The Virgin Diaries

Engaged Moroccan Woman Defies Taboos in Search of Answers to Urgent Questions about Sex, Virginity, and Islam

Film by Jessica Woodworth Premieres Nationally on Public Television in July (check local listings)

For Immediate Release

Wilson Ling 415/356-8383 ext. 231
Randall Cole 415/356-8383 ext. 254 

"It's a suffering for people. Virginity is a suffering. I want to break this kind of taboo and I want to break this lack of discussion. There is no dialogue. None between sister and sister, none between the girl and her doctor, none between the girl and her father, and even her mother.” 
– Fatiha 

(San Francisco, CA)—THE VIRGIN DIARIES follows the extraordinary investigation of two friends in Morocco. Jessica is an American researching the controversial reforms of Moroccan codes of family law. Her closest friend, Fatiha, hails from a very traditional family in Fez and is soon to be wed to a neighborhood man chosen for her by her grandfather. However, she is troubled by the extremism of her future husband who deeply regrets having kissed her hand at the moment they became engaged, claiming that this degree of intimacy is a sin in Islam.

In order to set this matter straight, Fatiha and Jessica embark on an epic journey that takes them from Saharan villages to seaside towns, from the ancient Islamic schools of the desert to the offices of city doctors. The film project, which was supposed to conclude with Fatiha's wedding in Fez, careens off track when Fatiha suddenly falls in love with a stranger on a train in the midst of their research. Her questions about hand kissing and premarital interaction become doubly important. She, who always claimed that duty reigns supreme, is suddenly faced with the passions and disconcerting emotions of impetuous love. 

From destiny and obligation, Fatiha must shift her entire perspective on life to allow room for desire and choice in the face of tradition and social expectations. While she finds little encouragement and few concise answers in her travels, she gains much more self awareness and a greater knowledge of her country than she bargained for. During one stop, she encounters a suitor named Mohamed and hears horror stories of wedding night violence, gender barriers and religious authoritarianism. In the end, she discovers an Islamic scholar whose opinion sets her lovesick and conflicted heart at ease. With his encouraging words, she comes to realize that many of the social constraints, the lack of education, and culture norms that she grew up with are not rooted in Islam. 

THE VIRGIN DIARIES is a search for dialogue about sexuality, virginity and Islam. What precisely does Islam permit before marriage? Premarital intimacy with discretion seems to be the trend in Morocco but if the religious belief is that God is all seeing, then where must the line be drawn? Their investigation and subsequent film asks and attempts to answer these significant questions about life in Morocco, the place of women in society and how these affect Fatiha's future. 

About ITVS 
Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the web and the weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people 


Posted on July 21, 2003