As I Open My Eyes

Rock ‘n’ Roll is the ultimate expression of rebellion against oppression and this film reveals a flourishing underground musical culture in Tunis that clashes head-on against that society’s ultra conservative religious and cultural confines, exposing the country’s repressive regime.

Part of a growing chorus of female voices against oppressive religious authority, As I Open My Eyes is a courageous and powerful new film from first time Tunisian director Leyla Bouzid about a talented 18 year old girl, Farah who is the lead singer in an underground political rock band, and her romance with one of her band mates while struggling against social and cultural barriers during the summer of 2010, a few months before the actual Jasmine Revolution that would depose Tunisia’s dictator.

Just graduated from high school, her family hopes their daughter will continue her studies to become a doctor, but Farah has other plans. She is also a passionate poet and writes lyrics for the band that criticize her country’s ruling regime. Her band plays gigs in dingy late-night bars that, in a Muslim country like Tunisia, only men can frequent. These are not places or activities suitable for descent Muslim girls. 

Farah’s parents cannot control their rebellious daughter and anguish over the loss of her innocence if the state police steps in to intimidate or take tougher disciplinary action. Women in these societies are objectified and confined to sexual and domestic roles, but more and more outcries of resistance are being heard from around the world through important films like this.

We soon discover that despite Farah’s and the band’s talent, they have no future as musicians in that country as long as the religious and cultural restrictions exist there. But Farah will not give up that easily. She is determined to defy the people who would silence her and continues to provoke them despite the threats and warnings that the band receives.

Giving the film a fresh energy and urgency that engages us fully in her predicament is the fiery performance of Baya Medhaffer as Farah that is beautifully imbued with vigor and truth. She is the embodiment of unfulfilled ambition and aspirations that are frustratingly kept from reaching their potential.

We are witnessing the rise of a new generation of women struggling to be heard in male dominated societies at great risk to their own lives. Like many recent new films by Muslim female directors that are openly critical of their country’s oppressive societies; Circumstance (2011), Wadjda (2012), Dukhtar (2014) and Mustang (2015) to name a few, As I Open My Eyes deals with the coming-of-age experiences that most girls in the west take for granted but can be fatally risky in Islamic states. 

As I Open My Eyes celebrates with local Tunisian rock music the freedom longed for by its people from an authoritarian repressive dictatorship that will eventually lead to the start of the Arab spring revolutions.


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