YEREVAN // JULY 24, 2014 BY ANY MEANS A-VEILABLE
A MINDBOGGLING SHORT FROM PARIS VIA DENMARK By Alex DELONIAN, <filmfestivals.com>
A mind Goggling scene from the best short film of the Yerevan film Festival
The strangest thing about Danish filmmaker Charlotte Schiøler’s droll but serious short Paris drama “By Any Means AVEILable” is that — Strange as it may seem — it is basically a retelling of what actually happened to her when she went to buy an apartment in real life and hit upon the idea of disguising herself as a veiled Moslem woman in order to unobtrusively take the measurements of the apartment she was interested in. Sounds weird-funny, huh? Well here is what the film is about ...
A obsessive young woman from Denmark living in Paris wants to buy an apartment but is determined not to get cheated in the process because she is a foreigner.
A crucial step in doing so is taking the measurements of the space under consideration to make sure she will be getting her money’s worth and not being taken over.
She has a very friendly meeting (by mistake) with an engaging young women who is selling a space that would be quite suitable, but, during their meeting she was unable to measure because of the chaotic state of the place. The owner tells her it is 68 sq. meters but she is in constant fear of being taken advantage of as a naive foreigner in Paris.
She has basically agreed to the price but does not want to offend the prospective seller by questioning her word and taking the measurements in her presence.
She therefore returns on a different day to take the measurement from outside the building and, in order not to be recognized, she decides to buy a full Moslem face veil known as a niqab. This is a partly Moslem neighborhood so the face covering would not be unusual or attract undo attention.
The body of this fully packed short film (RT 18 minutes) consists of her negotiations to buy the veil needed — three Arab dress shops suspiciously turn her down before she is finally able to make the purchase — and then the way people look at her in various situations on the street.
Hostile, disgusted, pitying, or condescending stares make her realize that this is what Moslem women under the veil have to put up with every day on the streets of Paris. Uncomfortable to say the least! One passing American tourist makes the sardonic comment, “And this is what they call equality for women?”
Charlotte did not intend to make an amusing film and was surprised that viewers found many of the situations presented comical.
In a short eighteen minutes she has managed to convey all sorts of ambiguities that surround the wearing of the face coverings by Moslem women, an issue of some political import in France where Islamophobia — the fear that the rapidly growing Moslem community intends to ultimately highjack French culture and impose Islamic law — has become a highly controversial political football with a drive to ban the full facial covering in all public places.
Whatever one’s position on this touchy issue may be, Charlotte takes us behind the veil in a way that touches on other issues as well; what it is like to be an obsessive white foreigner in fear of being deceived in the Parisian real estate game, and the ways in which people vacillate between acceptance and rejection of Islamic female attire.
Other films such as “Gentleman’s Agreement”,1947, in which Gregory Peck poses as a Jew in order to expose Antisemitism in the United States have dealt with the issue of racist stereotyping, but Ms. Schiøler has managed to show as much in a brilliantly conceived 18 minute short as it took Elia Kazan to expound upon in a 118 minute full length feature film back in those early postwar days.
Schiøler, a very capable actress as well, plays the main character, an obsessive Danish woman disguised as a Moslem, with absolute conviction - a character that is after all her alter ego.
This is a film that deals in ambiguities and double entendes.
The original Danish title “Slør” can mean either a veil or a shroud, but also something like slippage in a steering wheel.
The intentional orthographic slippage in the English title, “By any means A-VEIL-able” conveys the idea that a veil can be made available for more than religious reasons, in this case as a practical disguise to achieve a slippery goal.
The photography is brilliant as is the assured direction of all actors - such that they seem to be real passers-by in a cinema verité study.
Since this is basically a reenactment of an actual series of events in the Parisian experience of the Danish director it also presents us with a finely drawn line between documentary reality and imagined fiction.
An interesting reality show touch is that the director's real life mother appears in the film as her “fictional” Danish mother in the only scene which requires extra sub-titles because it is spoken in Dansk.
The mother incidentally is also a completely convincing actress in her brief moments on screen, a natural talent or skillfull direction? - or a little of both...
All in all Charlotte Schiøler’s deft cinematic approach to a very touchy subject in France is an excellent short film that is both thought provoking and entertaining at the same time, and just has so much to say in its highly compact running time that one cannot help but wonder what she will be doing next, hopefully at feature film length.
Le niqab n'est pas le bienvenu à Cannes
Le Monde.fr | 22.05.2014 à 12h16 • Mis à jour le 22.05.2014 à 12h19 |
Par Clarisse Fabre
Translated to English
The Niqab is not welcome at Cannes
It's official, wearing the niqab - the veil that leaves only the eyes and covers the body to the shoulders - is prohibited when climbing the Festival stairs, as well as within the Palais des Festivals.
The press direction of the Cannes Film Festival confirmed this to Le Monde, Wednesday, May 21. Recently, however, its policy on the subject was flapping like a scarf in the wind.
Here's proof with the story of the ascencion of these legendary steps done as a performance by a Danish director, actress and choregapher, Charlotte Schioler. She is not Muslim, but is interested, for a multitude of reasons, in why some women put on the niqab.
Her short film, entitled Slør, also known as Niqab ni Soumise (english title: By Any Means A-Veilable), explores one of the reasons through a kind of burlesque: a woman in Paris ends up wearing the niqab during her apartment search.
This film was entered in the Cannes Short Film Corner, which is why she was present for a short stay on the Croisette. There, she decided to conduct an experiment. "I wanted to know if I could climb the stairs veiled with the niqab. So I made a request to the security service. I do not have a written trace of the response they gave me, but an agent with many years of service told me that they had received orders by email, to not discriminate against people wearing religious symbols, including the niqab, " she said. In fact, her first attempt was a success: Thursday, May 15, she walked the red carpet, veiled, to attend the screening of Mr. Turner, by Mike Leigh - an article in the online francophone Algerian daily Liberté speaks of this. CAUGHT IN THE BUTTERFLY NET But Sunday, May 18, however, Charlotte Schiøler was caught in the butterfly net. "I was with my friend. We had been through the first two security points on our way to see the Tommy Lee Jones movie, The Horsemen. But when we were climbing up the stairs, they spoke to me, asking me to remove the veil." She protested, then changed her mind: "I wanted to see the film," she said. She climbed the steps bareheaded, then put it on again arriving in the hall, away from the cameras. "There, we were directed off to one side. Security guards and the police wanted to verify our identities.
My friend had left his passport at the hotel but still had his official accreditation badge for the festival.
They threatened to take us to the police station. When my friend, who is African American, tried to explain, the officers answered him by saying "No English". They did not speak English." An official of the VIP reception, who was fluent in English was called to resolve the misunderstanding.
We met with him briefly Wednesday in the Palace, with his formal attire, bow tie and permanently plugged in headset. Confirming the facts reported by the Danish director, he told us about his disagreement with the attitude of the security service. "The Cannes Film Festival is about tolerance and the mixture of cultures. Why should it be allowed one day to ascend the red carpet with the niqab, to be banned a few days later? Would we behave the same if it were a priest in a cassock?" he asks. He himself has just converted to Islam.
With this affair, he says, he feels stigmatized. RELIGIOUS DIMENSION The comparison with the priest is not uninteresting, because the religious dimension is what is at stake in this case, at least by comparison.
The law of 11 October 2010, "prohibiting the concealment of the face in public spaces" does not refer to religious symbols, because it would be contrary to the principle of freedom of religious expression. If, in common parlance, we talk of "banning the wearing of the burqa" law, it is because the text was introduced initially to end this practice.
A priori, if we follow the law, it seems logical that the niqab should be banned at the Palais des Festivals. But as the sociologist Eric Fassin says, the law is unevenly applied. "While we prohibit the Occupy movement from wearing Anonymous masks, we tolerated the masked 'Homen' in the Protest for All." He added: "We need to know exactly what the Cannes Film Festival is prohibiting. Does it mean forbidding climbing the red carpet with the face covered?
In which case the current singers who wear helmets or hide their faces, like Daft Punk, would be banned from the red carpet. Or is the Cannes Film Festival prohibiting religious symbols?
Michel Piccoli could not then have come dressed as a pope, as in the film by Nanni Moretti, let alone authentic priests!" We were unable to obtain the official text describing precisely the contours of the ban from the Cannes Film Festival.
Reflecting on the experience of the Danish director, Charlotte Schiøler, sociologist Eric Fassin concludes: "This is a performance that makes sense politically. A number of things happened over a few days in Cannes.
I would be curious to see how people with their bodies veiled but faces exposed, or conversely, the face veiled but the body naked are greeted in the future."
Clarisse Fabre Reporter culture et cinema le Monde
English link to list of other press on BY ANY MEANS A-VEILABLE :
Liberté Quotidien d’Algérie
(...)Auteur d’un court-métrage de comédie, intitulé « Slor » ou « Niqab ni soumise », qui met en scène les mésaventures, souvent burlesques, d’une femme voilée intégralement en quête d’un appartement à Paris (...) lire plus: