Regrettably, I’ve experienced some difficulty getting my screener copy of the documentary Enemies of Happiness by Eva Mulvad and Anja Al-Erhayem to work properly. Thought it might just not want to play on my office computer, so I took it home this afternoon and experienced the same irreversible freeze-up. Hopefully I can make it over to view the whole deal at Esperanza tomorrow (7:15 pm) — fingers crossed our Best Of prep doesn’t go too late.
As of now I’ve only seen 15 minutes of it, but what I liked about Enemies of Happiness is that I sensed the female voice right off the bat. I know what you might be thinking, that female voice = girly = romantic-comedy, but actually most rom-coms are directed by men. As much of my job entails reviewing films that have a wide release, and are almost always helmed by men, it was so refreshing to have an underrepresented voice wash over me. It isn’t something I can really lay a finger on — I mean certainly we can talk about the concept of “the gaze” — but Mulvad and Al-Erhayem have tapped into something even more evanescent in their documentation of Afghanistan’s Malalai Joya, who contended against the Grand Council and later ran in her country’s first parliamentary elections in the face of death threats.
Arguably, the most affecting part of the portion of the film I was a able to view was a scene in which the filmmakers captured a mob of men and boys passing out/grabbing/pasting photos of Joya in which she was labeled as a prostitute. We’ve all felt scared for the female protagonists in films before — to the point of being sick at our stomachs maybe — but this was not contrived. This was real and horrifying and the camera was close enough to capture the coldness and cruelty in the eyes of the perpetrators. Wow. I only hope I can see the rest tomorrow.