'Peek behind burqa' rattles some

Last updated 10:43 09/09/2012
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Women line up to see Cinderazahd: For Your Eyes Only at Lower Hutt's Dowse Gallery.

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Men took their wives to see a controversial film that gives a 'peek behind the burqa' when it opened in Wellington yesterday, even though they weren't allowed to watch it.

Though the three-minute-film sparked a flurry of outrage over its women-only policy, the controversy that has surrounded it was not evident when Cinderazahd: For Your Eyes Only opened at the Dowse Museum yesterday.

Tony Billingham said although he was intrigued, he was also happy to wait outside while his wife Alana stepped behind the reception and watched the film alone.

She described it as 'a peek behind the curtain, or a peek behind the burqa'.

The film, which appears to be homemade, gives a look into a Muslim woman's world as a group of friends get ready for a wedding. They are shown without their hijabs, or veils, which is why the gallery agreed to make it women-only.

However, the segregation has outraged some people, with Wellington man Paul Young calling the move "inflammatory and provocative", and discriminatory against half the population.

Yesterday's screening was the worldwide premiere of Sophia Al-Maria's movie.

"It's very normal in that it shows women getting ready for a wedding, but it's something you wouldn't get to see unless through this medium," Alana Billingham said.

"In a way [the segregation] reinforces that it is special, as it's something you couldn't usually see."

Dowse director Cam McCracken, who has not seen the work, said it gives Westerners another view on the Muslim world, which we don't usually get to see "if ever".

"What we usually see are stereotypes and negativities and this is a very positive and atypical view," McCracken said.

"It shows how normal and similar we are."

The women and their children are depicted with their faces revealed, hair out and with make-up on.

They're seen squeezing into their dresses, talking openly about their bodies, and coating themselves in a glistening body lotion as they prepare for a wedding.

Lower Hutt mother Megan Thickett, whose husband also waited outside for her, said she thought Muslim women would be wearing something dowdy beneath their veils.

"But they're not, they're gorgeous and so strong," she said.

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