On December 10, 2007, a 16-year-old Toronto schoolgirl, Aqsa, was strangled to death; her father and brother are charged with murder. Three weeks later, teenage sisters were shot to death in Dallas; their father fled the country and is still wanted for murder. Six months later a 19-year-old college student was stabbed by her brother; he was convicted and is now in jail in New York.
While Muslim women organize to help girls at risk and local imams teach that violence has no basis in Islam, some men continue to justify these crimes through patriarchal beliefs about family honor.
IN THE NAME OF THE FAMILY, the latest documentary from Toronto-based Shelley Saywell, continues her list of hard-hitting films that deal with human rights issues. Winner of an Emmy Award for Crimes of Honour, a UNESCO Gandhi Medal for Kim’s Story: The Road from Vietnam, and the 2006 HOT DOC Best Canadian Feature Award for Martyr Street, her latest documentary is similarly incisive and unsettling.
The death of 16 year old Aqsa Parvez, strangled by her father in Toronto, compelled Saywell to return to the terrain she covered in Crimes of Honour: the murder of young women by their own families. She began filming at Aqsa’s vigil, planning to focus on her story. Three weeks later, teenage sisters Amina and Sarah Said were shot to death by their father in Dallas, Texas. Five months later, 19- year-old Fauzia Mohammed of Rochester NY was stabbed 11 times by her brother. She miraculously survived.
IN THE NAME OF THE FAMILY tells their stories: examining the escalating tensions that led to their death and how the community reacted to it. In eerie parallel, we meet other girls who continue to live in anxiety and fear. From South Asian and Middle Eastern immigrant families, these girls are caught between two cultures where parent-teenage clashes can lead to a specific form of domestic abuse.
Known as honour killing, this form of violence is not sanctioned by any religion, but has been culturally entrenched in some parts of South Asia, and the Middle East. In post 9-11 North America, this topic has become polarizing – either silenced or sensationalized. The tragedy is, there are very few safety nets here for girls in danger.
IN THE NAME OF THE FAMILY allows viewers to meet the girls, their families and friends, and enter a normally closed world where young women wanting to bridge two worlds are victimized by the men who claim to love them the most.
IN THE NAME OF THE FAMILY is a Bishari Films production, commissioned by CTV. Field Producer: Habiba Nosheen, Co-Producer Deborah Parks, Editor Deborah Palloway, Cinematographer Mike Grippo, Sound Recordist Peter Sawade.