This documentary from Lebanese director Amanda Homsi-Ottosson explores the controversy surrounding Jumanah Sallum Haddad’s magazine Jasad. Published quarterly, Jasad is an erotic cultural magazine through which Haddad, a writer herself, hoped to provide a forum for Arab men and women to read and write about arts and literature surrounding sexuality and the body.
Jasad and the Queen of Contradictions mostly focuses on the debate that has sprung up around Jasad, focusing both on critics who find the magazine to be inappropriate and shameful and on those who believe that it is not serving Arab women in the way it should be. The documentary includes interviews with Haddad herself, those who read her magazine, those who wish to ban it, and various professionals, such as a sexual health counselor, whose lives are touched by the issues covered in Jasad,
The documentary begins with Haddad explaining why she was motivated to create Jasad and continues with street interviews about perceptions of the magazine. Reactions are predictably polarized, ranging from religious denunciations to endorsements of the work by young men and women hoping to spread awareness and acceptance of sexuality.
The most interesting part of the film comes when various Jasad readers explain the importance of having such a publication in the Arab world. It is explained that it is common for Arab men and women to use French or English words for genitalia and sex acts, because the most common equivalent words in Arabic are either offensive or nonexistent. Jasad is portrayed as bringing back ownership of not only the body but the language surrounding the body to Arabic speakers. The narrative of Jasad can be written as one of decolonization and reclamation.
Although unconditionally supportive of Haddad and Jasad, the film does allow alternative opinions to be expressed through interviews. One in particular offered a valid and interesting critique of the magazine. Two Muslim feminists – one veiled and one not – argue that Jasad is pushing a certain kind of liberation on society. The women explain that there should be no shame in wearing a veil, and that they are “not represented in this ‘revolutionary magazine.'”
I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman, by Jumanah Sallum Haddad, creator of Jasad