The issue of honour killings – an issue in Maghrebi French or Black and British Asian cinema?
Much has been written about the representation of the oppressed and victimised Turkish German woman who featured prominently in the early days Turkish German cinema. Two recent high-profile films revisit this theme, albeit in significantly modified form, introducing the issue of honour killings.
The promiscuous protagonist Sibel in Head-On (Fatih Akin, 2004) flees from Hamburg to Istanbul since her brothers threaten to kill her. When We Leave (Feo Aladag, 2010) is based on the case of Hatun Sürücü, a young Turkish-German woman who was killed by one of her brothers in Berlin in 2005, an incident that resulted in a virtual media frenzy in Germany. Honor killings in this context are murders, normally committed by male family members as an attempt to restore the honour of the family which is perceived to have been destroyed by a sister, mother or other female family member through ‘immodest’ behaviour (e.g. pre-marital sex, adultery or even leaving an abusive husband).
German media coverage of Sürücü’s murder blamed the social practices of traditional Turkish Muslim patriarchy. Especially since 9/11, Islam (tout court, rather than Islamic fundamentalism) has been increasingly associated with violence, be it the looming threat of terrorism or, in the context of the family, honour killings. This connection is problematic for a whole number of reasons which I cannot address here. Those who challenged this link have suggested that honour killings are a practice of Turkish village communities rather than Islam. It has also been suggested that honour killings occur in non-Islamic cultures.
Looking at films about the diaporic family, in particular, in Maghrebi French, Black and British Asian and Turkish German cinema, I noticed that domineering family patriarchs can be found in all of these transnational cinemas. More often than not, the oppressive family patriarch is a Muslim (e.g. in Samia (Philippe Faucon, 2000) or George Khan in East Is East (Damien O’Donnell, 1999)) rather than a Sikh as in Bend It Like Beckham (Gurinder Chadha, 2002), for example.
Still, to my knowledge, the issue of honour killings is not a theme addressed in Maghrebi French or Black and British feature films. Why is this so? I’d be grateful for any suggestions of feature films which contradict my observation or for any other relevant suggestions.
Edited on 15 Feb 2011 around 10am