Review by Adele Matterface
‘In Morocco, as in all Muslim countries, Sex before marriage is against the law, single mothers are despised, illegitimate children are outcasts. But this is no ordinary single mother…’
Bastards is a sometimes shocking, often heart-warming documentary which was shown as part of the Trowbridge Arts Community Cinema programme. This season was curated by Lorena Pino with the central theme of Motherhood at various stages. In the spirit of this, Bastards, and the other documentaries shown as part of this season were directed and written by women.
Directed by Deborah Perkin, Bastards follows the story of Moroccan single mother Rabha El Haimer. At the age of 14, Rabha was sold by her parents to be illegally married to her cousin in a traditional ceremony. The groom did not even attend. When she was sent to live with her new husband she discovered he was a deaf-mute man who abused and raped her for two years. When she fell pregnant with her daughter Salma, she was thrown out. Her husband denied both parental responsibility and that they were even married in the first place. In Morocco, a child’s father needs to register them under his name. Unregistered, Salma was left an outcast, without the basic paperwork she needed to even attend school. Interspersed with similar tales from other single mothers, Bastards follows Rabha’s fight through the Moroccan courts to have her marriage recognised and secure Salma’s rights.
The story of a father who refuses to take responsibility for his child is a global one. Sadly, most people also know a woman who has been abused by her husband. However, in most Western countries these women are protected by law and there are many organisations to which they can turn for help if the courage and opportunity present itself. This was the most shocking thing about Rabha’s story. Her husband’s refusal to admit the marriage and parental responsibility was the only thing being treated by the court as a criminal offence. He will not ever be held accountable in court for repeatedly raping and abusing her.
Although Rabha’s story is often distressing, the overall tone of the film is hopeful. Morocco leads the Muslim world in terms of women’s rights, with women holding positions as doctors, pilots and lawyers. The majority of Moroccan fathers are kind, caring and loyal. The strength and dedication of Rabha and the other women featured is awe-inspiring. The way they fight for their daughters with very little aid or money while remaining optimistic is incredible. Deborah Perkin is the first person ever to be allowed to film in a Moroccan family court. Since making the film she has toured with it around the globe, from town halls to star-studded film festivals. The importance of documentaries such as Bastards cannot be underestimated. They lend a much needed voice to women like Rabha who are rarely listened to by the people around them. By touring Bastards around the world, Deborah Perkin is showing people who can make a difference how critical the need for reform really is.
The screening ended with a question and answer session with Perkin. This was followed by a buffet of traditional Moroccan tea and treats prepared by Moroccan women who have settled in Wiltshire. Filmgoers were also given the opportunity to donate to an organisation called The Moroccan Children’s trust. This fantastic charity is working hard to ensure all illegitimate children are registered and their rights are secured. Deborah Perkin will be continuing to tour Bastards around the world. To find out more about the documentary or to donate to one of the charities mentioned within it please visit: https://www.deborahperkin.com/bastards/charities/
Review by Adele Matterface