'The Tainted Veil': Film Review

Tainted Veil - H 2015
Courtesy of ANASY MEDIA

Despite its timely subject matter, this disjointed documentary is more tedious than illuminating.

This documentary by Nahla Al Fahad, Mazen Al Khayrat and Ovidio Salazar explores the Muslim practice of women wearing hijab.

Arriving at a time in which presidential candidates declare Muslims unfit for the office, xenophobia is running rampant both here and abroad, and numerous countries have banned the wearing of hijab, Ovidio Salazar, Nahia Al Fahad and Mazen al Khayrat's documentary about the Muslim headscarf is certainly relevant. Unfortunately, despite its timely and provocative subject, The Tainted Veil is a hopelessly dry and tedious talkathon that quickly wears out its welcome.

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Providing only a cursory historical examination of its subject, the film which began shooting in 2008 is mainly content to trot out an endless series of talking head commentators from countries including Egypt, France, Morocco, Syria, Turkey, Denmark, England and the United Arab Emirates. These include Muslim women who either choose to wear and not wear the hijab as well as a variety of scholars and academics. Many of the women who don the headwear say that they do so to avoid the scrutiny of the lecherous male gaze, although in many cases it's been replaced by a different type of oppressive attention, namely prejudice.

Those who don't wear the hijab frequently point to it as a symbol of Islamic repression against women, which is ironic since the Koran says nothing about its mandatory wearing.

"Allah has presented the hijab to women as an honor and not as an oppression," declares one male interviewee. The idea, like many others expressed in the film, is left unexplored, with the lack of follow-up questions infusing the proceedings with a frustratingly scattershot quality. At one point a commentator compares the wearing of a hijab to actress Grace Kelly having frequently worn a scarf on her head (archival footage is dutifully trotted out), which seems ridiculous on so many levels.

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Rambling and unfocused, The Tainted Veil fails to do justice to its important subject matter, which the film itself seems to acknowledge toward its conclusion.

"At the end of the day it's a three foot piece of cloth," points out a British Muslim woman. "Let's not overdo it."

Production: Anasy Media
Directors: Nahla Al Fahad, Mazen Al Khayrat, Ovidio Salazar
Screenwriters: Stephanie Dopferah,  Mazen Al Khayrat
Producer: Alyazia Bint Nahyan
Directors of photography: Fadi Azzam, Samir Karam
Editors: Mazen Al Khayrat, Homam Ghazal, Faris Khatib
Composer: Albert El Ters

Not rated, 78 min.