In the Company of Women: Contemporary Female Friendship Films (Womans film precedents)

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Most are contemporary melodramas, light comedies, historical epics and moral tales for children. In recent years, there have also been some love stories. According to Sabereh Mohammad-Kashi, some male directors, as well as the renowned female director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, are creating powerful roles for women. Women in the performing art in Iran Recent themes include relationships between older women and younger men who feel comfortable loving intellectual women Thus in some ways the Islamic Republic has been successful in fostering a thriving film industry with strong roles for women.

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Since the revolution eleven women have directed feature films. These facts are important indications of progress. But we must also mention the post-revolutionary law for film and stage actresses.


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The law required that women be shown as modest and chaste characters with important roles in society—such as good mothers who could raise "God. Women are never supposed to sing or dance on the screen or stage. Physical contact with any man is totally forbidden; if women and men absolutely have to touch each other, they are supposed to keep an object such as a piece of cloth between them.

Of course, in other ways women are treated like commodities, especially in marriage exchanges and other limitations on their rights. Costumes should be modest, preferably a long raincoat, the "manteau," with trousers and head scarf, usually black. However, it was allowed that actresses could wear wigs or hats on some occasions and it has been more loose under President Khatami's rules.

Nevertheless, costume designers have been creative within these limitations. Before examining films made by women, I'd like to look at the role of women in the films of three well-known male directors. Bahram Beiza'i, a renowned playwright, scholar, scriptwriter and filmmaker, is apparently one of the rare filmmakers whose films have always depicted a wide range of women who are both real and dignified— urban, rural and tribal women who have their own voices as intellectuals and housewives. While such sensitive portrayals of women on his part date back to the Shah's era, Beiza'i's women have become even more mature in his post-revolutionary films.

Bashu, Gharibehye Kuchak Bashu, the Little Stranger, explores the role of a powerful mother hidden behind a veil. The striking Susan Taslimi as. Na'i plays the role of the mother, housewife, caretaker and breadwinner for a family of three in a village in the North of Iran. While her husband is away in the Iran-Iraq war, Na'i gives a home to Bashu, a boy orphaned by the ravages of war.

Although Na'i is completely covered up, close-up shots of her intense and dramatic gaze add to her strength as a peasant woman. Hamid Naficy draws attention to Beiza'i's powerful use of veiled vision, and direct gaze to. In one major plot strand, for example, Kian is a young mentally ill woman who is afraid of telling her husband that she sees a psychiatrist out of a fear of being stigmatized and mocked. Dariush Mehrjui, who earned international recognition in the seventies with works such as Gav The Cow , has produced a body of work on the issues of women and their personal relationships.

In his recent films, Mehrjui presents contemporary women trapped between tradition and the modern world. Hamoon deals with an unusual glimpse of psychological conflict in marital life. A woman who was once madly in love with her husband. According to Philip Shenon, this movie deals directly with the oppression of women when. Hamoon yells out, "Why don't women have rights in this country? Leila deals with a woman whose barrenness ruins her marital life.

She approves of her husband's marriage to a second woman, one who should be able to bear him a child. Mehrjui, the director, claims that this film captures the complex worlds of modernity and tradition, and how. When questioned about Leila's problem living in a culture where her husband can have another wife, he says he does not think that he can solve these problems. He is only interested in presenting them He does not try to make statements about what an Iranian woman is or could be, how she has been misrepresented or unrecognized in.

Rather, he seeks to provide the spectator with an experience that will allow her to discover on her own something about herself, the society she moves in and the oppressions she confronts daily. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, one of the most popular and controversial directors in Iran, is a product of the revolution itself. His output as a writer-director is.

Makhmalbaf s movie, Gabbeh , filled with gold-flecked costumes for its women and little girls, tells of the love and loss of a young woman named Gabbeh. According to Godfrey Cheshire, "To grasp the profound political resonance of Gabbeh is to glimpse the expressive power that movies retain in Iran, one.

The carpet depicts a man and a woman on a white horse.

Suddenly a young woman named Gabbeh appears, dressed identically to the older woman, and narrates the story of herself and the carpet. Gabbeh longed to elope with a mysterious horseman who loved her and followed her from a distance like a shadow and howled for her in the night like a wolf. He had proposed, and she had returned his love, but her father kept making up excuses to postpone the marriage. In Gabbeh, Makhmalbaf highlights the tragic condition of tribal women oppressed by their patriarchal society. Because it deals with the theme of love, it was hard for Makhmalbaf to get permission to make this movie.

At the American premier in at the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, Makhmalbaf said he basically tricked the authorities by pretending to shoot a documentary about the gabbeh-.

Furthermore, it is amusing to know that Makhmalbaf was not allowed to use a woman for an outdoor scene of childbirth, so he put on skirts and played the role himself, in a discreet and. It is hard to imagine, given such cultural oppression, how women directors such as Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Tahmineh Milani, Pooran Derakhshandeh and Samira Makhmalbaf have emerged. Politically speaking, it seems that:. An emblem now of progress, then of backwardness, a badge now of nationalism, then of domination, a symbol of purity, then of corruption, the veil has accommodated itself to a puzzling diversity of personal and political ideologies Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, who began her career making television documentaries, received the honorary title of the "Lady of Iranian Cinema" in , at the sixteenth Fajr Festival, Iran's annual showcase for local production, for her film Banooye Ordibehesht The May Lady.

At the 1 Fajr Film Festival, she also became the first woman to win first prize for her. Bani-Etemad's protagonists come from Teheran and its. She attempts to show their daily struggle and misery. In an interview she says, "I don't claim to be the judge of all women, that is too big of a responsibility. I can only illustrate some of the problems facing.

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Bani-Etemad's female characters range from ordinary to extraordinary. In her first movie, kharej az Mahdoodeh Off the Limit, 1 , a housewife's life is restricted to the extent that her husband does the shopping for their daily. In her next movie, Zarde Ghanari Canary Yellow, , the women of the family are stronger than the naive and silent men. Nargess , shows a love triangle. Bani-Etemad's social satire is well depicted in the veils of the women laborers.

In the Company of Women: Contemporary Female Friendship Films (Woman's Film Precedents)

She even looked for these. She says, "I even traced somebody like Afagh, the thief, in the Ghasr prison and in the old-age homes Rousari-abi The Blue-Veiled, actually unveils a romance, which is almost unbelievable in the Islamic Republic. It is amazing, in fact, that the controversial elements in this film did not land Bani-Etemad in prison. Rasool, a sixty-year old factory owner and widower, falls in love with one of his workers, Nobar, who is thirty years younger. His daughters and in-laws are furious because of class differences, forcing the old man to choose between them and her.

This romance is perhaps more intense than a Western romantic film because of the obvious limitations the director and actors had to overcome. The Blue-Veiled includes a hard working woman willing to support her drug-addicted mother and siblings. It also examines the hardship of the under class, and the comfortable lifestyles of wasted Teherani upper-middle-class women.

Bani-Etemad explains that she has always been interested in depicting the lives of young girls who become adults too fast without experiencing childhood, grow too old without experiencing their youth, and die too early without experiencing womanhood. These types of women are clearly seen in both Nargess and The Blue-Veiled I met them while working on my documentaries on the outskirts of Teheran. I formed the storyline from those real people and their experiences The film is about a divorced middle-aged documentary filmmaker, Foroughe Kia, and her son.

Two stories take place simultaneously. One is a documentary that the protagonist of the movie is making, and the other is the real story of her own life and the conflicts of bringing up her young son in the modern world while. She feels confused about accepting the love of a certain man who is absent from the screen, appearing only in his messages on her answering machine. One might wonder if he really exists Her documentary is about different types of mothers and their struggle between tradition and modernity, their duty as mothers and as independent women.

Bani-Etemad is quite daring in discussing an overview of Iran's history during the last twenty years of the Islamic Republic Regime. In one scene, she has to rescue her son who has been arrested by the Islamic police at a party where the youngsters were not supposed to get together. The sunset that Friday was awash in their tears, but those were tears which seemed to last an eternity for a human being. I read somewhere that at their burial the martyrs of the Constitutional Revolution were discovered to actually be women disguised in men's clothing. As with those martyrs, Ms.

Etemad, your women embody both glory and sadness" Bani-Etemad has tried to figuratively unveil her female characters by showing their struggles and true feelings. As an artist for whom censorship is the most painful torture, she believes that a good writer-director avoids being neutral about the problems of society It is amazing that she has been able to get permission for her films. She had to cancel my appointment with her in August 1 because she had to get the approval for her most recent movie, which was about to be sent to a film festival in Venice.

Later she informed me that after spending five hours trying to convince the censorship organization at the Ministry of Culture, they still had not approved release of the film because the girl's hair had been showing more than what they would normally. She sounded exhausted over the telephone.