Special Jury Award, Banff 1982
Although DAUGHTERS OF THE NILE premiered in 1982, the film hasn't lost any of its current interest. It offers a unique insight into a segment of Egyptian society that has hardly changed over the years. The lives of women in Egypt can still be very limiting, with all aspects of their existence spelled out by tradition and the teachings of the Koran. With little voice in their education, or marriage, they must accept the unbending rules of their society. DAUGHTERS OF THE NILE offers a unique account of their day-to-day living, married to men chosen by their fathers.
This beautifully photographed, revealing film about Egypt's women captures their separate and subordinate life under the Islamic code. In DAUGHTERS OF THE NILE we meet articulate women who have had little schooling and whose lives are centred on childbearing and hard physical work. They acknowledge that their choices in life are limited. The Koran dictates behaviour at every stage of life. Their husbands are selected by their fathers. Often, at puberty they are taken out of school. They unquestioningly accept circumcision, arranged marriages, huge families and polygamous husbands.
In Egypt many Women after marriage are secluded and some may never set eyes on another man. By participating in this film, the women question for the first time some of the assumptions of their lives. As the film was shown, it led to an outrage and threats by Egyptian authorities for broadcasting the film abroad. In order to prevent the rushes of her film from being confiscated, director Hillie Molenaar fled to the Dutch Ambassy in Cairo.
DAUGHTERS OF THE NILE was shot in 1981, a few months before the assassination of President Sadat. One of Sadat's enduring legacies was the return of militant Islam and the rising popularity of fundamentalism. Increasingly women in Islamic society were kept largely isolated, leading secluded lives with a focus on bearing children, while husbands are allowed to take numerous wives and participate in society. Although there are many passages in the Koran that allow for a much more equal relationship between men and women, the Islamic fundamentalists are still reluctant to interpret it that way.
Joop Van Wijk
Christine van Rhoon
Hens van Rooij