“475: When Marriage Becomes Punishment” by Jack Murray

It would be fair to say that the small, concave and claustrophobic teaching space in which 475 was screened by the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department mirrored the mood of this tense and taut feature-length documentary about state repression, sexual violence and the fight for women’s rights in Morocco.

I found the film to be a tight, deliberately uncomfortable and intimate look into the harrowing reality of a nation in which the judicial situation, socio-economic framework and political systems at work transpire to discriminate, punish and ignore females.

Indeed, the reverent silence that resonated like reflective shock after the screening finished before lively discussion of the film commenced felt like the perfect response to an important and intriguing Innovative Learning Week event held on a drizzly Monday afternoon.

Aside from the significant political implications of this piece of brave guerrilla cinema though, I was taken aback by the luxurious, sweeping cinematography and the disconcerting interludes of quasi-Ginsberg free verse that propelled the film and the experience from an academic lesson to a beautiful journey and proved that activism can be a vital and vibrant art form as well as a necessary form of protest.

Students and staff alike seemed to share such a duality in their admiration with the post-film discussion, being equally appreciative of the directorial decisions and wider repercussions of the film and the movement it represents.

Going into the event relatively ignorant of the situation that the film illuminated and the discussion embellished, I came out intent on researching and questioning the Moroccan laws on rape, marriage and domestic violence in more detail.

And perhaps more trivially, I felt compelled to spread my documentary-watching wings wider than ones about the 1966 World Cup or Fabergé eggs!

–Watch the trailer for 475 here, and feel free to email the event organiser Ebtihal Mahadeen with any reactions if you watch the film.


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