Friday, November 1, 2013

Divorce Iranian Style (Post #4)

      Dwelling on our class discussion about discrimination of women, I came across an excellent documentary film Divorce Iranian Style which provides a unique window into the intimate circumstances of Iranian women’s lives. Directors Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini take one inside an Iranian divorce courtroom, dispelling images of Iran as a country of war, hostages, and “fatwas”, and Iranian women as passive victims of a terrible system.

     Full movie is available for free on youtube:

     The film lets you take a peep at the forbidden act in the country where personal happiness and satisfaction of women is banned by religion. Although action mostly takes place in a tiny Islamic divorce court room, it did not make me suffocate with claustrophobia, but rather proved my assumption that most of day-to-day things would be impossible to shoot in Iran. People would, most likely, refuse to show their real life to strangers. However, court room in Iran is a place where the bravest women and those who have nothing to lose search democracy and equality with men.

     One of the brightest and most ironical moments of Divorce Iranian Style is the little daughter of the court clerk mimicking the judge sermonize an imaginary man for mistreating his wife. When asked if she’ll ever marry, she responds, “Never, now that I know what husbands are like.” To me it looks like an outburst of director’s female solidarity with the victims of the marital procedure, some of which clearly deserve more justice. However, Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini could not say it openly as they were granted a special permission to film a sensitive legal procedure. Little girl mocking the judge adds a satirical pin to the film’s direct reality – very clever invisible editing trick. It makes the point without forcing it upon the viewer.

      Story is structured by showing least disturbing and quiet divorce cases followed by most outrageous ones. Female characters ventilate from friendly and flirting Massi, who tells the judge that her husband mistreats her, to the hysterical and violent Maryam, who risks losing custody of her two daughters because of the new marriage. The behind-the-scene manner of editing makes this documentary very objective and honest to the viewer. Rather than showing barbaric and patriarchal Iran of modern films like Persepolis, Divorce Iranian Style refuses to show Islamic women as powerless and escalates their inner strength and determination while lowering those of their male counterparts.

     Maryam Keshavarz, Iranian-American writer-director, said in the interview for The Telegraph that “Iran’s a country that creates women who like to cause problems, to kick up the dirt a little. Maybe it’s the way we’re raised.” Her films represent her general attitude to the repression in Iranian society. And clearly there are changes afoot. Recent reports suggest almost 60 per cent of Iranian university students are women. The divorce rate has risen steeply; more women are choosing to live alone, or share accommodation with other women. “This makes for an environment that’s drastically different from other parts of the Middle East,” Keshavarz says, “but it doesn’t remove inequality from Iranian society. The morality police still control the way people dress and behave.”

1 comment:

  1. It is truly empowering for women living in repressive countries to take a stand against gender inequality. It is also very inspirational the fact that 60% of University Students are women. Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing this with us.