Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dokhtaran Khorshid (Daughters of the Sun )

Seems like when released in the USA this Mariam Shahriar film was labeled as the Iranian “Boys Don’t Cry” but as the New York Times says in the July 29, 2004 review of the film “it takes a lot of wishful thinking to transform this ponderous, relentlessly grim depiction of social servitude in rural Iran into a Western-style disquisition on identity politics” and definitively I agree with the reviewer as being forced by your father to become a boy and to go work for the family survival has absolutely nothing to do with choice, need or desire to belong to a different gender.

The story the film tells is about a young girl, Amangol, that her father shaves her head, dresses her as a boy and sends her to work at an artisan carpet workshop where she’s so good knotting carpets that ends up doing the work of three women. She’s locked at night in the room, denied reading letters from her family and has no access to the money she’s earning as supposedly the boss is sending it to her family. One of her female coworker is being forced by her uncle to marry an old man and to escape her fate asks Amangol to marry, leave the village and go to live together at Tiva where she’s from. But as far as I understood, even when in the beginning she says yes, she finally doesn’t do it and there is a tragedy, that involves not only the girl that commits suicide but also the boss not sending money to Amagol family and her mother dying. In the end Amangol is able to free herself, but most of all is able to take action, revenge and adopt again her female identity that his father had totally stripped from her.

Still this quite elliptical film is extraordinary for the story it tells, that accordingly to some viewers had to cut the love scenes to pass Iranian censorship, but I wasn’t able to find any reliable source that could confirm such an action and I tend to believe that this wasn’t the story and Shahriar (she also wrote the script) intentions. Nevertheless some writers do see in this film a “forbidden” situation when one of the coworkers “falls in love” with Aman, see Iranian Cinema by Hamid Reza Sadr, page 241. Then again the film is also included in a book called Female Homosexuality in the Middle East by Samar Habib, pages 175 and 176.

Perhaps the most intriguing part is Amagol attraction to the girl that brings her food and the game they play each time the girl opens the door to place the tray in the floor. This is the only sign that I saw that really could lead to ulterior motives that Shahriar could have related to same sex attraction. Then the film is notable for its transgression of strictures on bare-headedness and cross-dressing for women, and for successfully creating the stark milieu of rural economic conditions. So who knows perhaps the director also added an additional element of transgression. Obviously the film was highly controversial in Iran.

As a movie, this is quite a slow pace and visual film, often focusing on Aman's evocative face and the colors in her environment. The camera outstandingly looks through windows and through the warp threads of the looms. This film was awarded the Prix de Montreal for First Feature film at the 2000 Montreal World Film Festival, and has received acclaim at other international festivals like winning the Netpac Award at the 2001 Rotterdam fest.

This is a film that I highly recommend to those that enjoy art cinema, to those that want to know more about the life rural women have in that part of the world and I tend not to believe that this is a lesbian interest movie, but then is such a strong story about women and has those “intriguing” moments that I will, but be aware that is far for being the regular lesbian interest movie.

I liked the movie because the story it tells, the great performance by Altinay Ghelich Taghani that plays Amagol and the extraordinary director and writer that was willing to tell her story in the most honest way.


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