|from Women Without Men|
Below are some reflections on Women Without Men and why I think it has so much to say to us about the kind of dialog we should be having with our brothers and sisters in Iran.
The Garden: The first step towards liberation is to envision a free place
|Garden in Women Without Men|
This is a film that is not just about naming the oppression experienced by men, but also about suggesting a way out.
The garden in the film is the kind of magical place that evokes subconscious memories of the kind of woodsy refuges that we have all dreamed of.
The garden in the original novella is no less magical -- though the plot is more equivocal. (It should perhaps be titled Women Without Men (For a While, At Least).)
Taking the Leap
|Munis "escapes" in Women Without Men|
|Bathhouse scene in Women Without Men|
It is unforgettable to see someone who is plagued by the feeling that, no matter what she does, she can't get clean.
There is also a sense of tremendous poignancy -- there is a woman's world in the bathhouse, and one gets the sense that, at least for a while, some women can find a haven and relief and community there. For the prostitute, this just doesn't feel available.
A Man's World
|Banquet in Women Without Men|
If anything, the film applies a light touch to the question of patriarchy. The novella, while not heavy-handed, is robust in its treatment of the way men dominate in the Iran being described.
The Coup and the Tree
|Street demonstration in Women Without Men|
In contrast, the book leaves the episode of "the tree in the garden" as a briefly-noted mystery, rather than as a main plot strand with extensive development. (Does this leave an opening for a stand-alone film -- Mahdokht?
As I write this, I am realizing how difficult it is for the words I write -- dealing with the predicament of women in Iran -- to convey my belief that this film encourages a human, non-stereotyped relationship of American people to Iranian people. And yet, as I look again at the images, I am once again convinced of their power to forge a people-to-people connection.
(See A Force for Peace: Getting to Know Iran Through Film)
(See IRAN: 3 Reality Checks on the Emerging U.S. Narrative)
(See Why Does Iran Arouse So Much Hostility?)
In a composition suggestive of a yin-yang symbol, a woman in a burka (but wearing audacious red glitter platform heels) is surrounded by genie-ish tableaus of the many male obsessions/pastimes that some of us rail about frequently -- sexualized pop singers, professional sports -- as well as some that we probably should rail about more (such as patriarchy in religion and political violence).
(See VIOLENCE: " . . . and the women must live with the consequences . . . " )