"Yasmin" Is a Creation of Dirty Modern Politics

in 57th Locarno International Film Festival

by Ahmed Muztaba Zamal

The Locarno festival, which celebrated its 57th edition, was held from 4-14 August 2004. The Locarno festival has always played an active role in promoting talented, young filmmakers and this year was no exception. Being someone from a third world country, I found the Locarno festival fascinating.

In the International Competition Section, there was a total of eighteen films. Among them were several political films made by the filmmakers’ about their own countries. Kenny Glenaan’s “Yasmin” is a film which explains “the complexities of being a Muslim, a teenager and a British citizen.” Yasmin is a spirited young women whose life in the north of England has become precarious as she attempts to balance her traditional Indian sub-continental Muslim family values and the life style of a modern European girl.

Like most Asian girls, Yasmin has an arranged marriage, in this case a cousin who was a shepherd in his own country. But it was in name only and she never recognises Faysal as her husband. As a westernised girl, Yasmin attempts to get rid of this life of double standards.

In the background of the film are the race riots that took place in Bradford and Oldham in the summer of 2001. Yasmin is jolted out of her identity crisis when she witnesses the brutal internment of her so-called husband under the Draconian laws of the Anti-Terrorism Act. She finds herself beginning to change when at one point, the police, armed to the teeth and in riot gear, raid Yasmin’s home. In another scene, she visits a custody centre to find out what has happened to Faysal after he has been arrested as a terrorist suspect and has been promptly locked up.

The major challenge for Kenny Glenaan in the making of “Yasmin” is to remain true to the real story. American-led dirty politics in Iraq and Palestine reflects badly on young Muslims in the world. As a result some of them are becoming militant and want to fight against occupied forces. “Yasmin” explains where the basic lines of conflict have lain since 9/11. In the film Yasmin’s father is shown as a good religious man who does not believe in violence and conflict. But Yasmin’s younger brother wants to react violently or is forced into violence. But it does not mean that there is no good in evil and vice-versa.

As Yasmin, Archie Panjabi (who appeared in “East is East” and “Bend It Like Beckham”) is excellent. Kenny Glenaan, who won the Michael Powell award at Edinburgh for his feature “Gas Attack” in 2001, directs successfully with the support of his splendid team.