This month I traveled to Tokyo to visit my family in Japan. Traveling to and from the UK gave me a full day’s worth of movie watching time. I brought some DVDs of my own as I asked myself pre-departure – would there be any ‘human rights’ movies to watch on the airplane?
I few years ago I traveled to New York for a staff board meeting when working for Women’s Link Worldwide and had been presently surprised to find the feminist courtroom classic Adam’s Rib as an option.
Yesterday’s flight didn’t disappoint either. 678 an Egyptian movie directed by Mohamed Diab is a resounding indictment of patriarchal society and the pervasive culture of sexual harassment in Egypt. The movie is based roughly on a true story and interweaves the lives of three women: the first woman to officially file a case of sexual harassment; a poor woman who begins to use violence to defend herself from ‘the lemon test’ on buses; and an educated woman who turns to activism after being sexually harassed at a football game and rejected by her husband.
The film skillfully deals with a range of issues including maternal mortality, difference within feminism and solutions to combat sexual violence. At times, it left me bitterly angry, at not only what women face in Egyptian society, but in all societies. In Japan, the metro stations are full of posters warning women about ‘chikan’ and women only cars are used at rush hour. In countries all over the world ‘hollaback’ initiatives have begun with women reporting sexual violence on social networks and voicing their anger at some of the names they have been called. As demonstrated by Julia Gillard just two weeks ago, women face sexism and sexist comments whether they are on the bus, walking down the street or hold office as Prime Minister.
But the film is also uplifting. Nelly (Nahed El Sebai) refuses to cave into pressure to drop the lawsuit and the man who harassed her received 3 years imprisonment. According to the movie a year later a law against sexual harassment was enacted although admittedly official reporting remains low. In the film women are also not punished for their bravery. Instead, the movie demonstrates how men and women can work together. Nelly’s boyfriend Omar supports her against his parents wishes. The real losers in the story are the men who let their strong and beautiful wives and girlfriends down – either by abandoning them in their time of need or being caught for sexual harassment.
678 is a brave film. It is highly recommended.
Written somewhere in the sky over Russia.