A Maid for Each 2016
Distributed by Icarus Films, 32 Court St., 21st Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; 800-876-1710
Produced by Orjouane Productions
Directed by Maher Abi Samra
DVD, color, 88 min.
Middle School - General Adult
Domestic Servitude, Maids, Middle East, Beirut
Date Entered: 12/22/2017Reviewed by Christopher Lewis, American University Library, American University
To be a good maid in Middle Eastern society, as depicted in this documentary, is to be silent and invisible.
The video opens by establishing what has been traditionally valued among the women in class-conscious Middle Eastern society, including light skin, straightened hair, and a maid who attends to their needs. Each are symbols of prestige and class and essential to maintaining reputations. Class boundaries are shifting though and the younger generations are rejecting these social markers. This has disrupted the domestic servitude industry.
Women in Lebanon and neighboring Syria are becoming better educated and are no longer joining the ranks of maids or servants. Instead, the women are coming from countries wracked by poverty, principally Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and The Philippines. They consent to indenturement in exchange for a chance at a more secure life. Yet, in addition to the loss of most of their freedoms, there is an even darker aspect to these contracts. Abuse and even killings occur at the hands of employers while police look the other way. Once in the system a maid is more or less trapped and returning home isn’t usually an option. Consequently, there is a high suicide rate among them.
The core of this video is an un-narrated view of the routine day-to-day operations of a maid placement service located in Beirut. Though the manager and his assistant work and communicate in a professional business-like environment they are akin to middle managers in the slave trade– emotionally disconnected from the business at hand. The video isn’t a traditional expose on the practices of maid procurement but it succeeds at unfolding a dark reality of economic globalization, where clients benefit from inexpensive human capital while remaining distanced from the bleak desperation of the lives those people hope to escape.
This video provides a lens into a world that is not well known in the west – a world rooted in traditions, class distinctions, and moral values and one where slavery may not be considered repugnant. It is recommended, especially for libraries with strengths in Middle Eastern studies.