The wheels seem to be churning when we see women and men on screen and in most metropolitan cities making their choices for a life partner. Yet the reality is far murkier, especially for women in forced arranged marriages. Nadia’s Journey looks at the life of its Algerian-Canadian protagonist Nadia Zouaoui, who was a victim and a survivor of this reality.
Nadia, an Algerian by birth, was forced into an arranged marriage at age 18 by her parents. Zouaoui, after going through 11 years of a grueling experience, turned director along with Carmen Garcia to tell numerous stories like hers. “The film is about how the patriarchal system is ingrained in women” says Zouaoui, continuing, “I suffered a lot when I was married after my college to a person who resided in Canada. My father sensing that I was different felt that maybe I would be better in a place like that.” However, Zouaoui’s compulsion left her with a problematic reality. “He wanted to bring a virgin girl and have the atmosphere of an Algerian village at home. But outside, for himself, he wanted to live the Canadian life,” she tells us over the phone lines.
From the Middle East to the West
When exposed to a more liberal outlook towards women in Canada, the documentary filmmaker decided to divorce her ex-husband due to his proclivity towards domestic abuse, including towards her children. “99.9% of the cases in the documentary” also had a similar fate as per Zouaoui. Speaking of the challenges, the Canada-based journalist says, “It was a very painful process to make the women that I grew up with and around with share their stories. In order for a woman to speak up for herself, they had to ask for their husband / father / brother’s permission.”
Keeping the codes of purdah in mind, Zouaoui deliberately chose an all-women crew and had a smooth shooting process. Zouaoui comments on the Algerian status quo: “There is a lot of nationalistic pride in Algeria due to which there is an attitude of never wanting to share a problem at the international level.” Yet Zouaoui is hopeful about the changing times, “The young generation is bringing in changing times as the rate of divorce has become high. Also as life is very expensive in Algeria, the couples needs two salaries, compelling the women to step out.”
On: Today, 6 pm
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