Veiled Hope, The (Dir: Norma Marcos, 1994)

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 55 min

Color, VHS

Distributed by Women Make Movies
The Veiled Hope is a documentary that carves its way into the hearts and minds of five Palestinian women who live in Gaza and the West Bank. These women include a teacher, a social activist for Palestinian rights, a physiotherapist, a doctor, and Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, the most famous of the five. Each woman discusses the ways in which she helps reconstruct the cultural identity of the Palestinian people in her life. In addition, the viewer has the rare opportunity to hear women’s voices on the issues of Israeli occupation, the rise of Islamic fundamentalist movements, and the wearing of the veil, which to many individuals symbolizes the oppression of women in the Middle East. Many of these women’s experiences address the social conservatism of the nation. One woman describes how love is forbidden to be discussed in Palestinian society and that a romantic relationship between a man and a woman is considered to involve too much intimacy. Another woman spoke of how she must ask for permission from her father in order to leave the house, even if she is just going to visit their neighbor. This same woman told of how she wanted to stop wearing her veil because no one at the university was wearing one. Her father was not in favor of this idea, claiming that her veil signified that she was a decent, modest woman. The doctor that was interviewed discussed how the most prominent complaint amongst women was of severe backache. She argued that this was most likely psychosomatic—women were expressing their anxieties in the form of physical ailments.
Using interviews and old photographs, Marcos tells the story of the women’s movement for education and political autonomy from the 1920’s to the present. However, one interviewee argues that a western feminist movement is not effective in Arab countries. What is more important than women learning to read and write in their culture is for women to learn how to breastfeed their children or to learn how to recognize cancer symptoms before it is too late. One doctor claims that it is necessary for women to understand the genetic consequences of intermarriage in order to stop the rampant genetic disorders that persist within their culture. These individuals aver that a western feminist movement is incompatible with their culture and thus, are proponents for a new movement that will work within the system of the Arab society. On a more universal level, this film serves to uncover the intersection between national and gender movements.


Julie Monaghan, Fall 2004