Habiba Djahnine, born in 1968 in Kabylia, is a filmmaker who, in the 1980s and 1990s, was a political activist and a feminist. On February 15, 1995, her sister Nabila was killed in Tizi-Ouzou. She was the first feminist to be killed by Islamist bullets during the black decade.
Habiba’s debut feature Letter to My Sister was released 11 years after her death. It dwells on the itinerary of Habiba’s sister through interviews with her entourage. Later, the movie was screened in numerous festivals. Her following movies all ask the same question: what is activism and how to be an activist? Habiba Djahnine is also the founder of the Bejaïa doc festival, where filmmaking workshops are held and documentary films screened. Its sixth edition started on October 3, 2011 in Bejaïa. Carole Filiu met with Habiba Djahnine in a coffee shop in Algiers. (continue reading on mashallahnews.com)
Lettre à Ma Soeur on algeriades.com
If Elles pieces together an uncertain future, Lettre à Ma Soeur (Letter to My Sister) reassembles a difficult past. Released in 2006, Habiba Djahnine’s documentary Lettre à Ma Soeur processes the future that the teenagers in Elles had yet to experience. Djahnine returns to the Amazigh city of ⵜⵉⵣⵉ ⵡⴻⵣⵓ (Tizi Ouzou) where her sister, Nabila, spent years working as chairwoman of the feminist organization Thigri N’tmettouth (“Women’s Outcry”). In 1995, Nabila was murdered in the midst of a brutal civil war that gripped Algeria from 1991 to 2002. In Lettre à Ma Soeur, Habiba Djahnine collects testimonials from residents who remember Nabila and continue to reflect her impact, crafting an intimate film that both honors her sister’s legacy and serves as a reminder that while the work of liberation is never linear, it is also unstoppable.The closing scene in Elles shows a professor affirming that “the world at present has reached such a level...that it is impossible to hinder or halt the liberation of women--the emancipation of women.” Lettre à Ma Soeur confirms his prediction.
In a way, both Elles and Lettre à Ma Soeur end up looking in the same direction, despite being made 40 years apart. While watching both films as part of co-curating this series, I thought about how they overlap in considering the freedom and loss that emerge in the slippery aftermath of revolution. Most of all, though, I am left with a deep feeling of reverence for the women involved in both films. I completely trust them with the big questions of liberation and feel grateful that I am still able to learn from their wisdom, persistence, and strength to this day. (Layla Muchnik-Benali, Signs of Remembering on wexarts.org)