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Intercultural, adolescent friendship proves its strength

The Cultural Films Committee will examine an often-overlooked aspect of World War II and colonization this Tuesday, Dec. 7, with the screening of “The Wedding Song.”. The film explores the friendship between a Muslim and a Jewish girl who live in in Nazi-occupied Tunisia The time of eacheach young woman’s wedding day is quickly approaching, and they are navigating both their friendship and their relationships with their future husbands within the fraught historical context.
Written and directed by Karin Albou, “The Wedding Song” thrusts viewers into a beautiful cinematographic world with sun-washed blues, whites and tans. The story takes a personal approach, as we get an in-depth view of the lives of Myriam, a young Jewish woman living with only her mother and Nour, a young Muslim woman with a traditional home life. In the beginning, the two are inseparable, sharing an intimate relationship. They sneak out at night to spend time together and bathe each other at the hamman, a bathhouse.
Their relationship becomes strained when men vie for their attention—Nour is engaged to the young Khaled, a Muslim boy who must find work before Nour’s family will allow them to marry.
Myriam’s parents arrange for her to marry Raoul, a much older and wealthier Jewish doctor. —sShe is far less accepting of Raoul’s proposal than Nour seems to be toof Khaled’s. Barriers—religion, men, Nazis—constantly threaten to separate the two, andbut by the end of the film their friendship has resisted a truly trying affair.
Katya Gibel Mevorach, Anthropology, a member of the Cultural Films committee, selected the film after seeing it when it was originally released in 2008 in France.
“I saw the film in France when it came out,” she said. “I was very impressed by the script, by the presentation of the relationship between the two women and by the fact that most people simply ignore North Africa and Jews and Muslims in North Africa. So I thought immediately this would be a great film for me to show on campus.”
Following the screening on Tuesday, there will be a panel consisting of Gibel Mevorach, Mirzam Perez, Spanish and Mervat Youssef, French. When Gibel Mevorach first reached out to her, Perez was confused.
“I thought it was strange,” Perez said. “But when I saw [the movie] and then I’ve been thinking about and I’m thinking, you know there’s a lot to be said about this film.”
The three were selected for the panel because they each bring different perspectives to the table.
“I wanted to have a panel because I thought it would be useful to have that exchange, not just to extend it for an extra hour,” Gibel Mevorach said. “There are some questions that may come up that are totally unanticipated. There was something nice about having a panel of three people, one who is Jewish, one who is Christian, one who is Muslim and all three who are women.”
Youssef encourages people planning on attending the screening to do a bit of background research in order to better understand certain aspects of the film.
“For someone who doesn’t have any context of how French colonization has its flaws and provisions that actually makes sure that there is division created between different populations and different cultures of ethnicities, the movie could not be understood,” she said.
Regardless of the contextual background, Gibel Mevorach sees the film’s issues as being important to Grinnell students of various backgrounds.
“This film, because it’s in French and in Arabic and because we have students here who are Muslim from lots of different countries,” she said, .“because most of the Jews, if not all at the moment, on campus are of European background and multiple generations at this point in the United States—having the opportunity to be able to also show Arab Jews was also something that was important.”

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