Farida Benlyazid (born March 18, 1948, Tangier, Morocco) is one of the few female Moroccan directors and screenwriters.
Farida Benlyazid earned her bachelor's degree in Film and Literature from the University of Paris in 1974-1976. She later received her master's degree from the Ecole Supérieure des Etudes Cinématographiques in Paris. Immediately following her graduation, she started writing films.
Her most popular films include Bab al-sama' maftooh (1989), Keïd Ensa (1999) and Nia taghled (2000).
She has directed a total of six movies, written a total of five movies, produced a total of two movies, and created two documentaries. In 1991 she created her own production company called "Tingitania Films." Her films focus on the role of Moroccan women from the time of Moroccan independence in 1956 through the present day. In most of her films, there is a strong connection between Islam and feminism. Most of her females characters use Islam as a way to guide their own feminist identities and philosophies. In her films, Islam is always portrayed as a soft image and a religion that boasts equality between men and women. She uses common techniques of Islamic feminists in her films, including the rewriting of old myths and stories by giving women their own voices. Her films emphasize the important role of women and their contribution to Moroccan society. Besides gender inequality and gender roles, her films also analyze Moroccan society and focus on issues of social and political power, as well as colonialism. Her films are more popular in Western cultures than in Morocco, so her films subtly critique Moroccan culture, society, and colonialism, but are never directly negative.
Bab al-sama' maftooh
Bab al-sama' maftooh (in English, "A Door to the Sky") is one of Benlyazid's most popular dramas, produced in 1989. It was released in France, Morocco, and Tunisia.
The main character in Bab al-sama' maftooh, Nadia, leaves Paris for her native home in Fez, Morocco to see her dying father. At his funeral, she meets a woman, Kirana, who is reciting verses from the Qur'an. Nadia is moved by her readings, and the two women become close friends. Through Kirana, Nadia starts to embrace her Moroccan heritage as well as her Muslim culture and identity as her new Western habits start to recede. The pivotal point in Nadia's reformation is when she breaks up with her Parisian boyfriend. Later, Nadia wishes to turn her father's home into a zawiya (a shelter and spiritual center for women) but her siblings want to sell the home. However, Nadia ends up buying her deceased father's property from her siblings and turns the home in a zawiya. Bab al-sama' maftooh is one of the first post-colonial feminist films.
Bab al-sama' maftooh uses Islam as a form of spiritual revelation. The film doesn't approach the religion radically, which allows the film to circulate in Western culture seamlessly. However, Moroccan film critic, Hamid Tbatou, states that some parts of the film are orientalized, and he specifically points out the type of architecture. Since the film plays into Western perceptions and stereotypes, this could potentially be a reason why it's more popular in Western culture than it is in Morocco.
Keïd Ensa (in English, "Women's Wiles") was produced in 1999, and is one of Benlyazid's most well-known films.
Keïd Ensa is based on a traditional Andalusian myth. The main character, Lalla Aicha, is a women who learned how to read and write from her father. The son of the sultan quickly falls in love with Lalla, but he doesn't believe that women are or should be as intelligent as men. To combat this, Lalla sneaks into his home and shaves off his beard to prove that she is capable of being smart and cunning. The two marry, and the sultan's son is still convinced of a woman's inferiority, so he locks her in the basement for three years to punish her for shaving his beard. For the rest of the film, Lalla works to find out ways to outwit him.
Benlyazid pulls from a traditional myth as inspiration for this film. She focuses on the retelling of an old myth and works to give women a voice in a culture that believes women are inferior to men. Since Lalla always finds a way to best her husband, she becomes the superior, more intelligent one, proving that women are just as capable as men. In many ways, Benlyazid uses a Scheherazadian method of creating a story where the woman outwits the man in their relationship.
- "Farida Benlyazid". NY Times. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Farida Benlyazid". IMDb.com. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Retrospective: Farida Benlyazid". Arab Film Festival Berlin. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
- "The Dog's Life of Juanita Narboni by Farida Benlyazid". Arte East. Archived from the original on 8 December 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Bab-Sama Maftouh Overview". NY Times. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- "Keid Ensa/Women's Wiles". Arab Film Festival Berlin. Retrieved 4 December 2014.