Molokhya: First-person Filmmaking and Trauma Articulation


May 2023

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This practice-based research and creative dissertation experiment with and document how first- person documentary filmmaking aids the process of articulating trauma. In a conventional realist documentary style, I directed a first-person documentary titled Molokhya featuring my experience with sexual assault. In this dissertation, I claim that the process of first-person filmmaking is ideal for articulating trauma and for creating a fantasy of healing. In Chapter 2, I argue that first-person documentary filmmaking has the potential to create what Elaine Scarry calls a language of agency and what Alisa Lebow calls a first-person plural. However, as a Muslim and Arab woman, my agency is often represented in Western media (including some feminist films) as something I lack. Therefore, in Chapter 3, I examine representations of sexual violence against Muslim and Arab women in several documentaries within the archive of the feminist organization Women Make Movies (WMM). I argue that the films included in WMM about the rape of Arab and Muslim women perpetuate what I call a double alienation: Muslim women survivors of sexual assault face the emotional trauma of assault, and they also have to endure the damaging effect of questioning their own religion as the source of their oppression. But where do we go from here? Is a transnational feminist collaboration between the Global North and the Global South even possible within the contemporary neoliberal discourses? These questions guide the work of Chapter 4, in which I introduce Between Women Filmmakers Caravan as an example of transnational feminist solidarity in praxis through filmmaking and exhibition.