The title of The Tainted Veil anticipates an argument. Yes, we know, the filmmakers seem to say, you disapprove.
Amazing, as one woman interviewed in the documentary puts it, that a three-foot-wide square of cloth could elicit so much argument, disdain, discrimination, and passion. Don’t believe her? The film, at nearly ninety minutes, runs long for an independent documentary, but it has the feel of a kaffeeklatsch cut short.
Composed of interviews with students, professors, government officials, religious leaders, and ordinary families, The Tainted Veil is a long conversation, wide in scope and geography, but nonetheless intimate. Depending on whom you ask, the hijab is a symbol of modesty, piety, fashion, femininity, oppression, ethnicity, or resistance — to name a few options. Factually, it is a piece of fabric that some Muslim women use to cover their heads. What happens on and around women’s bodies so often means the world — even more so when you add in the huge influx of Muslim immigrants to the West, the increasing global popularity of Islam, wars in the Middle East, the frightening willingness of Western governments to bar what’s unfamiliar, and debates across the globe about whether hijabs and other religious articles ought to be required or banned in the public sphere.
There’s so much here, and it’s so urgent and intimate. Some of what the interviewees say will be offensive, no matter your point of view. Go and listen. Bring a friend so you can keep the discussion going after the credits roll.
The Tainted Veil
Directed by Ovidio Salazar, Nahla Al Fahad, and Mazen al Khayrat
Distributed by Anasy Media
Opens December 11, Cinema Village