At the age of 11, filmmaker Fatima Jebli Ouazzani and her parents emigrated from Morocco to the Netherlands. Seven years later, her father left her mother and married a 17-year-old Moroccan girl. Fatima knew one thing for sure: she would not allow herself to be married off like her mother and grandmother, so she broke with Moroccan tradition and moved out of her family’s home. In this film, the director, unmarried and childless, wonders whether she has made the right choices. She places her own history against the background of traditional Moroccan marriage. That is what Naima, a Moroccan girl who was born in Holland, has opted for. On her wedding night, Naima has to prove she is still a virgin. By tradition, the in-laws wait outside the bedroom to see the bloodstained sheets.
In my father’s house, a woman's resistance to tradition
Filmmaker Fatima Ouazanni abandoned at the age of sixteen the house her parents found in Holland after emigrating from Morocco. Their departure was due to the escape of an irremediable destiny: to be forced to marry a suitor that she would not choose, as corresponds with the Moroccan tradition.
Years after her departure, Ouazanni faced the early death of her mother, who married at the age of fourteen against her will and was therefore her main inspiration for such liberating journey. Over time, the figure of her father became a present shadow for the Moroccan filmmaker. Despite the distance, that shadow conditioned her life since then.
More than an impeccable film, In My Father’s House is the visible dimension of a letter never sent. The recipient: a father that became the ambivalent symbol of filial love and religious repression. To write with cinematic frames, Ouzanni resorts to a versatile narrative that gives image and sound to deep dilemmas and intimate emotions through a heterogeneous record.
There is the interview with her grandparents, where the camera functions as an invisible confidant inside a house in the native Morocco. At the same time, several passages of Ouzanni's childhood are reenacted in scenes that appear on the screen like windows to her most emotional memory.
The great structural support of the film rests on the parallel story that marks a narrative counterpoint for Ouzanni's journey as a character. Besides her personal exploration of the experiences of her women ancestors who suffered the weight of the patriarchy, the filmmaker films a young Dutch woman of Moroccan origins facing the celebration of her marriage under the Moroccan tradition.
On the other side of the mirror, the custom continues, while on Ouzanni's side we feel a legitimate resistance in which a white sheet stained with blood after the first wedding night is no longer a flag for emancipation.