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Posts tagged ‘Cinema of Iran’

A film about traditional and modern values in conflict

A useful illustration of traditional and modern values in conflict is an Iranian film called Leila (1998). At a gathering of wealthy families in Tehran, Leila and Reza meet. Three months later they’re happily married, in love, living in their own home, going on outings in their car. Other that always having her head covered, the couple seems modern, going out to eat Japanese food, laughing together. Traditional values come to the fore when they discover she is infertile. Because Reza is his parents’ only son, his matriarchal mother insists on him producing a son to carry on the family line. He says he is happy as they are and doesn’t want to marry a second wife, but his mother works on Leila to convince him to meet with her various candidates for second wife. The phone rings constantly from family members. Only his mother and her sister are in favor of this traditional solution to infertility, but they prevail, despite Reza’s father and three sisters telling him not to jeopardize his relationship with Leila. Their warning was accurate; Leila “turned to stone” and moved back to her parents’ house. The new wife in her own apartment does get pregnant, but gave birth to a girl. She and Reza divorce and his mother is stuck carrying for the baby. She doesn’t look happy about it when we see her stiffly holding the little girl. The story may have a happy ending when Leila sees the little girl for the first time and thinks about being her mother at the end of the film. What’s interesting for us is this urban family is controlled by the matriarch who prevails in her insistence on a second wife.

An Iranian award-winning film, A Separation (2011) portrays a bright 11-year old-girl who tries to get her separating parents back together. She confronts her father when she figures out he lied to the court, but also lies to the court to prevent him from going to jaiI. In the end, her parents leave it up her to chose which parent will get custody after she fails to get her stubborn parents to reconcile. The film contrasts lower- and middle-class sex roles; the working class family portrayed expects the husband to be the absolute boss of the family as in giving permission for his wife to work. However, she too defies her husband by refusing to swear on the Koran to something that might be a lie. Her little girl stands up for her mother, also assertive in her own way. Masoud Ferasati, an Iranian writer close to government said: “The image of our society that A Separation depicts is the dirty picture Westerners are wishing for.”

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