Undoing the Claim of Objectivity: Contradictions at the Heart of Bergtji van der Haak, Saudi Solutions (2005)

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Journal of Religion & Film, ISSN: 1092-1311, Vol: 19, Issue: 1, Page: 36

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Nasser, Anisa Saeed Mohammed
Documentary film; objectivity; reality; film language; Muslim women; Islam; veil; Arts and Humanities; Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Film and Media Studies; Near Eastern Languages and Societies; Religion; Visual Studies; Women's Studies
article description
This paper is a study of Bergtji van der Haak, Saudi Solutions (2005). It attempts to question Bergtji van der Haak’s claim of “objective” depiction of Saudi women’s “reality,” as well as the claim of portraying Saudi women through their perspectives as stated in the opening scene. The premise is that the editing strives to undercut the very views of the women that the film is claiming to present, and in the process it duplicates some of the very mechanisms of oppression that the film is denouncing. The documentary’s attempt at ‘subalternizing’ and diminishing Saudi women discloses the subjectivity of the documentarist and shows how she contradicts her claims. The essay has two parts: the first addresses the undermining of Saudi women’s perspectives through artistic organizing and sequencing of auditory and visual elements, so as to impose the documentarist’s different perspective. The second addresses a situation in which the documentarist cannot undermine appearances despite her refusal to portray them as they are meant to be viewed by Saudi women. This leads to the conclusion that in the end none of documentarist’s critique is useful; they just undo her claimed aims.