In The Name of the Family wins top doc award

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The heart wrenching film In The Name of the Family by award winning film maker Shelly Sawell was premiered last week and won the festivals top prize at Toronto’s Hot Doc film festival.

The film tells the story a young muslim teenager, Aqsa Parvez who was strangled by her father for allegedly going against his wishes. It also chronicles the story of two other young muslim women who’s situation is frighteningly similar.

This is familiar territory for a film maker who’s work often delves into the more disturbing aspects of the human experience.

A story of this nature is incredibly Toronto centric due to the city’s multi-cultural and multi-ethnic communities in which old word customs come crashing into new world ideas all the time.

“This is a lot more prevalent in North America than I had thought,” says Ms. Saywell who found that the shame-and -honour culture often condones and supports the abuse of young woman by their fathers.
While not new or unique to muslim cultures, the level of abuse and violence often is. This is partly due to an age old belief that parents should be able to completely control the behavior of their children coupled with the idea that immodest behavior will bring shame to the entire family.

“This is the dirty laundry of the community,” says Ms. Saywell, who worked with researchers from Canada’s Pakistani and Afghan communities to make the film.

Apparently after the story of Aqsa Parvez broke. Social networking sites such as Facebook exploded with comments from girls across Canada who not only empathized with the victim but completely related to her experience of abuse at the hands of her father.

Of course the film In the Name of the Family has been accused of being Islamophobic not only by members of the Islamic community but by certain members of the Media as well.

“I’m a woman, and their community is mine too,” insists Ms. Saywell. “And we have to stand up for everyone in it. We can’t allow the mainstream of society to isolate the problem, and we can’t allow the community to isolate itself.”

As to why the girls in the film choose to be in the film?

“They want to be seen as strong, not victims,” Ms. Saywell says. “And they want to help other girls. They want them to know that they’ve survived, and that there are ways out of this.”

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