dramatic conflict? Is there resolution? How is this film like or unlike a movie you saw recently?


1. In the film, the protagonist Khadija interviews her uncle in a boxing gym. How are their views on gender and religion similar and divergent? How does this conversation impact their relationship?
2. How do Khadija’s Amazigh family and community relate to her? Which details of the film give evidence of this perception?
3. What empowers Khadija to challenge male authority – her upbringing in Holland or the influence of her grandmother?
4. Khadija discusses traditional and progressive values with a group of women. What are these values? Do they manage to integrate them?
5. Khadija ends the film driving a taxi. What do you think is the filmmaker’s final message?


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 ever had an experience where your core beliefs were challenged? What was at issue and how did you answer the challenge?

Things you can do to help

Think about how your culture informs your behavior and expectations when it comes to relationships between men, women and transgender people.
Reflect on the way you treat people of different cultural and gender identities.
Question how your cultural upbringing influences your social behavior.

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