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An unsettled life:

Inbetween-ness and autobiographical in-

scription in the films of Yamina Benguigui and Shirin Neshat

Figure 1

Figure 2 Benilda Pacheco Beretta

Table of Contents

1. 2.

Introduction Defining Accented Cinema 2.1. 2.2. 2.3. 2.4. Autobiographical Inscription Embedded Criticism Themes Language, Voice, and Address

3 10 25 39 42 49 52 52 53 57 59 60 62 64 71 71 76 78 81 82 90 96

3.

Case Study: Inch Allah DiManche 3.1. Introduction 3.2. Yamina Benguigui 3.3. Immigrant Memories 3.4. Patriarchal Authority 3.5. Transformation Towards Liberation 3.6. Memory Entrepreneuse 3.7. Inch Allah DiManche. An Accented Film? Case Study: Turbulent 4.1. Introduction 4.2. Shirin Neshat 4.3. Does Neshat speak for Iranian Women? 4.4. Art as Politicalization 4.5. From Photography to Film Installation Conclusion Bibliography

4.

5. 6.

...Since in exile personal identity is more than ever enmeshed with identities, of other sorts, autobiographical films are concerned not only with self and individual but also with shared elements on which group affiliation are based. (Naficy 105) To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing. Such a conception suits criticism very well, the latter then alotting itself the important task of discovering the Author (or its hypostases: society, history, psych, liberty) beneath the work: when the author has been found, the text is 'explained'-- victory to the critic. (Barthes 147)

1. Introduction

The author's self-inscription in film is one of the most important ingredients in films dealing with immigration, exile, and Diaspora today. But it was about forty years ago

that Roland Barthes in his famous essay, The Death of the Author, brought up the notion of removing all references to the author in the reading of the text and leaving the interpretation up to the reader or audience, removing the author's intention and power over the text1. Hamid Naficy in his book,

An Accented Cinema, in his discussion of the author states that putting the author back into the reading of the film is crucial in the interpretation of the accented film. ther states: My project in this book is precisely to put the locatedness and the historicity of the authors back into authorIt might be worth mentioning that The Death of the Author was written in 1968 during the height of the 60s revolution where rebellion against authority was the norm and the notion of 'God is Dead' and 'Death of the Author' were the mantra of the day.
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He fur-

ship.

To that extent, accented cinema theory is an ex-

tension of the authorship theory, and it runs counter to much of the postmodern theory that attempts to either deny authorship altogether or multiply the authoring parentage to the point of de-originating the utterance. (Naficy 34) Naficy's position is significant especially when we are talking about films that are made by deterritorialized people due to voluntary or involuntary exile. Often these people

come from once colonialized countries looking for a better life, while others may be escaping countries that are suffering from political unrest. The filmmakers use their craft in

order to give voice to their struggles as displaced persons so that their stories are given the recognition it deserves. The

lack of exposure to other cultures is a concern especially in today's times of a shrinking world due to globalization. A

cross-cultural understanding between ethnic groups via films or other new media plays a pivotal role in promoting tolerance. It becomes even more important when these filmmakers

are women because they have been and still are subjected to a double colonialization due to the oppression by the dominant powers as well as to the patriarchal authority within their own cultures. Autobiographical inscription in literature and

in film has an enormous impact on the reading and understanding of their work. What the filmmaker brings to their work is

just as important as what the audience member takes away from the film because the filmmaker is bringing to the table experiences, which may be foreign to the spectator of the film. Spectators' motives and experiences when watching films made by accented filmmakers enhance the reading of the film because of the audience's positionality. interpretation of the film. Positionality informs their

Even though a film may include

cultural, social, or political criticism, the reading of the film is dependent on both the standpoint of the individual who brings with them a mix-bag of ideas and experiences as well as the filmmaker's intentionality. Therefore, when an accented

filmmaker makes a film, their positionality may guide the film, but there is no guarantee that the audience will take away from it what the filmmaker intended. What is crucial,

however, is that a dialogue ensues making the issues of displacement, due to exile, open for further discussion. Youmina Benguigui and Shirin Neshat are filmmakers who explore the lives of Global South2 women and their negotiation to place as it relates to the effects of exile and displacement, contestation of patriarchal authority, and resistance. These filmmakers use the medium of film to flesh out these themes in unique ways often utilizing autobiographical inscription as one of the strategies to create their films. Naficy further describes accented cinema in his article, Making films with an accent: Iranian Emigre Cinema as follows:
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In this paper I will use Global South in place of Third World. 5

The films of Iranian filmmakers living in exile and diaspora in Europe and North America, are part of an emerging global cinema of displacement--what I have called "accented cinema"--created by differently situated filmmakers from varied origins who live in diverse host countries. (Naficy par 3) This attention to displacement and what it means for an immigrant to be living in countries other than their own is what makes film a place where the embodied knowledge of someone who is different can impart this knowledge to engage affectively with the experience of others; rather, it may enable us, if we so endeavor, to extend our affectively across wider devides. (Kruks 152) The basis for selecting the films of Yamina Benguigui and Shirin Neshat as the focus of my thesis is three-fold. first reason had to do with how I was affected by the encounter with the film and video. To sit in a darkened The

gallery space and witness the riveting work of Shirin Neshat, Turbulent, is to experience the alienation and sadness of women who have been silenced. The second reason had to do with the identification, which transpires between people who come from similar backgrounds and experiences, whether it is through immigration or exile. It can be described as the collectiveness of By this I mean groups of

bonding through identification.

people who share connections such as people from Latin backgrounds, North African backgrounds, and Asian backgrounds. Their connections result in similar aspirations whether it is fighting against discrimination, sexism, or oppression. And

when these groups watch films made by accented filmmakers, they can relate and empathize with the characters of the film. Their feeling is that they are finally being represented by one of their own. For example, when I looked at Inch Allah

DiManche, I could relate to the issues of displacement and inbetweeness because my family experienced the same issues when they migrated to the United States and a face I can relate to is verbalizing the issues. And lastly, as a filmmaker myself I wanted to explore how these filmmakers use their lives and stories to better communicate their own angst of the effects of exile and displacement. Although the films of Benguigui and Neshat reflect different historical and cultural experiences, their films share the common threads of representation of displacement, longing, inbetween-ness, and resistance, which are indicative of accented films. The power of the film is to evoke, and provoke questions relating to important issues, in this case, issues pertaining to the consequences of exile and displacement. A few questions posed here will guide my analysis of

these films.

What are the motivating factors (context) in Do these films attempt to dispel the

creating these films?

stereotypes represented by Western cultures and in what ways? How exactly do these women illustrate the themes of displacement, alienation, patriarchal authority, autobiographical inscription and resistance in their films? What filmic strategies and styles do they employ to convey their message? The themes inherent in the films of Benguigui and Neshat in this paper are important to the discussion of the accented film, but it is the concept of autobiographical inscription, in particular, which I will explore in the reading and interpretation of their work. The social, cultural, and

political experiences and autobiographical background of these exilic filmmakers should not be dismissed because of their subjective stance, but should attribute to the importance of their lived experiences as a lens to reveal commonalities that connects others whose identities are different from their own. It is also important because the films reinforce and celebrate the contributions made by those who have been ignored in the past. Audience members who come from ethnic backgrounds can

relate to the characters in the film because they mirror their own faces and experiences adding to the self-worth of the individual. To negate authorial intention in the reading of exilic

films is to reject the notion of embodied knowledge as well as the politics of location for those who have been oppressed and ignored. Using the lens of accented cinema as developed by Hamid Naficy, this paper will demonstrate how the themes of exile are represented in the films of Yamina Benguigui and Shirin Neshat. Specifically how autobiographical inscription fleshes

out the lived experiences of these filmmakers in their work, unveiling their subjugated voices drowned out by double colonialism, and allowing for a respectful recognition between people of different social, cultural, and political backgrounds. My discussion will begin with a description of what constitutes Hamid Naficy's accented cinema followed by a summary of the key themes that describe the films of Benguigui and Neshat. I will then begin my analysis with case studies of BenFinally,

guigui's Inch Allah DiManche and Neshat's Turbulent.

I will conclude my paper with a look back at the lessons learned from my study of Naficy's accented cinema and the importance of the intentionality of the filmmakers Benguigui and Neshat and to the reading of their work. Youmina Benguigui and Shirin Neshat as accented filmmakers merit an engagement of their creative process and intentionality in order to unravel and understand how and why these films were made. It will be a journey of examination and dis-

course in order to place these films in the genre of accented cinema.

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2. Defining Accented Cinema

My task here to is theorize this cinema's existence as an accented style that encompasses characteristics common to the works of differently situated filmmakers involved in varied decentered social formations and cinematic practices across the globeall of whom are presumed to share the fact of displacement and deterritorialization. Such a shared account must be discovered (at least initially) at the films' reception and articulated more by the critics than by the filmmakers. (Naficy 21)

In the early part of the twentieth century, the invention of photography and cinema was used to capture images from worlds different from what people was use to. People, mainly

men, travelled the world with their cameras to bring back home images of people that they considered different, primitive, and who needed to be saved by the civilized people of the Western world. The outcome of these expeditions in terms of

images and film ingrained in the minds of many the superiority of those who later justified the colonization of these places. The colonized began to lose sight of who they were as people. They began to question their own self-worth as compared to their colonizers. the 'other'. Early cinema perpetuated the stereotype of

These films were distributed throughout the

Western world and even later into these same regions where the audience members would see themselves not as human beings but 11

as caricatures of themselves. Now with the proliferation of new media making its way to developing countries, the possibilities for filmmakers from the Global South to create films are infinite. These filmmak-

ers can now create work that can be seen in other parts of the world as well as be recognized within the genre of filmmaking. This is why the new genre of accented cinema is an important step in giving the recognition it deserves. Although World Cinema and Third Cinema have been around for several years, accented cinema focuses on stories that affects the displaced people due to exile or Diaspora especially from once colonized countries. Accented cinema when compared to

Third Cinema as described by Naficy: As a cinema of displacement, however, the accented cinema is much more situated than the Third Cinema, for it is necessarily made by (and often for) specific displaced subjects and diasporized communities...If Third Cinema films generally advocated class struggle and armed struggle, accented films favor discursive and semiotic struggles. (Naficy 30) World cinema can be described as a general category for films made outside of the Anglo sphere and mostly equated with non-English countries. World Cinema does not stress the

themes associated with accented films, namely those of displacement especially when it deals with exilic and diasporic films. They are usually distributed world wide 12

while the accented films are screened in smaller venues such as film festivals, the Internet, and art houses. But not everyone recognizes accented films as a new film genre along the same lines of Third Cinema or World Cinema. According to Asuman Suner in her paper, Outside In: Accented cinema at large, Suner takes issue with Nacifys concept of accented films based on the fact that it exhibits the same characteristics as World Cinema and/or National Cinema. Suner

analyses three films, A Time for Drunken Horses (1999), Happy Together (1997), and Distant (2002) to show that the styles and themes of these films are also indicative of the genre of World Cinema/National Cinema. She contends that even though

the filmmakers she is referring to are not of exilic or diasporic origin their films still exhibit the same characteristics as an accented film. The cinematic styles and thematic preoccupations associated with exilic/diasporic films consistently appear also in wide-ranging examples of contemporary world cinema that are often classified under the rubric of national cinemas. (Suner 2006) Suner does not dismiss accented cinema but rather she feels that it can be redefined to include a wider understanding of critical positionality vis--vis the questions of belonging and identity, and show how World Cinema/National Cinema can add to the potential of the accented film genre. (Suner 2006) What Suner is proposing 13

is not so much as a critique to Naficys work but to suggest: Accented Cinema, in this context, can be a more effective concept if its function is re-conceived not so much as drawing the limits of exilic/diasporic filmmaking, but constructing relations across national and exilic/diasporic cinemas. (Suner 2006)

World cinema does not adhere to specific themes or topics while accented cinema does focus on the themes of displaced people. What is important here is to not dismiss accented cinema as a genre but as Naficy states it is an offshoot of World Cinema. (Naficy 30) Meaning that it can also be looked at as a sub-genre dealing with themes of displacement and inbetweenness due to exile and migration. The time for films made about the experiences of the communities from the Global South in exile and in Diaspora needs to be highlighted because our borders are becoming closer and more permeable due to globalisation. This is why

Hamid Naficy's book and discussion on accented films is timely and more importantly crucial where understanding and tolerance of different cultures should be emphasized and supported. Accented films can further be described as films made by deterritorized people using artisanal modes of production. Artisanal modes of production is the use of creative resources to make a film such as relying on relatives and friends for financial support as well as using them to stand in as extras 14

and even actors in the film. as sets for the films.

Sometimes even using their homes

Accented films give voice to those who have been silenced using different production styles including the use of the original language as well as experimental strategies of film production. But in the case of Yomina Benguigui and Shirin

Neshat what is also highlighted in their accented films is the problematization of the patriarchal authority that is embedded in their films and their insistence in making this issue at the center of their discussion within the genre of 'accented films'. Thus, for women filmmakers of exilic background there

exists the added dimension of double colonialization of oppression, that of the Western colonizer and that of the patriarchal authority inherent within the culture. In Hamid Naficy's introduction of his book, An Accented Cinema, he tells the story about the time when he first screened Mohsen Makhmalbaf's A Time to Love in Paris in 1995. Makhmalbaf was banned from Iran after the revolution of 1979 because his film dealt with a topic that went against the teaching and rules of the Muslim religion. The issue of

sexuality, more specifically, mnage a trios was the focus of Makhmalbafs film. Because the film was banned, Makhmalbaf

produced the film in Turkey with Turkish dialogue and French subtitles in order to be available for wider distribution. Naficy was with a friend who translated the French subtitles into Persian while he was taking notes of the film. It was 15

then that Naficy realized the extent globalisation had on the film industry. The Western powers were competing with films

made by third world countries, which were becoming adept at crossing borders via the Internet and new video production techniques available to them. commodity and not a hindrance. Language had become a valued This alone made it an Naficy

important characteristic of the accented film.

realized that manoeuvring through languages made it apparent that the Western dominated films was being squeezed out by the onslaught of transcultural films made available through globalisation. Subtitles were becoming the norm and exposure

to different cultures was becoming more prevalent through new media. Naficy's interest in the exilic cinema came to

fruition as a result of this experience, which grounded his ideas on how globalisation was impacting cinema. Furthermore, Naficy contends that the word accent, as in the case of 'accented cinema', has more to do with the origins of the filmmakers as well as their mode of production than with speech as in the pronunciation of words. At this juncture it would be a good opportunity to take a closer look in what constitutes an accented film according to Naficy. Film can include one or more of the styles outlined by Naficy, but they all have one thing in common, ...liminal subjectivity and interstitial location in society and film industry. (Naficy 10) In other words, the filmmakers who 16

experience inbetween-ness and struggles with displacement because of their exilic situation share a commonality even though they approach their work in different ways. they are still talking about the same common themes. In essence Looking

at an accented film using some of the components such as visual style, narrative structure, mode of production, subject matter or theme can influence the way in which we begin to analyse film and the filmmaker's motivation in making his or her film. The themes of displacement, belonging, and other

themes relating to the state of being in exile still remain present in all of their films. This constant struggle for

exilic filmmakers produces a creative passion that makes work that is timeless and important. Benguigui and Neshat

accomplishes that in their own work because their passion to tell their stories makes their films examples of accented cinema situating their struggles as exilic persons. Naficy makes a distinction in accented films. There are

the accented feature films, which are groomed for commercial and theatrical presentation and then there are the experimental accented films, which can be described as nonlinear narratives, low-tech production, homemade quality, and usually shown in film festivals and other non-theatrical venues. The experimental accented films tend to inscribe

autobiographical references while the accented feature films are fictionalised treatments of the themes of exilic situation. 17

Therefore, according to Naficy what characterizes an accented style cinema? following: Naficy breaks it down to the

language, voice, and address; embedded criticism;

accented structures of feeling; tactile optics; third cinema aesthetics; border effects and border writing; themes; and authorship and autobiographical inscription. For purposes of

this paper I will focus my discussion on language, voice, and address; embedded criticism; themes; and authorship and autobiographical inscription. Language, voice and address when used in accented films further describes how they characterize and define certain films by the language used whether it is spoken, an accent used, subtitled, or even written on the film itself. By

paying attention to these elements one may be able to tell which culture their language is featuring or accent used. Naficy further states that most dominant cinema tends to be accent-free and free from political or social ideology. He

discusses what constitutes exilic films, more specifically, in terms of accented films when he states, All alternative cinemas are accented, but each is accented in certain specific ways that distinguish it. The cinema discussed here derives its accent from its artisanal and collective production modes and from the filmmakers and audiences deterritorialized locations. Consequently, not all accented films are exilic and diasporic, but all exilic and diasporic films are 18

accented.

(Naficy 23)

Under this definition, therefore, the films discussed in this paper would fall under the category of accented films because of the filmmakers exilic styles. Equally important, in regards to language, would be when exiles live in a different country, pressure is put upon them to assimilate and speak the language of their adopted country. But what accented filmmakers attempt to do is to hold on to their language by including dialogue in their films, which are bilingual and even multilingual, clearly resisting the dominant cultures demand for complete inclusion. Both

Benguigui and Neshat include references to their language in their work. When an accented language is used in a film the

audience is put in a position to experience the inability to fully understand what is being said, except with the aid of subtitles. In other words, the audience is experiencing a

form of displacement because they are not privy to the language used in the film. Filmmakers also might use text superimposed on the film itself as a way to translate what is going on in the frame as in the case of Shirin Neshat where Persian poetry is written on the extremities or faces of the people being photographed or filmed forcing the audience to actively engage with the art work. Naficy states: The inscription of these visual and vocal accents transforms the act of spectatorship, from just watching to watching and literally reading the screen. 19

(Naficy 25) When watching an accented film, sometimes the characters resist the dominant ideology by showing through gestures defiance in their interaction with people of presumed powers such as the colonizer as he/she deals with the colonized. instance, in Inch Allah DiManche, the protagonist, Zouina, shows this defiance in her interaction with her French neighbors, her motherin-law, and her husband. dynamics of the power relations exhibited in Inch Allah DiManche shows the struggle and resistance of the main character, Zouina, in relation to the double colonialism she has to deal with. She has to deal The For

with the Eurocentric attitude of her French neighbors when they tell Zouina that things are done differently in France and that this is not a Casbah. The other scene that also evokes the double colonialism is the scene between Zouina and her mother-in-law who belittles her for not cooking according to her tastes, Zouina who is standing, throws the vegetables at her mother-in-law, who is sitting on the lamb's skin on the floor. Not only is Zouina being oppressed by her French neighbors but 20

by the symbol of patriarchal authority through the actions of the mother-in-law, a conduit for her son. This, again, is another example of Zouina taking a stand and resisting the power relations of her mother-in-law and later to her husband. Naficy labels this an accented film In other words, elements

containing embedded criticism.

used to critique the dominant cinema or other issues by the use of different strategies such as the use of language and actions to signify defiance, disobedience, and resistance to those in power. Besides the themes of displacement, alienation, and loss another important theme that resonates with accented films is the concept of journey. Journey can take many forms such as

in exilic journeys; journeys to find the way back home, journeys in the mind, and transformative journeys. In the

case of Zouina in the film, Inch Allah DiManche, the journey she and her family undertake is motivated by the need to rejoin her husband who has been living in France for the last ten years working as a laborer after the Algerian War. But

Zouina experiences a transformative journey during the first four months of settling in France. The sadness, grief, loss,

and displacement she experiences in her new home is aggravated by her inability to leave the house because of the strict patriarchal authority imposed by her husband and mother-inlaw. In Shirin Neshat's, Turbulent, it is not as evident

because the journey takes place in Neshat's treatment of her 21

video installation.

It is more like the autobiographical

inscription which places Neshat in her journey to understand the politics of what the Iranian women were going through when they were not allowed to sing in public as well as her own journey of self-discovery into her Iranian roots. By

orchestrating the installation, she creates a journey that places herself and the viewer in an inbetween state of uncertainty and belonging. Turbulent is powerful because it

not only affects Neshat but it affects the viewer by the interactive component of the installation. The final component, which is important when discussing accented films, is the notion of authorship and specifically autobiographical inscription. Autobiographical inscription in

any piece of writing or, in this case, film is embedded by the unconscious subjective influence of the author. The author's

personal history can be implicated within a cultural, social, or political history, which embodies knowledge and politics of location. Catherine Russell describes it as One's body and

one's historical moment, may be the joint site of experience and identity. (Russell 276). In other words, the experiences

of exilics can be traced within the community of other exilics. Others who share the same social and or cultural

identity can feel the experience of displacement and alienation resulting from being in exiled. Naficy further

states that filmmakers in accented films end up performing themselves through their work. He equates it with 22

fingerprints, he states: Accented films are personal and unique, like fingerprints, because they are both authorial and autobiographical. Exile discourse needs to counter the

move by some postmodern critics to separate author of the film from the enunciating subject in the film, for exile and authorship are fundamentally intertwined with historical movements of empirical subjects across boundaries of nationsnot just text...In the accented films, determining the mode of habitation of the author within the text is a complex task, even in films in which the filmmakers appear as empirical persons and as themselves. (Naficy 34-35) The weeding out the author in the work of Benguigui and Neshat is challenging, but in my discussion of their work I will examine the notion of autobiographical inscription, further exploring the scope of how these filmmakers perform themselves in their films. The elements of style that constitutes accented films will be further discussed throughout the paper, but there is one important item, which might be worth mentioning in the discussion of 'accented films and that is the accented mode of production. Filmmakers have the added burden of coming up

with resources both financial and technological in order to produce their films. At times one has to make concessions in

order to find producers who will finance their projects or 23

they could invest their own money in order to not give into the concessions of the people behind the money. It is

difficult for mainstream films as well, but it becomes more problematic when the films are exilic, and even more problematic when the filmmakers are Global South women. Some

filmmakers resort to innovative ways of getting their social and politicised films done using experimental, low-cost techniques, while others resort to a more traditional and linear narrative whose political messages are not so apparent as to create a stir with the producers. The fact that the

accented films insert politics from its inception, that of the interstitial place of the author because of exile and its effects, the accented code of production critiques dominant film practices. The production often is a collective

endeavour made up of members that include exiles and other marginalized subjects. Because of this production Naficy

argues that this type of filmmaking is a type of collective enunciation. Naficy states,

Collective enunciation in which filmmakers and audiences are conjoined by their membership in communities of address that consist of migrs, exiles, ethicised, and otherwise etherised subjects (collective assemblage of enunciation). If the postindustrial mode

tends to situate the directors as manufacturers and the spectators as consumers, the accented mode's collective enunciation and reception potentially blur the line that 24

separates producers from consumers, corroborating the poststrutural shift from the independent autonomous author to the readers as coauthors. (Naficy 45)

The accented films are part of a globalised push to transcend borders and with that responsibility the viewing of these films can bridge some of the gaps between the dominant viewing community and the marginalized communities forcing an acknowledgement that accented films exist and will continue to exist despite the mindset of those who refuse to acknowledge their existence.

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2.1. Autobiographical Inscription: The fragmented and hybrid identities produced in the multitude of "personal" films and videos have been celebrated by critics and theorists as forms of "embodied knowledge" and "politics of location."(6) Their tactics are similar to those of the literary form described by Fisher, and yet they also destabilize the very notion of ethnicity. One's body and one's historical moment may be the joint site of experience and identity, and yet they don't necessarily add up to ethnicity as an anthropological category. Autoethnography is a vehicle

and a strategy for challenging imposed forms of identity and exploring the discursive possibilities of inauthentic subjectivities. (Russell 276) The journey is long and arduous but at the end of the day, will it be worth it? and dreams. We are all in pursuit of journeys

We all want to make a difference and we all want

to be able to look back and be proud of our accomplishments. The journeys of people looking for a better life comes with sacrifices, disappointments, and resignations, but what did it mean for Benguigui's family when they left Algeria to reside in France? Or what did it mean when Neshat left Iran before The

the Iranian Revolution took effect in the late seventies? theory of an accented cinema may be able to explore these

questions as it pertains to the films of Benguigui and Neshat 26

but how do we begin this journey of discovering the elements of the accented style within these films? Perhaps we should

begin with autobiographical inscription since the origins of any idea or creative pursuit begins with what has happened in the lives of those who create great works of art whether it is in film or literature. Their fingerprints are ingrained in

their work, and it might not even be recognizable at first, but nevertheless it still exists in their work. Autobiographical inscription in itself is not a stable concept and it may not lead to a truth or an authenticity, but, nevertheless, the social, cultural and political inscription always manages to make its appearance in one's work no matter how minute or insignificant it may seem. And like Ben-

guigui and Neshat the inscriptions are welcomed because of its importance they carry in the discourse within the genre of accented cinema. When talking about autobiographical inscrip-

tion what we are also alluding to is how the subjective voice makes its presence in an artwork whether it is in the form of visual media or as in literature. Michael Renov in his book The Subject of Documentary talks about this embodiment of the self in films where the authenticity of what or who has been depicted has been problematic in the past: In these films and tapes (increasingly the latter), subjectivity is no longer construed as something shameful; it is the filter through which the real enters discourse, 27

as well as a kind of experiential compass guiding the work toward its goal as embodied knowledge. In part, this new tendency is a response to the persistent critique of ethnography in which the quest to preserve endangered authenticities out there, in remote places, is called into doubt. (Renov 176)

By Benguigui and Neshat inscribing their subjective selves into their work it opens up the exploration into authenticity and agency when it comes to speaking for voices that have not been heard before. In other words the embodied

knowledge and the politics of location of these filmmakers is important and relevant especially in this shrinking world of borders crossing borders. Because of the filmmaker's use of

snippets of memory which surfaces in their own personal memories, the historical references that are implicated in their memories are also important to the understanding what is going on politically, socially, and culturally. Autobiographical inscription in accented film and text helps to preserve our past traditions as a way of countering the process of Western acculturation. As women accented film-

makers it becomes even more problematic because of the notion that some cultures, as in the Maghrebian culture, participate in the non-dire, which prohibits personal disclosure. Mildred

Mortimer compares this notion to Foucault's theory in History of Sexuality:

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The novelist comes to autobiography fully aware that subjectivity in life and fiction are transgressions in Algerian culture. Unlike Western civilization which, Foucault reminds us in his Histoire de la sexualit, delights in the public airing of all private matters -- desires, sins, suffering -- Islamic culture is bound to the nondire, or unspoken, in other words, to silence; it prohibits personal disclosure. If a Muslim woman is to be neither seen nor heard in public and divulges private matters, revealing in public the secret world neither men nor women should ever reveal, she is, in effect, involved in a double transgression. (Mortimer 103)

Both Benguigui and Neshat are disturbing this non-dire because they are disclosing through their films issues that have in the past been silent. But by bringing up these issues

in their accented films, they are also sharing a collective memory which says that they do 'belong' to others who share the same experiences as being an outsider in a host country. In this section I will examine how autobiographical inscription in accented cinema allows for a close critical reading of the films of Benguigui and Neshat. Although Benguigui and Neshat would fall under the exilic definition due to their separation from their homeland, their background of patriarchal authority also influences their approach. Even though Neshat was born in Iran she was raised,

schooled, and influenced by Western thought, but she still 29

feels a need to connect to her Iranian roots as she states: I think what you sense in the work is an inherent aspect of my Iranian background and upbringing. Although I have

lived many years in the West, it appears that my aesthetic and sentiments remain effortlessly non-Western. (LeKay, Heyoka Magazine par 7) Besides using her own experiences for her work, Benguigui has tapped into the stories she gleaned from her documentary, Mmoires d'mmigrs: l'hritage maghrbin. After all, they are

similar stories as told to her by her mother who migrated to France in the late fifties. In Inch Allah DiManche, the story is a fictionalized account of an Algerian woman recently transplanted to France. The woman, Zouina, has difficulties adjusting to her new surroundings. Like, Benguigui, Zouina is not totally resistant In fact, she encourages

to acculturation into French society.

her children to acculturate by learning the language and making friends with French children. Zouina herself listens to

the French radio station in order to learn the language and their customs. Although the film is fictionalized, BenThe mere fact

guigui's imprint is still present in her film.

that the characters have been given a voice, a point of view, in the way the story is being told, reveals Benguigui decisions as to how the story will be played out by her decisions as a director. Even though some of the experiences might not

have happened to her directly, she still decides on how to di30

rect the scenes according to how she interprets and embodies the experiences within her own experiences of being an exilic. When talking about Benguigui her exile comes from the fact that she experiences the effects through her parents since Benguigui was born in France and not in Algeria as with her parents. Benguigui omits and interprets according to what she Autobio-

feels is important to the film and her intention. graphical inscription is a journey in itself.

A journey that

uses the memories and experiences to make a cultural or social critique of issues that is important to the author of the film. At the end of the journey there is a self-discovery of

which the author's search for identity may or may not be achieved. There are still those who still suggest that a film

or literature should speak for itself without taking into account the intentionality or the background of the filmmaker. In other words subjectivity has no place in film and literature because it is up to the viewer's reading or interpretation of the film. Of course it goes without saying that the viewer's interpretation should be taken into account, but it is the combination of both the author's intent and the viewer's take on the film that makes the film successful. Autobiographical inscription according to Naficy is an important aspect of accented films because the experiences of the exilic are deeply embedded in their films. The

experiences become transparent because of its sheer strength in the lives of those who have been displaced. Naficy 31

demonstrates: Accented film authors are literally and figuratively everyday journeymen and journeywomen who are driven off or set free from their places of origin, by force or by choice, on agonizing quests that require displacements and emplacements so profound, personal, and transformative to shape not only the authors themselves and their films but also the question of authorship. discussion of authorship in exile needs to take into consideration not only the individuality, originality, and personality of unique individuals as expressive film authors but also, and more important, their (dis)location as interstitial subjects within social formations and cinematic practices. (Naficy 34) Any

In Neshat's Turbulent her critique of the separation between women and men is highlighted using her subjective stance and point of view imbued in her work. The installation

itself demonstrates the use of inbetween-ness by using two opposing screens each vying for attention from the audience. This strategy produces a feeling of what it might be like to feel caught between two cultures. But in her earlier work,

The Women of Allah, she inscribes herself by photographing herself as an Iranian woman caught between tradition and resistance offering her interpretation of what it might mean to be an Iranian woman especially during and after the revolution. (FIGURE) By using herself in her work, she is 32

expressing her desire to embody the Iranian stories and thereby making them her own. But the problem arises; of

course, because the women who actually participated in the Iranian revolution are not directly involved in the making of Neshat's project. It is not their input but that of Neshat.

Autobiography can be seen as a construction of events of one's lives and not necessarily a testament to the truth. memories that surfaces are fragmented, split, and intersubjective. We then take these fragments of truths and But if The

re-construct them to make them our truths.

autobiographies are constructed then how can we be sure the stories within the exilic accented films exhibit the truth, or some truth? An experience, which then becomes submerged in

our minds, becomes fragments of memories and when they are called upon, glimpses of these experiences seep through. People who have experienced displacement and alienation, in other words the effects of being in exile, will share some memories because they all have experienced some form of these effects of being in exile. Therefore, when exilic films are

made the autobiographical inferences will be present as well as communicable to others who have experienced these same inferences. Also to consider in this autobiographical

discourse, is how subjectivity and difference situates itself into one's experience as discussed by Bhabha: What is theoretically innovative, and politically crucial, is the need to think beyond narratives of 33

originary and initial subjectivities and to focus on those moments or processes that are produced in the articulation of cultural differences. These in-between spaces provide the terrain for elaborating strategies of selfhoodsingular or communalthat initiate new signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation, in the act of defining the idea of society itself. (Bhabha 1-2) In other words, these fragments of truths are still historically situated in the social, cultural and political arenas and therefore important in the discourse of embodied knowledge. For instance, in Nehsat's video installation, Turbulent, although not directly referencing her own truth as in herself singing to an empty audience, still expresses a feeling of what it would mean to feel displaced, alienated, and abandoned in the 'inbetween' space within the gallery space. Similarly, Benguigui's references to how it felt growing up in a different culture is depicted excellently by the use of accented style as in language, embedded criticism, themes of displacement and alienation. Benguigui has commented on

how the story was based loosely on her childhood experiences as well as the stories of the people in her documentary. (Filmmovement 4) Anyone who has ever experienced some sort of

displacement and alienation can probably relate to her film. My mother felt it when she left Puerto Rico and settled in New 34

York, and now I am feeling it in the Netherlands. One scene that expresses this extreme alienation and homesickness is the scene where Zouina is sitting in the van looking out of the window as the images of modern houses flash by, but she seems unawares as she is looking up instead of watching the buildings. It is as if she did not want to

acknowledge her new surroundings but rather let her thoughts remain in Algeria. (FIGURE) In making Inch Allah DiManche Benguigui also came to terms with how she understood her recollections and what it meant to come to grips with her family's past. For Benguigui

it was more important to show the 'accented structures of feeling rather than a strict historical aspect of the film. Naficy describes: The accented style is one such emergent categorynot yet fully recognized or formalized. Its structures of

feeling are rooted in the filmmakers profound experiences of deterritorialization, which oscillate between dysphoria and euphoria, celibacy and celebration. These dislocatory feeling structures are powerfully expressed in the accented films' chronotopical configurations of the homeland as utopian and open and of exile as systopian and claustrophobic. (Naficy 27)

Even though Benguigui adhered to the reconstruction of the location scenes to mimic 1974 France complete with internal and external physical attributes, her main concern 35

was the 'subject realty as expressed by Wendy Everett in her article: It is absolutely essential to recognize that the past worlds, so minutely recreated for us on the screen, are in fact entirely subjective. It is not Liverpool in the

fifties that Terrence Davies shows us, despite the authenticity of the architecture and the nostalgic radio voices, but his Liverpool, the Liverpool of his memory. Autobiographical film does not deal in historical fact, but in subjective reality, and it is important therefore not to be misled by the almost fanatical precision with which directors lovingly and obsessively strive to recreate the world as they saw it. (Everett 7)

What was important for Benguigui was not so much the authenticity of the location and buildings, but the feelings that were being communicated. Benguigui's opening shot was

filmed in Algeria, but the rest of the story was filmed in France. What this suggest is that for Benguigui and her

family there was no going back, and so the story centered around their adjustment and integration into French society with only minor glimpses of the Algerian countryside during one scene where Zouina is daydreaming of her time back home. Visually, Benguigui uses soft focus and less saturation in the opening scene where they are waiting to board the ship that will take them to France, while the rest of the film is sharper and color saturated and shot in France. The choice is 36

visually suggestive and embedded in the film to show the past and the present. (FIGURE)

Similarly, Neshat went through great lengths to scout for locations for her video installations, but they were mostly filmed in Turkey and Morocco because of the inability to film in Iran because of the politics in place in Iran at that time, especially for being a woman and an exilic of Iran. Neshat's approach and style is experimental as opposed to Benguigui traditional filmic style. Neshat creates

scenarios that are interpretations and symbolic rather than linear narratives. Nevertheless, they are subjective

recreations according to the mindset of Neshat and what has been formulated in her mind. Accordingly, autobiographical inscription is all about inscribing the self either consciously or unconsciously. Catherine Russell explores this notion in describing inscription in the filmmaker Jonas Mekas' work: The fantasy of identity is produced by the techniques of film practice, and if his diaries indulge this fantasy, they also reveal its limits as ethnography. Mekas's films are all ultimately about himself, and by subsuming history within his own memory; the Others become fictional products of his memory, their own histories evacuated by the melancholia of his loss. Superimposing himself, his desires, his memories, his ego, onto everyone and everything, Mekas's romanticism is a form of 37

possession. For example, in Reminiscences, to some children playing, he says, "Run children, run. I hope you never have to run for your lives." (Russell 286) The notion of intertextuality can also be used to further the discussion of autobiographical inscription. Intertextual-

ity can be described as texts that have been influenced by other texts. Ideas are formed because of other ideas put toAnd if we take the

gether relationally to create new ideas.

experiences people have been exposed to in their lives, chances are that similar experiences are happening to other people in the world. Roland Barthes' made reference to the term intertextuality in his essay, The Death of the Author, when he talks about the fact that there is no original text but rather references to other texts that have come before them. Barthes uses the

example of a dictionary in that in order to find a word you need to know how to define it by your previous knowledge of other words: The writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writ-

ings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them. Did he wish to ex-

press himself, he ought at least to know that the inner thing he thinks to translate is itself only a readyformed dictionary. (Barthes 146)

38

In other words in order to understand the work of Benguigui or Neshat we need to have acquired knowledge that can relate to what they are trying to say in their work, which means everything we have learned in our lives which we can then use to read their work. Our interpretation or reading does not come from nothing but rather it comes from our background and experiences. Take something simple like love or falling in love. Somebody, somewhere has already experienced the feeling of love in one way or another. Even a child experiences a They may

certain feeling when they are attracted to someone.

feel a racing of the heart, a longing, or even missing someone when they are not in their presence. So when we read a

romance novel or watch a romantic film, we can right away identify with that feeling of being in love. The readers and

the audience members sigh or cry when moments that are recognizable to them are felt. When thinking about

intertextuality I always think of the phrase, 'nothing comes from nothing', always referencing something that may have come before. What is suggested then is that films made by exilic

or diasporic filmmakers extract experiences that have been felt by others who have lived similar experiences and therefore can relate to them as we well. In terms of accented films, autobiographical inscription resides in the works of exilic and diasporic filmmakers such as Benguigui and Neshat. 39

2.2. Embedded Criticism As mentioned previously 'embedded criticism' in exilic film tries to critique the dominant cinema. In Neshat's case

one can say that she has 'embedded criticism' in all her work. Although her work questions oppression in Iranian life, she does so ambiguously. Meaning that as in the case of the man

looking back at the singer in Turbulent, he looks at the woman in a sympathetic manner. woman. He is acknowledging the pain of the

It is ambiguous because one would assume that the men

in Iran would be conditioned to oppress women's rights and in this case, the man seems to counter this idea by acknowledging the woman. Neshat's choice of making the film in black and white as well as making the men dress in white shirts and the woman in a black burka speaks to the duality of life in Iran. Neshat

states that this duality paradoxical-- in the inevitable cycle of life/death, good/evil, beauty/violence. One side

never exists without the suggestion of its opposite. (LeKay, Heyoka Magazine par 12) Neshat uses these binaries to The music in

problematize and understand Iranian culture.

Turbulent also shows opposites as in the song that is sung by the man is a poem, exhibiting tenderness and beauty, while the woman sings in a painful cry of mumbled sounds. Her song has

no words, but the emotion is testament to the pain she is feeling. By Neshat addressing these issues of oppression and

exclusion she is embedding her critique of Iranian life 40

through her artwork. Benguigui's 'embedded criticism' in Inch Allah DiManche is a reaction and a continuation of the issues brought out in her documentary, Mmoires d'immigrs: l'hritage maghrbin. Her intention in both films is that both the French people and the future generations of the families of the Maghrebi immigrants do not forget the stories of the Maghrebi people who migrated to France in the late sixties and early seventies. The amnesia in which the French would prefer to

forget about the Algerian War and the subsequent treatment of the immigrants who settled in France needed to be unveiled. By insisting on the memorialisation of the Maghrebi immigrants, Benguigui is in fact stating that she, and her work, is resisting the efforts to hide that part of French history. By bringing their stories to light, she is making

the world realize that their lives should not be excluded from France's history. Another example of 'embedded criticism' in her work is the use of defiance as when Zouina throughout the film defies her French neighbour, her husband, and her mother-in-law. When her encounter with Malika, the Algerian woman, turned to disappointment, she dared to take a stand in showing her independence and resistance by taking the bus instead of taking a ride from a French woman. As compared with the ship

in the beginning of the film, which transported Zouina and her family to a new land and new problems, the bus symbolized a 41

transformative journey that takes Zouina from being an obedient woman to a stronger and confident woman. In Inch

Allah DiManche, Zouina's resistance became stronger as the film developed. Benguigui highlighted the perseverance and

the important contributions made by Algerian women throughout her films. As an accented filmmaker Benguigui's task was to make the silent voices heard through her films. Although her films are

aesthetically traditional instead of experimental, she manages to cross over into mainstream cinema making her stories accessible worldwide. experienced globally. Her 'embedded critique' is then

42

2.3. Themes In a pivotal scene in Inch Allah DiManche, Zouina sits with Malika, the Algerian woman she has been searching for in order to celebrate the Aid. Zouina speaks with Malika

enthusiastically about possibly celebrating the Aid with her family, but Malika interrupts her several times to ask Zouina if her husband knows that she has visited her. Zouina does

not answer right away and instead she talks about sexuality, aspects of French culture, and other ideas forbidden to an Algerian Muslim woman. Malika is uncomfortable with the

conversation and again asks Zouina if her husband knows her whereabouts. (FIGURE) At which time Zouina asks Malika why is she always bringing up her husband all the time. Malika is

upset and throws her out because she feels that Zouina is exposing her family and home to topics that should not be discussed in a Muslim home. Zouina is seen outside Malika's

house consumed with emotion because after finally finding an Algerian family to celebrate Aid, she is turned away. Zouina

in her emotional outburst slams her fist through Malika's window. Her children are trying to get Zouina to go back home The scene cuts to Malika who is

and are tugging at her dress.

standing by the door beating her breasts as if she is punishing herself for letting this woman into her house. (FIGURE) But the turmoil in her face also shows her despair and guilt because she is isolated in her home unable to reach out to people around her because they are not from Algeria. 43

(FIGURE) The themes expressed in this film are summed up in this crucial scene. It's the inbetween-ness Zouina experiences as It is the displacement

she negotiates between two cultures.

and alienation she feels when she is trapped inside a home where she is not allowed to leave in order to save her from evil influences of French society. Zouina feels the

displacement and alienation within her own home because her husband and mother-in-law do not acknowledge her except for Zouina to be submissive to them. It is the nostalgia she It is the

feels constantly of the home she left behind.

racism and intolerance she feels by her neighbours who do not understand the ways of another culture other than their own. It is the reminder of Malika's inability to negotiate her own identity between two cultures, which she is not allowed to experience because she is confined to her home by the patriarchal authority, which in turn keeps her from being exposed to the French culture. It is the music of Algerian

musicians such as Idir and Souad Massi singing their songs of longing for home. But it is the theme of journey, which is

the umbrella in which the other themes can be classified as part of the accented films. In exilic films it all begins with a journey. In Inch

Allah DiManche it begins with the voyage from Algeria to France. When Zouina arrives at the new house, the camera pans

across the rooms and shows the remnants of being in transit as 44

in the suitcases and bags of clothes on shelves or in the mother-in-law's sheepskin carpet as a reminder of home, and in Zouina's photograph of her mother in a wallet, suggesting that it was given by her family as a farewell gift and as a reminder of home. These markers, which signify the journeys

of the exilic, are physical, temporal, and transformative. (FIGURE) Benguigui's film encompasses all of these elements of journey in adept ways. There are moments in the film where

Zouina resists and in fact tries to negotiate her new cultural selves. For instance, when Zouina tries on the makeup, which

her French friend gave her as a gift of friendship. (FIGURE) Or sneaking out on Sundays to find the other Algerian family while her husband and mother-in-law are out searching for a sheep to celebrate Aid. Zouina is finding her own

independence and resistance when she clashes with the neighbour and removes her dress to hold the neighbour down as she screams at her for breaking her son's football, which was accidentally thrown, into the neighbours garden. (FIGURE)

Benguigui in an interview said that this was a difficult scene to film because the person playing the mother-in-law was from a traditional Algerian background and did not feel comfortable with the actress taking off her dress, as it was something a decent Algerian woman would not do. (Filmmovement 6) Benguigui had a difficult time convincing the actress that

this was part of the film and that it was necessary because it 45

attempts to suggest that by taking off the dress, Zouina seems to be removing the layers of the Algeria influence to make the transformation into French life. By removing her dress in

front of the French woman and her own family, Zouina is making a statement of liberation and resistance towards the French as well as the confines of her Algerian tradition. The patriarchal theme is visible in many of the scenes particularly when the husband strikes Zouina for dishonoring the family by taking off her dress in public in the fight scene between herself and the neighbour, and again, when the mother-in-law finds the cosmetics, which were hidden away. (FIGURE) These scenes are difficult to watch because of the

physical aspect of watching Zouina being abused by her husband and verbally attacked by her mother-in-law. Zouina in the end

of the film shows resistance and courage when we see her taking the city bus after leaving Malika's home and later as she confronts her husband in front of her French neighbors and friends, and her husband's mother, who signifies the Algerian culture. In effect, Zouina is taking a stand against

patriarchal authority and negotiating her inbetween-ness between two cultures. the inbetween state. In fact Zouina is travelling outside of Which means Zouina is asserting herself Zouina is not

and becoming a member of her new surroundings.

going to remain inbetween, but she is going to oscillate between the two cultures. She does not assimilate into French

culture but acknowledges her participation in her new 46

community as well as encouraging her children to participate. Identity is discursively produced and so Zouina throughout this film is evolving through her negotiation with two cultures. Throughout the film her husband resists

acculturating and imposes his views on his family, but at the end of film when Zouina steps off the bus, and as her husband finally makes eye-contact with Zouina he realizes that things cannot remain as it was before. Zouina, He finally acknowledges

whereas the mother-in-law screams at Zouina at which

point her son turns around and tells his mother to be quiet and that from now on his wife will be a participating member of their family. The mother-in-law screams saying that her

husband has abandoned her and that, in effect, they should not have come to France. The 'third space' might also be relevant in discussing Neshat's video installation, Turbulent. Neshat had created

this installation as her comment to the silencing of women singing in public. After the revolution it was forbidden for Neshat's commentary is evident with

women to sing in public. Turbulent.

But more importantly it is how Neshat utilizes the In this case, the characters in the two films

'third space'.

are separated by the between-ness of the space between the two projections. It is in this space that the audience is placed.

For the characters in the film, they are in an inbetween space' while the audience is experiencing the 'third space' in which they can move to either side. Neshat in this 47

installation is critiquing the silencing of the Iranian women and the patriarchal authority still prevalent in Iran today. The themes of displacement and alienation are also evident in this work because of the fact that the woman in the screen is alone in a room absent from human contact and acknowledgement. She is dressed in a black barka with only She uses her hands vigorously to

her hands and face exposed.

express her emotional turmoil as well as in her shrieking voice. (FIGURE) Music and sound are affective tools in

emphasizing the angst that is felt by both Benguigui and Neshat's characters. The man in the opposing screen when he

first hears the woman's cries is drawn to her and he does not know how to respond. One thing that is clear is that he does

not show anger towards the woman, but suggests compassion towards the woman. (FIGURE) Perhaps this is Neshat's way of

showing the resistance in modern day Iran through the mans gaze. It seems as if the man wants to experience the 'third The piece, Turbulent has

space' by acknowledging the 'other'.

been praised because of its experimentation with new media, utilizing space in a gallery or museum venue, and creating a dialogue about the issues taking place in Iran. Neshat is exploring these issues by confronting them in her work and trying to understand it's implication to her identity formation. As she states in an interview:

My themes always seem to develop as a personal inquiry toward certain issues that I am faced with as an 48

individual; for example my resentment and questions toward political powers or events such as the Islamic revolution (1979) that has determined the course of my life and so many other Iranians'. Consequently this path naturally has pulled me toward a larger cultural investigation, which I happen to care deeply about. Therefore, to properly analyse my work, one must always consider both its personal and social context that always run in parallel. Of course in process I seem to frame and raise many questions, which naturally bring me to investigate, confront and at times deconstruct all kinds of stereotypes such as the notion of 'orientalism' (LeKay Heyoka Magazine par 4).

49

2.4. Language, Voice, and Address The fact that Benguigui uses French and Arabic throughout the film shows the balancing of two different cultures through language. The film in the beginning utilizes Arabic in their

everyday communication but towards the middle of the film they are equally represented. And again in the closing shot of

Zouina when she is confronting her husband she addresses him in French. Benguigui has been labelled as an integrationist

but she does not want to erase visibility of her ethnicity. The fact that she makes documentaries regarding the Meghrebi immigrants and their future generations shows a need to keep these ties in place. Durmelat in discussing Benguigui's

location of culture and where she stands as a 'memory entrepreneuse' states: With this documentary, Benguigui acts as a symbolic operator of integration, to use Vincent Geisser's expression. As such, she is subjected to a double constraint: Demonstrating a relative intellectual and ideological conformity with the advocates of the system in place, that is, adhering to a discourse on integration while at the same time remaining ethnically visible, so maintaining the illusion of a dialogue amongst the various cultural components of the national community. (Freedman and Tarr 185) In other words can Benguigui be also accused of becoming Westernised as Neshat has been accused of as well? But in all 50

fairness as globalisation increases and people migrate to other countries, would it not be safe to say that some sort of integration will occur in order to participate fully in the economic, social, and political systems of the host country? Many migrants who have moved to other countries still maintain and continue to encourage their children to keep their language through home learning or private lessons. In terms

of accented films the use of the national language is strongly encourage so that the language does not disappear as Naficy states: One of the greatest deprivations of exile is the gradual deterioration in and potential loss of one's original language, for language serves to shape not only individual identity but also regional and national identities prior to displacement. (Naficy 24)

In Inch Allah DiManche, Benguigui made sure that Arabic was not replaced by French, but used along side of it. This

is important for any immigrant in order to acknowledge and maintain their identity and not be fearful of being excluded. Neshat's use of text in the form of calligraphy which is inscribed in many of her photographs and films emphasizes the accentedness of the film because it signals the fact that the filmmaker comes from a position occupying a cultural space which is transnational or multicultural. Using the

calligraphy text was Neshat's first way of communicating. (FIGURE) Since her photographs were two dimensional, she 51

wanted to create work that could speak even if the text could not be deciphered. The text in the Women of Allah series uses

Iranian poetry as a vehicle of expression focusing on two Persian poets, Forugh Farrokhzad, a feminist liberal writer and Tahereh Saffarzadeh, a proponent for the militant Muslim women. Neshat uses these voices to accentuate the dichotomies

inherent in the issues pertaining to the modern day Iranian woman, especially revolving around 'veiling and 'unveiling'. In her video installation the use of text is minimized because now Neshat has the capability to use sound and music to emphasize the issues. In Turbulent she utilizes two singers

who symbolizes the issues of segregation and power relations.

52

3. Case Study: Inche Allah DiManche 3.1. Introduction

The direction of the journey has profound empirical and symbolic values that shape not only the travel but also the traveller. This is because significant journeys tend (Naficy

to be meliorative and redemptive experiences. 223)

While the credits are rolling in the beginning of Inch Allah DiManche, faint sounds are heard in the background. the sounds get more pronounced the visuals begin to appear. What is seen are people crowded in a big hall making their way to men in uniform seated at long tables. (FIGURE) The As

uniformed men look at their passports while glancing up to see if the face matches the passport photo. In this scene there

is an Algerian woman, Zouina, with her three children and an older woman. They are on their way to France to join Ahmed, The

Zouina's husband who has been living there for ten years.

film takes place in 1974 when the French allowed families from Algeria to join their husbands who have been working in labor camps in France. Their passports are stamped and they head The woman,

towards the ship that will take them to France.

Zouina, her children, and her mother-in-law are seen walking up the plank of the ship. into containers on a ship. They seem like cattle, being herded At one instance you hear the cries

of an old woman, and the woman on the plank runs towards the 53

cries.

It is Zouina's mother who is seen behind a wired fence

crying hysterically while the other family members try to console her. (FIGURE) Her mother-in-law in the meantime is

shouting out obscenities towards the young woman commanding her to return to the ship. of the film. This opening scene sets the tone

The film centers on a young woman's sense of

entrapment, loneliness, and displacement in her new adopted home. The journey is both a physical and transformative In the film Zouina experiences the inbetween-ness,

journey.

which so many immigrants and exiles encounter when settling in a new place. 3.2. Yamina Benguigui Yamina Benguigui, the director of Inch Allah DiManche was born in Lille, France to Algerian parents in 1957. Benguigui

is the oldest daughter in a family of six children who were raised in the Islamic tradition in France. Benguigui's need

to understand her roots and the problems the Maghrebi encountered in France impelled her to use film as a tool in order to understand and reconcile with her identity. In an

interview conducted by Joan Dupont in 1998 by the New York Times she summarizes the challenges faced by migrants to France: "We're schizophrenics," the director said. "At home we learned about Islam, and at school we learned about the world. We don't have the same cultural codes as Algerians in Algeria we have more in common with American 54

blacks."

(Dupont par 4)

Benguigui knew she wanted to be a filmmaker since the age of 13 but it was difficult for a young woman growing up in a strict Islamic tradition to even conceive of this idea. is also interesting to add here is Benguigui's thought on Islam and how it has changed since she was a child. "What people don't realize is that the Islam we inherited from our parents had nothing to do with today's fanaticism. Our fathers had never read the Koran. The fanaticism the veil, excision, mutilation came from Khomeini's Iran in 1979." (Dupont par 17) In reading this statement by Benguigui it might help to question Benguigui's choices in lessening the importance of Islam in her film. There is only one scene in the entire film What

that alludes to Islam and that is the scene of the mother-inlaw kneeling on a prayer mat, rocking back and forth as she chants her prayers. What is interesting to note is that in

the film the mother-in-law is not seen as a compassionate gentle woman but an oppressive force to Zouina and her family. Benguigui's decision not to highlight Islam in her film reveals her ambiguous feelings towards Islam. For example, in

the film there is a reference to the festival of Aid, where cakes are shared as a sign of generosity to neighbours and friends. Zouina and her children try to find the other

Algerian family in her town in order to share the cakes but what stands out is that the festival is not highlighted in the 55

film, but subdued into the background of the film.

In fact,

Benguigui's reluctance to include the religious traditions of Maghrebi is touched upon in her documentary. In Mireille

Rosello's article, Gender, Hospitality and Cross-Cultural Transactions in Les Passagers du Roissy Express and Mmoires d'immigrs, Rossello describes the time when Benguigui interviewed the mothers for her documentary in which her own memories surfaced on an incident revolving the cakes for the festival Ad: When the time had come to celebrate A in one of those generous moments that were so typical of her, my mother asked me to go round to the neighbours and take them a plate of little cakes that, according to the custom, is given away in memory of a dead relative. Go round to the lady next door and make sure to tell her that the cakes are a gift from uncle Moussah. Yes mom, I had replied, a docile thirteen-year-old little girl. And I can still see myself, petrified with fear, ringing the door bell, carefully holding the plate to avoid dropping the cakes; and to this day, I can still hear the shrill, hostile voice asking, Who is it, who is at the door? It's me, Yamina, your neighbour's daughter, my mother told me to bring you some cakes from uncle Moussah! You can tell your mother that I don't know that uncle of yours, the neighbour's voice had retorted. I remember shrugging my shoulders and thinking, How could you know him, he is 56

dead. The following year, I had tried again and knocked on another neighbour's door. This one had a house, and a beautifully tended rose garden. But I had not been any more successful. So the following year, when a similar plate was inflicted on my sister, we both agreed to bury the cakes in a vacant lot, far away from home. I can't help smiling when I remember that story. (Freedman and Tarr 144) The fact that Benguigui questioned and negated the importance of the cakes reveals that she is not heavily involved in this aspect of the Maghrebi tradition, probably because of her exposure and acculturation into the French culture, which is contrary to her parents' resistance while living in France. Benguigui was an obedient child who did not speak unless she was spoken to and as a result she cultivated her sense of acute observation in picking up details, which served her well when she decided to go into filmmaking. When she left home

the conflict she had with her father trickled down to the rest of the family. As a result, her mother divorced and as

Benguigui states in the interview, she (her mother) has another life. (Dupont par 8)

Her first experience in film was as an assistant to JeanDaniel Pollet, a French New Wave director, which lasted four years before writing and directing her own films. Benguigui's

first film was called, Women of Islam where she realized that 57

despite being brought up in an Algerian household, the Algerian experience was foreign to her. Benguigui was not

fluent in Arabic, which contributed to her inbetween-ness because she was not accepted as a French woman and neither as an Algerian woman. Because of this experience she made it

clear that she was going to devote her life to uncover the historical and personal stories of the Maghrebi immigrants in France. It was her way of coming to terms with her dual

identity issues. 3.3. Immigrant Memories In 1997 Benguigui wrote and directed a documentary called The Immigrant Memories-the North African Inheritance, which won the French television award for best documentary. Benguigui did not just interview the Algerian immigrants for this documentary; she also interviewed ministers and officials who directly dealt with immigration issues during that time period. She gathered information from archives, which were

difficult to come by since the French would rather forget about that part of history. As Benguigui responds in her

interview with Dupont of New York Times: The administration that encouraged immigration till the mid '70s never thought the families would settle: "They thought they would just disappear, die like rats. You can't understand what goes on in the French suburbs today unless you know the history. This is not a film against French society, but against a political system that keeps 58

making the same mistakes. "

(Dupont par 13)

The documentary accumulated over 350 interviews mostly Maghrebi immigrants who settled in France. The goal of the

documentary was to salvage the collective memory of the Maghrebi immigrants before it was lost to future generations. What was noteworthy of the interviews taken by Benguigui was the inclusion of the stories from the perspective of the women, men, and children of the Maghrebi immigrants. were interviewed separately so that they could express themselves freely. As Durmelat states: They

Benguigui's basic task, then, is to construct, with the help of oral accounts, a place for the collective memory of Maghrebi immigration in France, a memory that has hitherto been marked by national amnesia (Noiriel, 1995), the silence of the parents, and the ignorance, or rather, the indifference of French society. 171) The success of the documentary proved that the Maghrebi immigrants' struggle needed to be highlighted and brought to the forefront and to the awareness of the French people as well as to the world. As a consequence of this success, (Freedman and Tarr

Benguigui became a co-host of the television program Place de la R'blique, which dealt with issues concerning immigrant communities. Because of her memorialisation of the immigrant

stories she was motivated in moving forward with her feature film Inch Allah DiManche. Her strained relationship with her 59

father resulted in bringing the issue of patriarchal authority within the French and Maghrebi cultures into her work. Subsequently the theme of patriarchal authority was weaved into the story of Inch Allah DiManche. 3.4. Patriarchal Authority The sense of loss that is experienced when leaving one's home is not a unique experience. Everyone can recall a time

when they had to leave home for college, the military and even marriage. Leaving is a universal experience, but leaving

one's homeland where memories and the sense of belonging to family and even to social and cultural ties, leaves a deep wound difficult to heal and erase from one's past. Negotiating new terrains presents new challenges especially to newly exiled individuals. They still have ties to their customs,

beliefs and values from their country of origin and they need to learn the new ways of the newly acquired host country. It

becomes even more problematic when it becomes a generational issue especially in dealing with Western culture. The

children feel the pull of being caught between two cultures. It becomes difficult for the parents to persuade their loved ones to resist the temptation of acculturation for fear of losing their cultural heritage. In the Meghrebi culture the notion of family is community based, which means that the nucleus of the family is extended and the actions affect more than the immediate family as opposed to a Western idea of

60

family, which consists of parents, children, and possibly grandparents. According to Camille Lacoste-Dujardin the patriarchal system within the Maghrebi culture is problematized when migrating to other countries, especially to Western countries as in the case of Benguigui's family when they migrated to France. Tension is created between the parents and children The parents who hold strong ties to

of the Maghrebi culture.

their culture want their children to respect and continue the same cultural ties. Lacoste-Dujardin argues,

More seriously, in most cases they do not carry the same weight. In effect, the parents are often of a relatively low social class and educational level and the mothers, particularly, are frequently illiterate. The culture they have transmitted to their children is an oral, popular and often rural Maghrebi culture. This culture cannot compete with the culture of the society of residence, a culture that is learned at school, which is written, knowing, urban, even internationalist, and in reality dominant. From this unequal clash of cultures spring the conflicts during the period of crisis and questioning that is adolescence. These conflicts are even more severe today in the new relations between generations, as adolescence is becoming increasingly prolonged. (Freedman and Tarr 59)

61

3.5. Transformation Towards Liberation In Inch Allah DiManche the subtle transformation of the relationship between Zouina, her mother-in-law, her husband, and her children evolves until the final scenes. The story

hints at the changing dynamics between the two cultures. There is a shot towards the end of the film where the camera moves momentarily to the young girl, Zouina's daughter. as if the young girl is image of a young Benguigui as she stands by her mother who is determined to hold her own between two contradicting and evolving cultures. (FIGURE) The film is It is

a hopeful look at how some of the Maghrebi women during their migration to France chose to take agency for the sake of their children who would be undergoing a social and cultural transformation. In an interview Benguigui speaks about

Zouina's stand towards the end of the film: Its at the end that we see Zouinas true face, her true identity. What the film depicts is her first tottering steps towards her own liberation. (Alexander par 4) The relationship between Benguigui and her father has been difficult also because her father was one of the leaders of the MNA, a national movement in Algeria. He was sought

after by the French, jailed twice, and had to live underground for several years. He was a nationalist, an advocate for his For Benguigui her decision to become

country and his culture.

a filmmaker meant banishment and she has not been able to resume a normal relationship with her father except through 62

her mother who tells Benguigui that her father is proud of her because of the fact that he keeps all the press clippings regarding her films and success. Benguigui chooses to preserve the stories of her culture by her desire to salvage it through filmmaking. result she does not lose sight of who she is. she stated: Through filmmaking I thought I could distance myself from my own story. But it was cinema, which brought me back to it. It's not as though I had forgotten where I came from or who I was. It is just that I rarely thought about why Cinema lent me an identityas a directorso that I could reconstruct the one I was neglectingas a daughter of immigrants. (Freedman and Tarr 173) 3.6. Memory Entrepreneuse Benguigui has been described as a 'memory entrepreneur', who according to Gerard Noiriel in his article, Immigration: Amnesia and Memory, (Noiriel 380) are people who take the lived experiences of individuals and preserves their stories into a memory via oral histories, film, or text. Durmelat And as a In an interview

also in her article, Petite histoire du mot beur, on Yamina Benguigui as 'Memory Entrepreneuse'says: As a 'memory entrepreneuse, Benguigui has begun to accumulate symbolic, cultural and economic capital, which accredits her as a legitimate representative and agent of the transmission of memories about the history of 63

Maghrebi immigration, and so enables her to become, finally, her father's daughter. If, as she states: behind this film is the idea of a reconciliation, it is played out on several levels: between the Maghrebi community and the so-called host society, between immigrant parents and their children, and, symbolically, between Benguigui and her father. 173) Benguigui's strength is in her ability to incorporate the snippets of memory of her own story combined with the stories of those she has interviewed for her documentaries. As a (Freedman and Tarr

'memory entrepeneuse' she weaves these snippets into her film thereby preserving the personal as well as the collective memory of the displaced Maghrebi immigrants in France as well as in Algeria. Annette Kuhn in her book Family Secrets also alludes to the notion of 'memory entrepreneuse' as she talks about the collective memory that arises out of looking at photographs of others: The images are both private (family photographs) and public (films, news photographs, a painting): though, as far as memory at least is concerned, private and public turn out in practice less readily separable than conventional wisdom would have us believe if the memories are one individual's, their associations extend far beyond the personal. They spread into an extended network 64

of meanings that bring together the personal with the familial, the cultural, the economic, the social, and the historical. Memory work makes it possible to explore connections between public historical events, structures of feeling, family dramas, relations of class, national identity and gender, and personal memory. In these case histories outer and inner, social and personal, historical and psychical, coalesce; and the web of interconnections that binds them together is made visible. (Kuhn 17) In other words what Kuhn is describing is a memory entrepreneur in which a person, like Benguigui, recalls and instigates a collective memory through her documentary work. The people she interviewed brought up experiences and instances in which other people who have been displaced can relate to. Benguigui films can be described as catalysts in

which these experiences can be shared with others as well as with people who have different experiences. 3.7. Inch Allah DiManche. An Accented Film?

What makes Inch Allah DiManche an example of an accented film is the interstitial cultural position of the filmmaker, Benguigui, as a second-generation exile whose intent is to memorialise the vanishing past of the Maghebri people. In her

role as 'memory entrepreneuse' she salvages the traditions of the Maghebri people in the face of global erasure and blurring of cultures due to the effects of globalisation. Benguigui in making her film utilizes some of the 65

elements that defines an accented film such as: the use of language, visual motifs to show both physical and temporal journeys, the outcome of displacement such as in the themes of alienation, loneliness, and the yearning for home. But these

themes make their way in the film by way of Benguigui's autobiographical inscription throughout the film. In the way

she positions the characters and their viewpoint, she is in effect, communicating her viewpoint. She is bringing to the

table the experiences of her own story as well as the experiences of all those she has interviewed for her documentary. Her fictionalised account is thus sprinkled with Throughout Inch Allah DiManche Benguigui

snippets of truths.

is speaking through Zouina the alienation, displacement, and sadness felt by her mother when she arrived in France particularly when Zouina arrives at the train station in Saint Quentin. The camera first focuses on the clock in the train

station and then to them where they are sitting and waiting for her husband to pick them up. Time and place coincides

with the idea of a journey and the anticipation of an uncertainty of what will happen in their new home. Benguigui's use of the Algerian songwriter Idir and his song Ageggig, which means flower, further acerbates the feeling of loss and nostalgia because of the memory of Algeria and what they left behind. Exile for Zouina and her family

was not directly imposed on them, but the choice to leave Algeria had more to do with the responsibility of joining her 66

husband.

For Benguigui's parents leaving Algeria for France As with other Magrebi immigrants

also meant exile for them.

her parents always thought that they would someday return to Algeria, but like the other families, they never did. The

feeling of displacement, which exists in immigrants due to forced or voluntary exile, can be compared to a loss or death. As with loss, the person is in a perpectual emotional roller coaster ride keeping it together by holding on to the traditions or slowly accepting a new way of life. During the

course of the film, Zouina is constantly trying to hold her emotions in check. Her tears turn into anger and then into

reconciliation with the inevitable acceptance into the French culture. Take for example when Zouina begins to unpack in her

bedroom as she begins to take off the layers of clothing because she needed to make more room in her suitcase by putting more clothes on herself and her children. She is

overtaken by tears and embraces her little daughter who is also showing signs of homesickness and sadness. (FIGURE)

Benguigui puts importance in the relationship between Zouina and her daughter because she wants to show the effects of this displacement and how it impacts the women of the family as opposed to the visibly non-emotional husband and his distance to his daughter. Zouina's emotions surfaces throughout the

film, but as I mentioned previously, the dancing to an Algerian song is powerful because the scene blends images of her mother, her journey on the ship, and the faces of the 67

people she left behind.

Her dance and her tears forces Zouina (FIGURE) It is

to confront her loss and displacement.

Benguigui's combination of indigenous music within the film, which intensifies the feeling of displacement for the viewers as well. It works in this scene as well as throughout the

film because it sets the tone of what Benguigui is trying to accomplish in the journey of Zouina. In the course of the film Zouina slowly tries to become acclimated to her new environment by listening to the French radio station, befriending a young divorced French neighbour, as well as a French women she met one Sunday when she sneaked out to find the Algerian family. Zouina also felt the feeling

of liberation when her husband gave her money to buy a few items in the French convenience store. Even though Zouina was

a little apprehensive at first in the store, she slowly began to deal with the shopkeepers more confidently as a person who is slowing acculturating into French society. What must have been most difficult for Benguigui were the scenes of domestic abuse incorporated in her film. Maghebri

families, in particular fathers, who move to France or any other country try to maintain their customs by strict control over the women of their family. The theme of imprisonment and

isolation is shown through the use of the closed space shots of the house and garden as well as Zouina always looking through the window from time to time as if she was looking through bars in a cell. This loss of liberation is felt in 68

Inch Allah DiManche when the husband forbids Zouina from leaving the house, except to go to the store. The husband

claims that he wants to maintain the honor of his family as when Zouina has a fight with the neighbour. In other words he

does not want to attract attention because they are Algerian. He takes out his anger at Zouina for her 'inappropriate' behavior when she and the French neighbor become involved in an altercation regarding the neighbor's garden and Zouina's children. (FIGURE) What is interesting in the two instances

of abuse in the film is that the mother-in-law provokes the son to take action. The son becomes very agitated with the

screams of his mother and strikes Zouina several times as if to show his mother that he is maintaining his place as the patriarchal authority in the family. In the Maghrebi

tradition the wife leaves her mother and goes to live with her husband's family, thereby making her answer to the mother-inlaw as well. In the article by Maryse Fauvel, Yamina

Bennguigui's Inch Allah DiManche: Unveiling Hybrid Identities, Fauvel expands on the character of the mother-in-law, Acha. According to Fauvel, Acha symbolizes the safety net in insuring that the family does not integrate into the French culture. Aicha is a domineering force whose goal is to keep

everyone in line, including her son. This Algerian woman represents the homeland and she is there to prevent her daughter-in-law from going out, mixing with others. (Fauvel 152) 69

Acha wants to control everything and everyone including the emotions of others. For example, when the widow of a

French colonist comes to call on Zouina (she is there to tell Zouina that she has found the Algerian family), Acha tells the widow of her mistreatment by the colonials she used to work for as a maid in Algeria. She does not want Zouina or

anyone else to get close to the widow because it would mean getting closer to integration into French society. Ben-

guigui's portrayal of Aicha as a first-generation Algerian immigrant, who is determined to maintain the Algerian traditions, is countered by Zouina's independence and wishes to integrate herself and her children into French society. URE) The manner in which Benguigui handles the dynamics of negotiating between two cultures can be further explored in the way Benguigui has inscribed her own integration into French culture. The binaries she creates between the two cultures (FIG-

signals that Benguigui and Zouina imply that they both qualify as integrationist. Benguigui in effect is an integrationist

who also wants to preserve her ethnic heritage as described in Durmelat's article: With this documentary, Benguigui acts as a symbolic operator of integration, to use Vincent Geisser's expression. As such, she is subjected to a double constraint: Demonstrating a relative intellectual and ideological conformity with the advocates of the system in place, that is, 70

adhering to a discourse on integration while at the same time remaining ethnically visible, so maintaining the illusion of a dialogue amongst the various cultural components of the national community 24 Geisser, 1996, p. 129). This is, perhaps, the creative constraint of Benguigui's work: to proclaim herself in favour of integration within the Republic, all the while consolidating the symbolic, historical and cultural capital of a potential Maghrebi community (Freedman and Tarr 185)

As a 'memory entrepeneuse' Benguigui is the voice box for those who made the journey from exile to settling into new territories different from their own, and negotiating the inbetween spaces in which they have to maneuver in order to define one's identity. Benguigui creative choices in making Inch Allah DiManche fits into the genre of accented cinema in terms of autobiographical inscription, embedded criticism, themes, and language. It also fits in the accented cinema in that it deals

with the exilic background of the filmmaker.

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4. Case Study: Turbulent 4.1. Introduction In all these cases, filmmakers are engaged in the performance of the self. In short, because of their

interstitiality, even in situations of self-inscription exilic authors tend to create aambiguity regarding their own real, fictive, or discursive identitites...which requires that the author, the narrator, and the protagonist be identical. (Naficy 35)

The first time I saw the work of Shirin Neshat was in 2001 during an exhibition of Middle Eastern visual artists in Paris. As I was looking at the art works, I heard a screeching sound coming from one of the rooms. I was curious so I

approached the room only to be told to wait until the film would begin again. When I finally went in, there were two

screens opposing one another and in the middle wall there were some benches. I went to the bench to wait for the film. I did not know what to expect, but soon after I sat down, the screen on my right revealed a black and white film consisting of men in white shirts seated in a theater. There was an old fashion microphone and then a man stepped up to the microphone, he was also wearing a white shirt. song and I was captivated. felt he was looking at me. The man began singing a Persian The man gazed at the camera so I The song went on for about five

minutes and when he finished, the male audience gave him a 72

round of applause. The man turned around and thanked his audience. (FIGURE)

Occasionally I would look at the opposite screen only to find an empty theatre, much like the one in which the man was singing. There was a figure completely in black, motionless.

I did not know what to make of this figure so I would continue to watch the man on the opposite screen. At the conclusion of

the mans performance, there was a low inaudible sound coming from the figure in black. The camera began to revolve around Her

the figure revealing a woman dressed in a black burka. hands were painted with henna. with the camera.

She did not make eye contact

Her eyes were closed as she continued to

make these inaudible sometimes high-pitched sounds as if she was wounded. The performance escalated into a frenzied

emotional display of agony on the part of the woman singer. (FIGURE) When she was done with her performance, there was no

applause and acknowledgement because there was no one there to hear her song except for the audience in the gallery. audience in the gallery space was clearly taken by the performances of the two singers. They exited the room in Neshat The

silence, contemplating what they had just seen. entitled this film Turbulent.

When looking at Shirin Neshat's work a question we may ask ourselves is who is the intended audience in her work? has been argued that Neshat's work contributes to the perpetuation of stereotypical images of the Muslim woman and 73 It

their situation under patriarchal rule.

If we look closely at

where Neshat's work has been exhibited we might get the impression that corporate art, which includes prestigious institutions such as museums, high end art galleries and the like, has played a major role in the direction and content of Neshat's work. In the beginning of Neshat's career her work

was not shown in Iran, but in American and European venues. One might say that Neshat catered to the continued notion of orientalism and stereotypes in her work in order to make it accessible to high art institutions. Valentina Vitali in her

essay, Corporate Art and Critical Theory: On Shirin Neshat begins to explore this argument when she states: There is no doubt that the interest groups that were dominant in the five years that saw the emergence of Shirin Neshat in the United States and abroad did define or, at least, set the limits of her work. They did not,

however, define the artist and her works possibilities within those limits. Second, if the orientation of those interest groups determines, as it inevitably does, what an artist cannot do, what guarantees do we have that the terms in which the work is discussed are not equally limited by those very same pressures? (Vitali 5) In the article Vitali also problematizes this argument by suggesting that most of the critiques comes from the perspective of 'globalizing capital'. That is to say, are the museum

board members who hold the purse strings decide what consti74

tutes work suitable for inclusion in the corporate art arena? It seems that artists who are marginalized and non-white are expected to make work that is ethnic specific. In other

words, an artist has to do work that addresses themes of race, identity, immigration, etc. without the chance to explore other themes not related to their ethnic background. Tomur Ata-

goek and Susan Platt in their article, The Digestible Other: The Istanbul Biennal state: International biennale artists participate in a type of expatriate colony. The price of admission if they are not white Euro Americans is that they accept the rules of inclusion . . .. A certain amount of culturally specific content is eagerly sought after, but it must fit in with curatorial perspectives . . .. Shirin Neshat, for example, went to graduate school in the United States and currently lives there. Her photographs of herself entirely covered in black calligraphy, to give an early example, play to Eurocentric preconceived ideas about Iranian women, rather than being a nuanced examination of the complexities of present day Iran. (Atagoek and Platt 103) But one cannot dismiss Neshat's intention as well. Al-

though her work has not been viewed in many non-western venues, Neshat still uses the opportunity to address issues that directly and indirectly affect her. Neshat's personal history In fact it is

and background is relevant in reading her work.

significant in reading anyone's work because what happens in 75

the artist's lives impact their positionality, their opinions, and their conceptualisation of the artwork. Autobiographical

inscription leaves its imprint of the author either consciously or unconsciously. For example, in Neshat's Women of

Allah series, the Farsi poems written on the photographs is an indication of the influence these poems had on her life when she was growing up in Iran. But to juxtapose the Farsi text

upon the images of women dressed in a burka shows the complexity of her work. (FIGURE) Neshat is using a cultural object

she remembered as a child, the Farsi poem, and contrasting it with a cultural object she was not privy to, the barka, which can lead to alternative readings. Vitali describes it thus:

The inscription breaks the coherence of the image as a naturalistic representation of a woman: woman is presented instead as an assemblage of symbolic conventions the effectiveness of which is not universal. The Farsi writing confronts the non-Farsi speaking audience with a barrier: they have no choice but to fetishize the inscriptions as decoration, at best as a code that, in so far as it is inaccessible, remains a signifier with no referent. (Vitali 11)

In other words, Neshat conceptualisation in her work chooses to incorporate small details of her past which when put together with the issues she is trying to understand herself opens up the artwork to different interpretations, which is what makes her work different and open to discourse. 76

Many critique her work because of the fact that she does not have the authority to speak for Iranian women, especially those who lived and was directly affected by the Iranian Revolution. Is she being penalized because she lived a priv-

ileged life that studied in private schools and schools in the United States? 4.2. Shirin Neshat Shirin Neshat was born in 1957 Qazwin, Iran. was a physician and her mother was a homemaker. Her father Neshat's

father was a supporter of the Shah of Iran as well as the Western influence, which permeated throughout Iran before the revolution. Neshat's father wanted for Shirin a Western

education and he sent her to boarding schools, which catered to the Western ideology. In 1963 when Neshat was six years

old the Ayatollah Khomeini first initiated his uprising against the existing monarch, the Shah of Iran. The uprising

was not successful at that time and life in Iran continued to flourish under the monarch. Neshat only knew Iran as a Neshat's father

cosmopolitan city of wealth and opportunity.

also believed in equality and freedom for her daughter and encouraged her to pursue her education in the United States. It was during her time in the States that the Iranian Revolution broke out and her family's way of life changed. The Ayatollah removed the monarchy and implemented a militant Islamic state. Neshat watched closely the revolution as it She watched for two years on the 77

transpired from a distance.

television the U.S Hostage Crisis, which created a backlash against Iranias living in the states at the time. For Neshat

living in the states at the time while her family remained in Iran under the Ayatollah left an indelible mark that later surfaced in her work. Hamid Dabashi wrote in his essay,

Transcending the Boundaries of an Imaginative Geography about Neshat's anguish and sadness during this time in her life: ...among the myriad of visual installations of a troubled decade that will produce far more in Shirin Neshat's pictorial memories, future photographs, forthcoming videos: all the sublated fusions of repressed anxieties, anticipated fears, terms of her present predicament, future enchantmentsstuff of which enduring art is made. There is a steely will in and about Shirin

Neshat's work that escapes her detractors, for they have no clue how it was tested in the fire and fury of those long and lasting years. (Dabashi 37)

Neshat remained in the States completing her degree in Berkeley, where she obtained her B.A, M.A, and M.F.A. After

school she moved to New York and worked at the Storefront Art and Architecture. Neshat tried to create work during that But

time but was not successful in creating meaningful work.

it was during her time at the Storefront Art and Architecture that her exposure to other artists work and conceptual ideas became essential for her future work. After the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 Neshat 78

waited for one year before she decided to return to Iran. trip to Iran was the turning point in her career.

Her

Even though

Neshat kept up with media events that were occurring in Iran during her time in the states, nothing would prepare her for her encounter with Iran of the 1990s. Neshat addresses her

experiences when she first set foot in Iran in an interview with Sadi Sheybani when she says: [It] was one of the most shocking experiences I ever had. [] The difference between what I had remembered from the Iranian culture and what I was witnessing was enormous. I had never been in a country that was so ideologically based. Most noticeable, of course, was the change in peoples physical appearance and public behavior. When I returned to the States, I was haunted by the experience and started to travel to Iran regularly. (Cichocki 206) Also upon her return Neshat had to exchange her Western clothing for the chador. Even though Neshat was not in Iran during and immediately after the revolution the experience of wearing the chador left her ripe with questions about the effects of the Iranian revolution, especially on the patriarchal authority that was being enforced and leaving women with less of a voice. 4.3. Does Neshat speak for Iranian Women? To cope with this traumatic personal experience, she began to address her concerns and observations through her artwork. Her work was a way of negotiating her dual identity. 79

Was Neshat a Westerner in Iranian skin or was she an Iranian with a Western mindset? As previously mentioned Neshat has

been criticized for her positioning and standing in for Islamic women who lived through the Iranian Revolution as evidenced by the article by Lindsey Moore: Neshat's self-insertion appears to have been motivated by a romanticisation of the revolutionary Islamic phenomenon, a response accentuated by her feelings of displacement, guilt and envy at being absent from Iran at that vital historical juncture...Her 'self-investment' nostalgically re-enacts the performative role of martyrdom, and attempts to collapse her individual (in)experience into an idealized communal subjectivity. I do not wish to measure the 'authenticity of different cultural experiences, but I would suggest that Neshat's masquerading of the Self as Other acts hegemonically, by replacing the testimonies of women who participated. (Moore 8) Moore addressed these concerns particularly in Neshat's first photographic series called Women of Allah, where Neshat photographs herself dressed in a chador with only her face and hands exposed. On some of the photographs the face and hands Moore's

are inscribed with calligraphy of Farsi poems.

problem with Neshat's self-insertion into these images brings up the question of who is authorized to speak for whom. (FIGURE) But in an interview with Neshat she defends her work 80

by saying: Of course, it's important for both my Western and Iranian audience to understand that while my work investigates social and political issues of Iran, it remains conceptual, not at all claiming to be 'actual' or 'realistic' about the subjects. Another important factor

to keep in mind is that the work is made from the perspective of an Iranian living abroad; therefore, it bears an exilic point of view. par 3) Like many exilic artists and filmmakers who make work that is removed from their homeland spatially and temporally, questions of accurate representation is put into question by those who believe the artist is essentialzing rather than accurately portraying the reality of those who went through the process. In John Mcleod's reading of Sally Morgan's My (Lekay Heyoka Magazine

Place, he addresses a similar critique when he says: We might go so far as to think about Sally's acknowledgement of an 'Aboriginal consciousness as an exercise in 'strategic essentialism', which enables her to build affiliations with Aboriginal peoples and involve herself in bringing their lives to bear upon Australian history, despite the fact that their experiences will remain out of reach of her knowledge. (McLeod 203)

What McLeod says here is relevant because Neshat even though she has not experienced what the women in Iran 81

experienced, she is, nevertheless, making the subject a focus of her work and in turn brings to light the issues affecting the Iranian women in Iran as well as other Islamic countries. Neshat offers her interpretation for others to make their own interpretation. Neshat is still voicing the issues instead of

the issues being silenced. 4.4. Art as Politicalization Because Neshats in-between-ness as it relates to the West and Iran has problematized her earlier work in that she stood in for the real Islamic women who participated in the struggles of the revolution, makes her motives questionable according to her critics. But her struggle to negotiate and

understand her hybridity via creative pursuits makes her a conduit for colonial and patriarchal discourse. The discourse

is not limited to the corporate art institutions but to other venues where artists of color can also participate and share in the discourse. The politicisation of art by Neshat's work

creates a dialogue in which people use their minds to pry open a wealth of possibilities and further exploration for the 'truth', whose ever 'truth that may be. The relationship

between art and politics has always been tenuous because of the notion that art has no room for politics. be accepted for art's sake. That art should

But art since it is seen through

different media such as video, museum exhibits, and the Internet, it has far reaching capabilities and therefore can influence social and political change in some instances. 82

Neshat's main goal is to put the issues out there through her photographs and film installations. The point is that the

work is visible and as a result, the issues are visible. According to an interview with TIME Magazine when asked whether she was upsetting stereotypes, she responded: I'm an artist so I'm not an activist. I don't have an agenda. I'm creating work simply to entice a dialog and that's all. I do tend to show the stereotype head on and then break it down. There's the stereotype about the women they're all victims and submissive and they're not. Slowly I subvert that image by showing in the most subtle and candid way how strong these women are. (TIME par 11) 4.5. From Photography to Film Installation When Neshat moved into films, her work began to take a slightly different direction than her photographic work. Although she still included women dressed in Islamic attire, she also added other elements and motifs to create her artwork. Sound and music was an important element as well as In

the use of monumental architecture for framing the story. addition, the film was shot in black and white with the men

wearing white shirts, while the women wore the black chador. But this time her work was intricately conceptual making the reading of her work challenging and stimulating. It was also

interactive in that the audience was positioned in such a way as to experience hybridity and claustrophobia as in a 83

displacement and an inbetween-ness between two cultures. However, her work is still primarily shown in Western and European venues because of the perceived orientalist and stereotypical thinking of a Eurocentric audience. Nevertheless, Neshat's work, depending on who is watching it, represents the Islamic woman and how the onlooker perceives them. Octavio Zaya explains it this way:

Shirin Neshat's photographic oeuvre does approach the complexity of this issue, its representations and the various emotions it awakens, occasionally flirting with images that seem to reproduce the propaganda of the Islamic rgime, and at other times creating scenarios that seem to entertain notions derived from Western interest in Oriental women. (Zaya 17) Although Yamina Benguigui is considered a 'memory entrepreneuse', a salvager of the past, who facilitates the memorialisation of those who have been displaced because of migration to another country, namely France, Neshat can be considered 'interpreter of a past in which she problematizes her positionality between two cultures. As an 'interpreter'

she assumes a responsibility of mediating the affective experience of the audience so that they can know what it feels like to live in inbetween-ness. By making her work

interactive, she gives the audience agency over the interpretation of her work but at the same time she is manipulating their agency by inscribing her positionality on 84

displacement and inbetween-ness.

She accomplishes this by her

choice of music, structure of narrative, and embedded criticism in her work. Neshat's inscription in her work

especially in Turbulent where the space between the two screens represents her situatedness caught between two cultures. Neshat wants to create an affective experience for

her audience so that they may be able to walk in her shoes and experience what she feels in creating a commonality of experience. In doing a close reading of Turbulent one needs to understand and appreciate her creative choices as it pertains to the insight and cultural baggage she brings to it. In

creating a film installation with two opposing screens where the audience is put in a state of inbetween-ness, Neshat in effect is orchestrating the experience of the audience being in an inbetween state. It is how Geraldine Barlow describes

it in her press kit about Shirin Neshat's participation in the Melbourne International Arts Festival: Therefore, what we see is not a view of the actual space as we experience it, but a stitched together meeting of different moments in time. The two views only appear to be connected inshared space and time. What we see is a construction. It is our own experience of the artwork and our perception of a link between the two screens that gives them a lived, human connection in real time. low 3) 85 (Bar-

When Neshat moved away from her two-dimensional work into film installation her addition of the voice as a tool of expression enriched her work even further. It is this element

of the aural dimension in Neshat's video and film, which makes it a connector between the audience and the filmmaker in order to address the effects of being in exile. Since her migration to film, Neshat has collaborated with composers Sussan Deyhim and Phillip Glass. Deyhim is a

vocalist and composer, who share a similar background in that she was also born in Iran and has been living in the United States as an expatriate. Because of their similar backgrounds

Neshat and Deyhim are able to create work that is in sync with each other's views on Iran. Deyhim experiments with sound and

voice producing a unique collaboration with Deyhim and Neshat. Since music and sound is a universal bonding element for audience members with different backgrounds, the reception of the work is more likely to be accepted and appreciated by mainstream audiences. Turbulent was the first sound collaboration between Neshat and Deyhim. In an article by Aubrey Reeves, Ms. Reeves

describes how powerful the use of sound made the work stronger: Ululations, screams and panting breaths all swirl into a feverish challenge to the Shi'ite Muslim law that women should not sing in public. In Turbulent, the woman's wordless song needs no translation to be understood by 86

listeners of any background. Deyhim's vocal conjuring transcends the restrictions placed on her expression and enraptures the man and his audience. She defiantly grasps the microphone while the camera spins around her in an ecstatic whirl. ...Though the women in the films do not speak, they are far from silent. They are able to translate a huge range of emotions with ululation, among other vocalizations. Ululation is a piercing cry sung only by women that is made to pulse rhythmically via an undulation of the tongue. It is an articulation with power far greater than words could ever convey. par 6) Neshat's collaboration with Philip Glass is indicative of her artistic sensibilities since Glass is a prolific composer who deals with minimalist repetitive structures and has written scores for Hollywood films such as Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi, Martin Scorcese's Kundun, and Stephn Daldry's The Hours. Glass's involvement in Neshat's film Passage (Reeves

(2001) in which he created the score highlighting the cycle of birth and death was written after Neshat made the film. Glass

created his own interpretation according to the rhythmic and repetitive patterns indicative of the cycle of life, which he witnessed in the film. (FIGURE)

What is interesting to note is Neshat's reaching out to two composers who are from two sides of the poles, an expatriate of Iran, such as herself, and a composer from the 87

United States, a Westerner, both of which bridges the East and West with their compositions. So how does Neshat's work fit into the definition of Naficy's accented cinema or style? Even though Neshat's film

installation does not fall into a neat package of accented cinema, Naficy himself has placed Neshat's work as coming from an artist caught between two cultures and who is in a position to comment on the experiences through her film work. But

according to some critics such as Lindsey Moore, she questions Naficy's position of Neshat's work when she says: Naficy's model is useful, then, because it suggests a viewpoint in active negotiation with cultures. It

possibly colludes, however, with the unproblematized conceptual pairing in Neshat's work of a normatively nonIranian spectator in confrontation with 'Islamic'- or, even more tenuously, 'Iranian images. Viewers who draw

on the particularities and complexities of Iranian culture are structurally displaced from Neshat's work or, more dangerously, assumed to sustain its particular perspective. The real danger of this...a reactivation of

the exotic under the guise of the culturally 'authentic'. (Moore 12) But in defence of Neshat and Naficy's analysis of her work the authenticity is not in question but rather one person's examination that does not have agency to speak for the Iranian women either. What Moore is saying is that Neshat 88

has no authority to speak on behalf of the Iranian women in Iran, but who is to say Moore has any more authority to question Neshat or Naficy. Neshat's work is one person's

interpretation of what she feels are the issues through her art. Neshat does not claim to be the voicebox but rather the Because Neshat has access

'interpreter' of the Iranian women.

to worldwide art venues, then why shouldn't Neshat at least bring up the issues and let the audience interpret and decide for themselves? Neshat's ultimate goal is to create art that

results in an affective or emotional experience for the audience as when she said in TIME Magazine: I like works that take my breath away or make me want to cry ... almost a religious experience. I'm creating a very brief experience for people so they can take away with them not some heavy political statement but something that really touches them on the most emotional level. (TIME par 17) Neshat accomplishes this affective experience by experimentation rather than using a documentary mode or a linear narrative to assert her positionality about the issues that are important to her. Neshat's Turbulent is experimental according to Naficy's description of what characterizes experimental video/film: The experimental films also tend to inscribe autobiography or biography more, or more openly, than the feature films...Although narrative hybridity is a 89

characteristic of the accented cinema, the experimental films are more hybridised than the feature films in their intentional crossing and problematization of various borders, such as those between video and film, fiction and non-fiction, narrative and nonnarrative, social and psychic, autobiographical and national. (Naficy 22)

By Neshat creating spaces that mimic inbetween-ness, Neshat is situating the audience to experience her inbetweenness as it relates to her own hybridity.

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5. Conclusion:

Using the lens of Hamid Naficy's accented cinema I examined how the themes of exile are represented in the films of Yamina Benguigui's Inch Allah DiManche and Shirin Neshat's Turbulent. Specifically I have stressed how the concepts of

autobiographical inscription and authorship influences and informs the work of exilic filmmakers. One cannot dismiss the value of the lived and embodied experiences of exilic filmmakers in the interpretation and reading of their films. Notwithstanding that they come from

different ethnic backgrounds they both share unique experiences of displaced persons whose cultures have been ignored in the past by Western powers. That said, the importance of tak-

ing into account their positionality or situatedness as exilics has a huge impact on the message they are trying to convey in their films, especially in exilic films. Why? As I have

been arguing in my paper, autobiographical inscription has the author's imprint composed of personal as well as ethno-historical references addressing the politics of location and the embodiment of knowledge of the filmmakers. It is not a claim

of authenticity but a window in which fragmented memories and clues could be pieced together to tell a story from people who have experienced displacement of any kind.

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Hamid Naficy realized the importance of autobiographical inscription in his book, An Accented Cinema, when he spoke about the performance of the filmmaker in their films: Accented filmmakers who live in various modes of transnational otherness inscribe and (re)enact in their films the fears, freedoms, and possibilities of split subjectivity and multiple identities. These take the form of

fragmented narratives, consisting of ellipses, ruptures, and generic juxtapositions and admixtures, self-reflexive interweaving of the filmmaker's own biography, person, and persona in the diegesis; and an emphasis both on a performing self and on a performance structure. 271) Benguigui and Neshat are both performing their own mixbag of inbetween-ness stemming from their lived experiences, but their approach in telling their stories varies however. Benguigui relies on a traditional narrative approach while Neshat opts for experimental storytelling. Both approaches fall (Naficy

into Naficy's definition of what constitutes accented cinema. Naficy stressed the importance of certain elements that make up the accented film including themes, embedded criticism, language, and of course autobiographical inscription. What Benguigui and Neshat try to accomplish through their creative pursuits is to have the world recognize that crosscultural understanding through storytelling of deterritorized people need to be told. Salvaging and reclaiming their his92

torical contribution to the world rejects the amnesia of the dominant powers, which participated in colonial oppression as in the case of France over Algeria. Although autobiographical inscription was the focus of my study in accented films, I introduced some concepts that added to my discussion of the films of Benguigui and Neshat, specifically the concept of memory entrepreneuse as in Benguigui's case. The importance of having an individual preserve the

cultural memories of an ethnic group via film or oral histories keeps the collective memory of these people alive. With

the world shrinking, the goal is to maintain this link to the past in order to avoid erasure of their important stories. Both Benguigui and Neshat in their work addressed the personal as well as collective memories of their own cultural identities allowing the stories to be seen and heard by generations to come. Their work has met with some resistance, however, especially in the case of Neshat's work. Critics have argued that

she is not coming from a direct positionality since she spent most of her time in the States and not in Iran especially during the revolution. But as I have argued Neshat and Benguigui

were expressing themselves as artists whose autobiographical inscription made its way into the making of their films. As I

have argued, the self always sneaks into one's work whether it is conscious or not.

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Other key concepts discussed in this study were inbetween-ness, politicalization of art, and patriarchal authority. Although these concepts together or alone added to what

constituted accented films, they can also be found in World Cinema and Third Cinema. However, the difference, as I argued

in my paper, was that the themes of displacement of deterritorized people was the main ingredient in accented films which are not necessarily present in World Cinema or Third Cinema. The effects of globalization on our identity construction has bombarded us with influences and traits that are shared by all who are exposed to the same global media such as videos, Internet, travel, and films. Accented films come at a time Homogenized

when globalization has impacted everyone's lives.

communities are becoming sprinkled with color, music, and different family dynamics. We might have been use to living in a

quiet street with quiet neighbors, but with immigration, the new neighbors bring with them another way of life. Sometimes

this way of life makes it difficult for the non-immigrant neighbors to understand. This perception, of course, comes

from years of Western influences and other media sources with stereotypical images of the 'other'. Both Benguigui and Neshat use film as an articulation of resistance allowing for a critical discourse of the issues that beset exilic and diasporic immigrant communities. But as

our boundaries expand and become blurred, how will exilic or transnational filmmakers enunciate their evolving identities 94

through their films or other creative endeavors?

Ignoring the

fact that globalization is an unstoppable process which can disrupt and bring about an unsettledness to the once homogenized countries gives reason to pause and contemplate what is in store for the future genre of accented films. Will we be

talking of inbetween-ness or inter-connected spaces when we face a multi-cultural onslaught of identities due to the eventual mixing of cultures? Or will there be pockets of communi-

ties who have chose to remain true to their cultural identity vying for recognition and respect within the host country? How will autobiographical inscription be referenced in multicultural stories where beginnings are obscured? Will filmmak-

ers like Benguigui and Neshat still create work referencing their unique cultural identities and the problems that arise from being exilic? Film genres will evolve to reflect these

changes, but in what way will Hamid Naficy's accented cinema be affected by the changes increased globalization brings? As a filmmaker I have created work dealing with identity issues which I had encountered while growing up in the United States. The themes of exclusion, racism, and integration are

present in my work just as in the work of Benguigui and Neshat. The future will be inundated with stories of people who

have crossed borders along with their struggles to adapt to their new environment. Hamid Naficy's accented cinema has

provided a blueprint for deterritorized people to negotiate

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their new surroundings in film as well as other creative pursuits.

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