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Quest for Honor 2009

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Women Make Movies, 462 Broadway, New York, NY 10013; 212-925-0606
Produced by SB Productions
Directed by Mary Ann Smothers Bruni
DVD, color, 88 min.

Jr. High - General Adult
Honor Killings, Kurdistan, Human Rights, Women’s Rights

Date Entered: 08/03/2012

Reviewed by Christopher Lewis, American University Library, American University

Quest for Honor is an expose of honor killings in an area of Kurdistan and the grassroots effort by the Women’s Media Center of Suleymaniyah, Iraq, a group of men and women who investigate and report the barbaric acts when they happen.

An honor killing is the murder of a wife or daughter or sister who has allegedly dishonored her family’s reputation in the community. Commonly the victim is a woman who was sold or forced into a marriage with an older tribal member. If and when she resists the arrangement, which is often accompanied by physical abuse, she risks the possibility of death by a brother, father, or uncle. The family and community then circle the wagons and protect the killer’s identity. Sometimes honor killings go undiscovered and the victims just disappear.

It’s a crime so primitive in nature it’s hard to imagine it happening in the modern world and yet it does, even in the United States. In Iraqi Kurdistan it occurs frequently enough that there are safe houses and activists working full-time to expose and investigate it.

The filmmakers give the viewer access to a wide variety of voices on all sides of the issue including the survivor of an attempted honor killing, activists, journalists, policemen, tribal elders, accused relatives, and children. The filmmakers show the code of silence families follow and revealing testimony from officials and family members that suggest how deeply held a sense of respect is to a man’s identity. It’s a society that accepts forced marriages with unwilling brides and the selling of under-age daughters and rationalizes murder as a suitable punishment for those who resist. The courage of the activists working for change is extraordinary and one can feel the risks their taking in exposing and investigating the crimes. They joke that they expect the same fate will come to them some day.

For an academic or public library with no videos covering the topic of honor killings, this is a highly recommended purchase. However there are several other notable films covering honor killings including a few that focus on Kurdistan and because of that this film is essential only for those libraries serving populations with a focus on human rights and/or women’s rights.

Other available films on the topic include Dishonorable Killing: Punishing the Innocent (2008), Crimes of Honour (2000), The Price of Honour (2011), In the Name of the Family (2010), Deadly Honor (2010), Vendetta Song (2005), The Stoning of Soraya M. (2008), and Our Honor and His Glory (1999).