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Inside America’s smelly forced marriage epidemic
Courtesy of KnotstheFilm.comKnots: A Forced Marriage Story is driven by a noble purpose: to give voice to the voiceless. Director Kate Ryan Brewer’s documentary (May 7, in theaters) concerns three women of different geographic, religious and social backgrounds who found themselves in comparable circumstances – namely, being bullied into marriage to strangers by their parents and cultural leaders, dead end. It’s a familiar story of misogynistic coercion except in this case the disparate victims in question were not residing in the Middle East, India, or some other foreign country where such practices are more common. Quite the contrary, they took place right here in the United States and that this rancid behavior continues in various parts of this country is unlikely to come as a huge shock to many, especially given the recent success of Netflix’s Unorthodox, which dramatized the real-life efforts of a Hasidic Jewish woman to flee her Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and, with it, her arranged marriage. Nonetheless, Knots: A Forced Marriage Story sheds light on what remains an extremely pressing issue, as today only four states (Delaware, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania) restrict marriages to those aged 18 and over, and 10 states have no minimum age limit for tying the knot. The result is a recurring paradigm in which women are likely to be trapped in permanent captivity, cut off from the wider world (and legal rights that might empower them), and denied any recourse to escape. Does rapper Blueface’s OnlyFans cult exploit young women? Knots: A Forced Marriage Story provides a comprehensive overview of religious victimization. Nina from Michigan was raised in a strict community known as the Christian Patriarchate Movement that valued old-fashioned clothing and conservative ideas about gender roles, with men responsible for everything and women relegated to devoted servants. Nina was married at 18 to a man chosen at random by her father, which was basically the same fate that happened to Sara, from California, whose Muslim father was part of an outfit known as of Group who saw fit to pair her with a 28 – an unknown one year old when she was only 15 years old. Fraidy, raised in New Jersey’s Orthodox Jewish community, suffered similar hardships, being forced by her parents, rabbis, and those in her island enclave to marry a man she barely knew. said disobedience made her, for all intents and purposes, a ‘witch’, while Fraidy was simply conditioned and humiliated to comply – Knots: A Forced Marriage Story makes it clear that the basic mechanics of subjugation were the same in all three cases. The common bond that binds this trio is that they all come from extremist religious backgrounds. Yet, oddly enough, this facet remains largely unexplored here. To contextualize her first-hand accounts, director Brewer gives a brief recap of 20th-century American cultural attitudes toward child marriage, which in part illustrates how onerous practice laws were introduced for the first time in the books. The director directly addresses the fact that her subjects were victims of fanatic beliefs that indoctrinated members about female bondage and then established female helplessness through oppressive and dominant rules and demands. elephant in the room, and it’s exacerbated by Knots: A Forced Marriage Story’s refusal to even verbally identify Sara as a Muslim; a quick glimpse of Arabic writing is the only obvious clue to its religious origin. Such a deliberate lack of specificity abounds in Brewer’s documentary, which glosses over details vital to countless turns. Whether it is refraining from citing Nina’s husbands, Sara and Faidy by name, or discussing means of their eventual release in vague terms, the debates feel at odds with themselves, trying to probing these horror stories intimately while maintaining a certain independence. a detachment which – even if designed to protect Nina, Sara and Faidy in one way or another – proves frustrating. Sara and Nina, therefore, seem likeable even though they are largely unknown; there is a cloudiness in their stories that thwarts genuine engagement with their struggles. Knots: A Forced Marriage Story done a little better by Faidy, who openly recounts the abuse she suffered from her husband and the specific actions she took – including running away in the car with her children on the day. of the Sabbath (a big no-no), and later change the locks on the doors of her house – to get the freedom she increasingly realized she needed. Sadly, her narrative is also sometimes undermined by obscurity, such as her decision after her escape to found Unchained at Last, a nonprofit that helps women in situations similar to what Faidy found herself in a youngster. age. Brewer describes a few Unchained at Last news events, but largely fails to describe its origins or mission – an approach he also takes with the Tahirih Justice Center, which is never properly presented even though its members speak out. in front of the camera several times. A story of forced marriage is driven by righteous intentions and makes it clear how forced marriages are allowed in the United States thanks to draconian (and inconsistent) state laws that first allow young girls to marry – with the parental consent – at an early age, then deny them the right of adults to divorce (because technically they are still minors). Unfortunately, so much basic information is left out in the film that it appears like a rough documentary. To compensate for this thinness, Brewer embellishes her acting with cutouts both of painted illustrations that reflect the trials of Nina, Sara and Faidy, and the sight of an anguished woman dancing against a white wall while being tied up in a string. red – a visual evocation of forced marriage that is awkward and unnecessary Unlike Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady One of Us, who plunged into the nightmare of trying to break free from the Orthodox Jewish community, Knots: A Forced Marriage Story casts a wider net and yet offers considerably less. It’s a topical documentary whose formal shortcomings prevent it from getting the big picture. Read more on The Daily Beast. Get our best articles delivered to your inbox every day. Register now! Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside delves deeper into the stories that matter to you. Learn more.