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Women's Studies • Islamic Studies • Religious Studies • Education • Sociology
PBS POV VISION | OFFICIAL SELECTION - IDFA | OFFICIAL SELECTION - Dubai International Film Festival
Date of Completion: 2012 | Run Time: 87 minutes | Language: Arabic with English Subtitles | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript & Discussion Guide | Directors & Producers: Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix
Houda al-Habash, a conservative Muslim preacher, founded a Qur’an school for girls in Damascus 30 years ago. Using Islam as a catalyst for change, Houda al-Habash encourages women and girls to challenge tradition and pursue higher education and jobs. The story of one summer at Houda's Qur’an school in Damascus, Syria reveals how she has transformed her mosque into the center of an inspiring social network, and why women are practicing Islam in a rapidly changing world.
Shot right before the uprising in Syria erupted, THE LIGHT IN HER EYES offers an extraordinary portrait of a leader who challenges the women of her community to live according to Islam, without giving up their dreams.
UC Berkeley | Saba Mahmood, Associate Professor of Anthropology
"There are few films that have ever captured the sense of dignity and devotion of pious Muslim women as powerfully as The Light in her Eyes. Shot over a period of 3 years in a Syrian mosque school, this film brings us close to the lives of these young women as they learn the fundamentals of Islamic piety and Quranic recitation. Playfully and inventively, these remarkable women talk freely about what it means to live their faith and to balance the religious and secular demands of their urban existence. A rare insight into the informal Islamicization of pre-revolutionary Syria whose force will likely outlast the Assad regime. A must see!"
Bard/Al-Quds University | Stephanie Saldaña, Instructor of Literature, Director of the Core Curriculum, and Author of The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith
"The Light in Her Eyes is required viewing for anyone who wants to learn more about Islam, the Middle East, and the surprising ways in which girls and women in Syria are taking hold of their futures and their destinies. Houda al-Habash and the Quranic school for girls that she leads show us a completely different version of women in Islam than that of the headlines: a world in which women are independent, are free to disagree, and are challenged to become leaders in their societies. Yet just as importantly, this film, perhaps more than any before it, helps a general audience to grasp the complexity of the Quran and how it effects the lives of Muslims around the world. They’ll witness how it is memorized, recited, debated, internalized…. Finally, an often difficult text can come alive for teachers and students alike. I cannot recommend this film highly enough."
University of Oklahoma | Professor Josh Landis, Director of Center for Middle East Studies
"The Light in Her Eyes is a must see for anyone seeking to understand the cultural context of the Syrian uprising. Islamist militias are the strongest on the ground and Islamist politicians will be powerful in tomorrow’s Syria. To understand what Islam means to many middle class Syrians, see this film."
University of Sussex | Hilary Kalmbach, Director of The Middle East and North Africa Centre at Sussex
"The ideas, values, and motivations of the conservative women who teach or attend lessons in mosques are often misunderstood outside of the Middle East. The Light in Her Eyes provides viewers with unparalleled insight into the activities of Syrian mosque instructor Houda al-Habash. It allows the voices of al-Habash and her followers to be heard with unprecedented clarity, highlighting their aspirations, opinions, and concerns. The film succeeds in presenting the complexity of the viewpoints and motivations of these women, making it an invaluable resource for any who want to broaden their understanding of the Middle East and Islam. It is also of particular interest to high school and university instructors who want to challenge student perceptions of Muslim women and their religious practices. Beautifully shot, the film shows the vibrant rhythms and colours of daily life in Damascus immediately before Syria’s descent into civil war."
Official Selection | IDFA
Official Selection | Dubai International Film Festival
PBS 2012 POV Season
REQUEST A GOOD TALK WITH JULIA MELTZER
Director of DALYA'S OTHER COUNTRY & THE LIGHT IN HER EYES
Julia Meltzer is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Her work in film includes both experimental and documentary forms, and explores how human agency shapes the future. Her two most recent films, The Light in Her Eyes (2011) and Dalya’s Other Country (2017), focus on the lives of Muslim women in Syria and the US diaspora, and were broadcast on POV on PBS. Meltzer lived in Damascus as a Senior Fulbright Fellow in 2005-2006, a city to which she has returned many times. Meltzer’s film and video work has screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, and toured with the Sundance Film Forward Program; it has also been exhibited in various art institutions, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Meltzer is also the founding director of Clockshop, a non-profit arts organization in Los Angeles that organizes public programs and commissions artwork about contemporary issues. Julia has spoken at numerous universities including Harvard, NYU and UC Berkeley about Syria, women and Islam, and documentary filmmaking.