A new documentary on France’s controversial niqab ban, which went into effect in April, is in the works and the film’s director hopes to provide viewers “much needed” insight into the ban’s impact on the country’s Muslim population.
Just the Face, a 60-minute documentary is currently in production, with a scheduled release date of mid-2012, coinciding with French presidential elections. “We know that the topic is very controversial even within the Muslim world, and this is what drove us to pick up the camera,” said Yacine Helali, the film’s Frech-Algerian director, Gulf News reports.
“Our aim is to produce an authored, incisive and cinematic-looking documentary providing the audience with an insight into this very complex issue of the French ban, and a social reflection on Islam and its minorities in Western Europe and around the world,” Helali continued.
The niqab and burka have been banned in public by the French government, and anyone caught wearing either faces a fine or must take lessons in French citizenship. The Muslim population in France is around five million, with less than 2,000 women believed to be wearing the face veil.
France was the first European country to ban the niqab in public. Prior to the ban, there was a growing sense of stigmatization against Muslims in France, and for some women who wear the niqab, the ban is seen as a scapegoating effort. Anne (not her real name), a 32-year-old French national and mother of four who lives in a village south of Mâcon, has been wearing a niqab for five years, after converting to Islam at the age of 18.
“I noticed more aggression in the street as soon as [Nicolas] Sarkozy announced a consultation on the burqa,” she told The Guardian in April. “Unfortunately, lots of people like me really don’t feel at home any more.”
The film will follow the lives of five people, including Kenza Drider, a media critc of the ban, high profile activist and known as ‘Star of the Niqab’. Others being tracked in the documentary include Nelly Moussaid, a karate world champion; Karima, a fashion designer; Fatima, a housewife and mother, and Laurence, an ex-hippie.
Helali and fellow collaborators Andy Jones and Steve Lee have the film entered in the Dubai Film Connection market at the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), hoping to have it premiere at a future DIFF. They are still waiting to hear if it has been accepted.
Funding for the film has so far been done through ‘crowdfunding’, a movement where the general public make donations to support a cause. As a show of appreciation, donors receive a range of perks from a website ‘thank you’ to executive producer credit.
“We are actively seeking funding to help us make the film and reach international audiences,” Helali said. Interested donors may visit [url=http://www.indiegogo.com/Just-the-Face]www.indiegogo.com/Just-the-Face for more information.