To know a veil
"The Day I Became a Woman" attempts to illustrate the difficulties of womanhood in Iran through the stories of a young girl, an adult woman and an elderly woman, but in mostly uninvolving fashion.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
The Iranian film "The Day I Became a Woman" (Roozi Khe Zan Shodam) is a promising trifle. It consists of three vignettes that
highlight the plight of women during various stages of life. It starts out with a story about a nine-year-old girl, follows it up with a story about
a married, middle-aged woman, and closes with a story about an elderly grandmother.
The final chapter is the most intriguing of the three it has a creativity and levity that's missing from the first two chapters. But even it
contains some of the same distracting elements which plague its predecessors: a naiveté of viewpoint, a sledgehammer approach to
metaphor, and a pacing that tests both physical and mental limits.|
For all of its shortsightedness, however, "The Day I Became a Woman" often hints at a future fine filmmaker at work.
In the opening vignette, Hava is about to turn nine. In Iran, this signifies entry into womanhood, a time Hava will no longer be allowed to
associate with boys. This is particularly hard on Hava, who wishes to hang out with her best friend, Hassan. As it turns out, Hava doesn't
become a woman until noon, so she has one more hour to play with Hassan her grandmother gives her a stick and tells her that when its
shadow disappears, her time is up. Hassan, unfortunately, isn't allowed to play with Hava because he has homework to do. Hava buys
some candy and they share a lollipop through the bars of a window which, given how long first-time director Marzieh Meshkini lingers on
this scene, no doubt breaks all sorts of taboos in her homeland.
The second story focuses on a bicycle race. It's not obvious it's a race at first, just two dozen women, all dressed in black, billowing chador,
out for a ride on their flashy, ergonomically-designed racing bikes. It's a nice image. Then two men on horseback ride up and begin
insisting that one of the women, Ahoo, dismount. She refuses, adamantly. As the race continues, the situation escalates to the point
where the tribe's elders become involved and the woman's husband threatens to divorce her if she doesn't accede to his tyrannical
The third and final segment features an old woman who returns from a trip and begins to spend her large inheritance on "everything she
never had growing up." With the help of some willing boys, she turns a beach into a veritable IKEA tables, chairs, and a four-poster bed
litter the sandy stretch, as do home appliances of every size and kind. As the grandma buys something new, she removes a knotted
reminder from one of her fingers; yet by the time she's done, there's still one red ribbon left. Even though she asks a number of the boys if
they would like to be her son, she cannot remember what the final ribbon represents.
In this way, all three stories are rather unsubtle in their presentation of the underlying themes of the restrictions placed on women in Iranian
society. While Hava's tale is slow and uninvolving, the second story is, perhaps, the most interesting culturally but its significance is
hampered by the repetitive nature of the race itself and the conflicts it generates. In the film's closing segment, Meshkini mostly gets it right
with a nice balance between poignancy and humor. The film is short a mere 74 minutes but the bicycle race sequence in particular drags
it out for much longer (or so it seems).
Although certainly pretty to look at all three stories take place alongside the mint-green Persian Gulf "The Day I Became a Woman" is not
wholly successful, but it does have enough intriguing elements to warrant a viewing. Hang in there and stay until the end, though.
|APRIL 9, 2001|
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thanks from Homayoun, Mar 17, 2002
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