I’m back from Iran! My foray into Iranian cinema: Part I- director Tahmineh Milani


Tahmineh_MilaniHey Bollywood Fans!  I’ve been in Iran, well more precisely watching some Iranian cinema. With all the recent turmoil in Iran, I thought the least I could do is watch some of their movies. I was inspired to do this after seeing NBC’s special Behind the veil: Inside Iran which included an interview with director Tahmineh Milani.

Over and over again in Iran, we meet women who are challenging the status quo. Like filmmaker Tahmineh Milani.

Tahmineh Milani: I believe this way. This is the– best way to change people.

Milani is one of the most popular and respected directors in Iran. She’s won numerous international awards for her films, most of which are about the unseen lives of middle-class women in Iran.

Tahmineh Milani: They accept their situation. And they don’t talk, they don’t protest. But they suffer.

Her movies have to be cleared by censors. At least three have been banned. She says that earlier in her career, she challenged the country’s top censor.

Tahmineh Milani: I went there and he start to– accuse me. And he said, “We will bring you and we will– beat you– here.”

Ann Curry: Whip you.

Tahmineh Milani: Yes, whip you. Yes, yes, yeah, whip you.

She was not beaten, but pregnant with twins at the time, she says the stress took its toll. She gave birth prematurely. Her daughter lived.

Tahmineh Milani: And after two, three days my son died.

Ann Curry: Why didn’t you stop your work?

Tahmineh Milani: Because I believe my way. Because, I believe– I can be useful in my society, because this is my society. This is my country. We really love Iran. I choose to live here and I want to keep this place.

In 2001, she made a film called “the hidden half” about a woman unjustly sentenced to death. Ironically, after the film was released, Milani was arrested and jailed and faced the death penalty herself.

Ann Curry: They accused you of being anti-God.

Tahmineh Milani: Yeah, and three–

Ann Curry: Other charges.

Tahmineh Milani: –more dangerous than these.

She says she was given a stern warning:

Tahmineh Milani: “We are going to kill you to be good lesson to another people.”

Ann Curry: They said that to you? They said, “We’re gonna kill you”?

(source and more of the interview HERE. There is also video of the 6 part special HERE.)

So far I’ve seen Milani’s Do Zan (Two Women), 1999; Nimeh-ye Penhān (aka The Hidden Half), 2001; and Vākonesh-e Panjom (aka The Fifth Reaction), 2003 and I’ll share a bit about each here.  It was interesting that all three films starred Niki Karimiand in each film her character was named Fereshteh, though they were each separate unrelated characters. I found that Fereshteh is a Persian name for Angel.

dozanSimilar to many Indian films, every the Iranian films all started off with a dedication to God.  Since God watches movies, I’m sure he/she appreciates the shout outs. I like that merging of art and religion, but I don’t like at American music awards shows how artists thank Jesus, or the Lord, or Jesus my Lord and Savior, I suppose because I’m some sort of hypocrite, but I digress. I should start every post, “In the name of God.”

 

342px-Two-WomanDo Zan (Two Women), from 1999 was, you guesses it, the story of 2 woman who met in college in Tehran and how both of their lives took different courses over the years.

Two Women charts the lives of two promising architecture students over the course of the first turbulent years of the Islamic Republic, creating a portrait of traditions that conspire to trap women and stop them from realizing their full potential. The film won the best screenplay award at Iran’s Fajr Film Festival in 1999 as well as Best Actress for Niki Karimi‘s part in the Taormina Film Festival. (source)

Roya (Marila Zare’i) and Fereshteh (Niki Karimi) are total BFFs, but the revolution and some domineering men really get in the was of things.

dozan.riot

Well looks like the more things change the more they stay the same, hai na?  So if the political situation weren’t enough, Fereshteh is being stalked by a psycho.

dozan.who dozan.creeps

dozan.love dozan.acid

dozan.getawayIt’s not quite love, since he follows her with a knife and threatens her and her friends.  Long story short, she goes back to her home town to avoid the maniac, but he hunt her down. One day while he follows stalks Fereshteh, she drives into a group of kids and kills one of them.  This causes her family disgrace, even though it wasn’t her fault at all. To the “rescue” in court comes man number two, and poor  Fereshteh’s dad marries her off to this guy, who I think is just as bad as the stalker.

dozan.disgrace dozan.promise

Her mom can’t help her, since her dad and men in general run the show. Now here’s a snap from their little nikkah (wedding) ceremony.  I suppose you may know that the women and girl in the background are doing that happy little screaming thing, but I interpreted it as yawning: they wanted to see a proper Indian wedding ala Bollywood.  See how dull:

dozan.wed

So the husband is a real tyrant and controls Fereshteh as much as possible:

dozan.freedom dozan.socialize

Sort of makes the stalker seem romantic by comparison.  Eventually she wants out of the abusive marriage and goes to her family for support without luck.

dozan.alone

Well I’d say hey, why not help your daughter, after all you’re the one who married her off to that creep.

♥ ♥ ♥

hiddenhalfNext I saw  Nimeh-ye Penhān(aka The Hidden Half) from 2001 and if you’re expecting a happier story than Do Zan, give up now.

An official is sent from his home in Tehran to hear the final appeal of a woman sentenced to death, a political prisoner. The official’s wife of nearly 20 years, Fereshteh Samimi, writes him a letter to read when he reaches the hotel – the story of her student days during the revolution of 1978. We see the story in flashbacks as he reads: she leaves her province on scholarship, joins a Communist youth group, avoids arrest, and comes under the sway of a suave older man, Roozbeh Javid, a literary-magazine editor. As she tells her husband about the hidden half of her life, Fereshteh asks that he listen to the woman facing execution, a woman and therefore one of Iran’s hidden half. (source)

hiddenhalf.1978 hiddenhalf.1979

Fereshteh meets an older man, Javid (Mohammad Nikbin),  and there’s a mutual attraction, but despite being an intellectual, he patronizes her.

hiddenhalf.prettylady hiddenhalf.fereshtah.javid

She asks the party leader the official view on romantic love:

hiddenhalf.nolove

She gets tired of wearing the seemingly required communist outfits and again questions the party official.

hiddenhalf.dress hiddenhalf.dress.2

One of Mr. Javid’s associates helps set Fereshteh straight about the struggle:

hiddenhalf.slogans

I believe the  movie’s title, the Hidden Half,  not only referred to Fereshteh’s earlier life that her husband didn’t know about but also the (hidden) wife of the older man who pursues her. Later in life Javid and Fereshteh meet again.  He speaks to her about love and to me she looks a bit like Aishwarya Rai here, right?

hiddenhalf.javid hiddenhalf.likeAish

♥ ♥ ♥

5thReactionFinally, the last Milani movie I saw was Vākonesh-e Panjom (aka The Fifth Reaction) from 2003.

Fereshteh loses her home and her two sons after her husband’s accidental death when Hadj Safdar, her stubborn and powerful father-in-law, forces her to return to her parents. She is faced with the loss of her visitation rights when Hadj plans to send his grandchildren to live in a remote town. With the help of her circle of women friends she tries to take them beyond his reach, but in a patriarchal society it is hard to find a safe haven. (source)

5thReaction.teach

Fereshteh is out with the gals in Tehran talking about their teaching jobs.  Her friends are encouraging Fereshteh to stop mourning her husband.

5thReaction.pie 5thReaction.40

Her friend also is talking about how great her own relationship with her husband is, but opps! He walks into the same restaurant with his young secretary.

5thReaction.home 5thReaction.secretary

And then comes the attempted tight slap to the face. How dare she question her husband! Luckily the owner of the place is a true gentleman and sends the crazed, tyrannical husband on his way.

5thReaction.leave

Fereshteh’s father in law, Hadj Safdar, played by Jamshid Hashempur, tells her that she must either marry her brother in law now that she’s a widow, or he will take her two sons from her.  He believes  she’d no doubt be a temptation to his other son and  would work in conjunction with the devil.

5thReaction.stay 5thReaction.devil

Fareshteh cannot fathom marrying her brother in law, or leaving her children, so she escapes town with her sons. 

5thReaction.separate 5thReaction.teacher

It becomes a game of cat and mouse between Fareshtah and her father in law.  He tries to track her and her sons down all around Tehran and into the countryside.  Notice like many a Bollywood villains how Hadj wears more that one ring, which I see as a bad sign! Furthermore, whenever you see a pinkie ring, run!  It’s never good.

♥ ♥ ♥

The other Iranian films I’ve  seen are  10  by director Abbas Kiarostami, and Baran by Majid Majidi, which I’ll cover in a post in the next day or two…then it’s back to Bollywood yaar!  Have you seen any of these films or other Iranian films?  Let me know.

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11 thoughts on “I’m back from Iran! My foray into Iranian cinema: Part I- director Tahmineh Milani

    • Thanks ajnabi-ji! It’s all in those screen caps, na? I kept imagining how to glitz them up Bollywood style. :) The story lines were interesting, the acting fantastic and i also enjoyed seeing glimpses of Iran and Tehran. I’ll have to check out that book you speak of. Do you recall the author? You know I also just saw Kambahkkt Ishq, so I’m still in Bollywood’s web. ;)

  1. Thanks for this great post, Sita-ji. I haven’t seen any Iranian movies (guessing Amar Akbar Anthony and Jumanji dubbed in Faarsi do not count :D), so now I know where to start! Been watching French films lately. Three cheers for foreign film!

    • Bonjour leBollywoodFan-ji,
      Oh la la! Ca c’est vrai ca?! Les films francais? Ca c’est bien ca! Quel films? What movies? And speaking of French, I did notice in the Iranian films they threw in a little “merci” here and there, I mean de temps en temps. :) I even thought Farsi had a Frenchie sound to it Merci bien for your visit nawab.

      • Bounjour Sita-ji! I’ve been checking out the ‘Trois couleurs’ trilogy, really cool stuff, and the visuals put Sanjay Leela Bhansali to shame, must say. Got much more to check out, as is the case with all of us!

        In any case, Faarsi has several loaned words from French, including ‘merci’, which is the norm in the language. And since we talk of food of all sorts here, I must note that there is a major influence of French cuisine on Iranian cuisine, and I think for the better. Can’t get enough of both!

        More when we speak. Khoda Hafiz for now. (That’s about the same in Urdu as in Faarsi (it’d be Khuda Hafiz in Urdu), see?)

      • Bonjour LeBollywoodFan-ji,
        Vay! that film looks great. I just looked it up here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Colours_Blue
        So much going on in that plot. Car accident hai! Sounds just like Baabul! ;)And the chandelier! Shweta may have to expand her Chandelier post to include French cinema too. Good to know about the merci and of course heard the Khoda Hafiz every 5 minutes throughout. I will do a post on all the Farsi by way of Urdu to Hindi words I recognized in the films. Thanks for stopping in and for the info.. Phir Milenge yaar.

  2. Sita-ji. I am officially very jealous of you. You are traveling the world. Didn’ t you just come back from India not too long ago too? And then you are watching South Indian films and adding to the list, Irani films now? Gosh! :)

    Actually I am thankful to have you as a friend and for you sharing all this with me. I have never seen an Irani film but looks very interesting.

    The next time I head to MN, I definitely have to hang out with you :)

    • Nicki-ji,
      Yes I travel the world through cinema only, though I did actually visit India in real lifeji. :) Isn’t it so great that we can travel the world through books and movies and documentaries? I love that! And very often I think after reading or watching, phew, so glad to live here! I dodged a bullet! As in the case of the book Infidel, which I’m currently listening to on CD. Excellent! Anyway, I think of you and Richard as my experts on the south Indian filums. For sure you have to be in touch when you come up to MN. I recently met a young MN Bollywood and all things Asian and we went out for coffee and talked films. Here’s her blog: http://daydreaminglotus.wordpress.com/
      And so glad to have you as a dost too yaar! :)

  3. I too have seen no Iranian films, but I read your post with interest because a couple of weeks ago Jon Stewart had some reports from Iran on his show. They had sent Jason Jones there during election time – how mad is that?!!! The people he interviewed all came across as decent quietly-spoken intellectuals, so it was a shock to hear that by the end of the week many had been arrested and thrown in jail. Many spoke of their love for America, so it was no surprise a week later when Britain, not the US, was declared to be Iran’s number one enemy!

    I probably won’t be watching any of these Iranian films, because it have trouble keeping up with all the Hindi movies that you bloggers recommend! But isn’t it great that we have access to so many more movies these days, through online film rental, for example. Not so long ago it would have been really difficult to have a private season of anything like this. I myself have just had a Raj Kapoor season here. A season of French or Spanish films might be good now, as my son has just started learning these languages at school.

    Phir milenge, meri dost!

    • Joss-ji,
      How interesting, I didn’t catch that since I don’t have cable, but would have found it interesting. I can relate about keeping up with the movie watching. It’s an impossible task. I love how you call them “seasons’ and I’ll have to adopt that. “My Iranian season is done.” Thanks yaar!

  4. As an Indian, I find the Iranain movies wonderful!
    Great stories, wonderful cinematography and no mindless songs and dances like in our Bollywood movies. Reminds me of the earlier movies of our Oscar winning director Satyajit Ray.

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