Lancaster mum’s film on African fight for justice is smash hit

Rabha and Salma.
Rabha and Salma.

Around 6,5 00 babies are abandoned in Morocco every year – many because they are illegitimate.

Having an child out of wedlock carries a stigma in the Islamic state because sex outside marriage is illegal and a Lancaster filmmaker has seen the effects of this first-hand.

Now Deborah Perkin’s gripping film on the subject – ‘Bastards’ – is earning plaudits all over the world.

Deborah followed a North African mum and her eight-year-old daughter as their fight to be treated as equal citizens in their own land reached the Moroccan courts.

Herself a mum of two, Deborah, who grew up in Caton, stayed in a Casablanca slum while filming the project.

“There were no bathrooms, it was very run down, we used to go out to the public baths to wash and used bottles of gas to cook.

“Some of the women couldn’t even afford nappies. But Morocco is very family based and the people are very loving and welcoming.”

Her subject, Rabha El Haimer, wed at the age of 14. But she didn’t know the traditional ceremony had no legal status and she wasn’t really married. Aged 16, and pregnant, she fled the violent man and his family.

When her child Salma was born, both were treated as outcasts, condemned to a life of discrimination.

But refusing to become a victim, she instead devoted her life to getting Salma’s father to face up to his responsibilities and gaining full Moroccan citizenship for her child.

Deborah, who was educated at Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School, is the daughter of eminent historian Harold Perkin, a leading light in the founding of Lancaster University, and Joan Perkin, now 88, a Lancaster magistrate for many years.

Two years ago, Deborah left her job with the BBC and travelled to Morocco, spending her voluntary redundancy money on making the film. The mum of two wanted to create a piece of work that would break down tensions in the aftermath of 9/11 and show Muslims are ordinary people – with the same feelings about love, sex and marriage as we have.

“I found out that Morocco has reformed its Sharia law and women have far more rights there than in other Muslim countries,” said Deborah, 56. “So I wanted an example of the law in action. I found a charity working with single mums and then I found Rabha. She was illiterate, as 65% of people in Morocco are.

“But she was articulate, graceful, dignified and strong. I knew she was a wonderful character for film.”

Bastards was so-named because of its double meaning; as it can represent an illegitimate child or the people who shunned Rabha and Salma and made their lives a misery.

Having played to packed houses everywhere from New York to Macedonia, next Tuesday (November 18) it will be screened at The Dukes, and Deborah, who now lives in Cardiff, is immensely proud to bring her work home.

The screening is at 8.30pm. Tickets are priced £6/£5 concessions from 01524 598500.