Marie Skovgaard: The Reformist

Sherin Khankan, 44 year old mother of four, divorced, is a well known name in Danish media for her brave fight for equal opportunities for man and woman within the islam community. She is the founder of the organisation Femimam, set up to secure that women can be imams. She has been interviewed in newspapers and on television and her being the first female imam was a news story that went international.

But noboby has got that close to her as documentarian Marie Skovgaard, who

has followed Khankan for years in her home, in the Mariam Mosque in Copenhagen, at different meetings, where she has been invited as a speaker – Istanbul and San Francisco are two of the venues. Skovgaard is there when she counsels women, who has been beaten up by husbands and who wants a divorce that male imams do not want to give. And when she performs interfaith marriages between muslim women and non-muslim men. She is herself daughter of a muslim father from Syria and a Christian mother from Finand.

The result is a portrait of a woman, who wants change, who wants to help women in need, who takes initiatives – and forgets to include, as she says to the director in a conversation in a hotel room in Istanbul. Several members of the board have decided to leave because Khankan in a radio interview has revealed that interfaith marriages are performed in the mosque. We did not have the necessary discussion on whether we should go public with this information, ”we need to choose our battles”. The same goes for gay marriages.

Khankan is a star and that needs to be changed, a new board member wisely tells her, the mosque must not be identified exclusively with her.

She takes it very hard that so many leave her alone but continues and builds up from scratch with a lot of resistance from the islam community in Denmark, even threats and it hurts her, when her close friend, who was a female imam as herself, steps out of the mosque board saying that she nowhere in the Quran can find arguments for allowing the controversial interfaith marriage.

It has been a difficult task to find a narrative flow for the documentary that has many reportage style bites but with help from beautiful images of Copenhagen (the towers at night, houses, streets) primarily you are taken from place to place and from time to time over the years that the film has been shot. It is the first feature documentary by Marie Skovgaard!

Denmark, 2019, 83 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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