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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Manijeh Hekmat was an assistant director for nearly a dozen feature films
and a producer of 5 in the past decade. Although qualified to get a permit
from the Iranian Society of Film Directors for her first feature film,
ultimately she had to get the directing permit in her husband's name. The
film was shot in real jails (the budget didn't allow for construction) in 75
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Lord Acton
People who seem most fitted to wield power are sometimes the most reluctant to seek such a position. Those who do so, even for altruistic, idealistic reasons (or are persuaded to do so by others) may find it difficult to keep a clear vision, no matter how pure their original motives. As in almost any profession, there is the danger of burnout.
Over a 17-year period (winter 1984, spring 1991 or 1992, and winter 2001 are the focal points) we follow Tahereh (the new warden) and her relationships with the prisoners. Most of the inmates don't think there will be any real change. One person says the new warden was in the militia, at the front lines in the revolution. Another wonders if it's possible that things will change. An older prisoner declaims that "These guys are all thieves!"
When requests are met with insolence, a crackdown ensues - no visitors for a month - no cigarettes - lockdown. The prisoners include a political monarchist, a Bahai, and a murderer - although the latter killed her stepfather in defense of her mother. When the murderer complains of conditions in the jail, specifically of lice infestation, the warden challenges her - "Why don't you come to me and I will fix your problems." The other inmates try to dissuade her; she shrugs them off. Mitra meets with Tahereh - who does indeed take care of the problem; she has her hair shorn off.
Mitra had 3 years of midwifery school which comes in handy when a woman starts to deliver during a lockdown. She also attempts to prevent a rape of a young inmate by an older woman.
Mitra and Tahereh spar throughout the film although they begin to have respect for each other, little by little. Although there are visible signs of aging throughout the 17 year period of the film it's hard to say which of the two women are worn down the most. Mitra attains the honorary title of "Auntie" - it's not shown if she delivered more babies while in prison, but the population increases throughout the years and this does not exclude young children.
When Mitra finally gains her release, the women all cry out "Cheers for Aunti Mira". At the gates of the prison Mitra walks out into the light after a sequence of shot/reverse angle shots between her and Tahereh. The gates close, Tahereh stands alone in the dark, turns and walks away as the screen fades to black. The film cuts to shots of empty cells with cello music over the end credits.
- or perhaps a possible help in following the story line after you've seen the film if you have problems keeping some of the characters straight - The actress Pegah Ahangarani plays 3 different roles in the film: the political monarchist, the young girl sexually assaulted by the older woman, and a street-smart urchin who is linked with Mitra, although neither of them know this at first.
Having lived in the Middle East in various parts for over 15 years and
having an American friend who as part of the church group visits
prisoners in the ladies gaol in Bahrain, I was intrigued to watch this
I am also an avid fan of art-house and foreign films as the topics are of much greater interest to me in showing the living conditions, the lives and emotions of the people in a country in minute detail.
Having watched a number of Iranian movies, I found this film extremely interesting due to the contrast of the Islamic women in charge of the prison against the women behind bars. In particular, the relationship changes over 17 years, between Mitra and Tehereh, and the mutual respect that eventually builds between them.
The film was well acted and atmospheric in its portrayal of life in Iran and the difficulties its women encounter and the prejudice and suppression they live under daily.
I highly recommend this film for anyone interested in the intricacies of some womens life in the Middle East, the exploration of balance of power within a prison and how over a period of time this can change.
i have been watching iranian movies these days a lot .saw so many and this one is also very touching . i have always been interested in what women has been suffering in the middle east . this leads me watch this movie . the story is about the prisoner mitra who has been prisoned for murder of her mother's abuser her struggle in the prison and how she helps other women prisoners . spending almost 20 years in prison she has no enthusiasm in getting released because no one outside is there for her and the world has changed a lot during that time . taking into consideration the women rights in middle east one feels very sad . a must watch film if u want to realize the plight of female prisoners in Iran ,how a woman is treated by law if she has committed a crime even for her own safety or self defence .
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