BALLAD OF A WHITE COW (Berlinale 2021) – Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Ballad of a White Cow is an uncomfortable, sad film where hope sits in frequently complicated tension with a sense of inevitability that things are destined to get worse once the truth comes to light. But it is also an unmissable film, a powerful film and an important film that does not flinch – not once – in its exposé of how a great injustice cannot be magically fixed by bureaucrats; rather, its trauma spirals outwards, endlessly and unnecessarily, ruining the lives of all it touches.

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NASRIN – Review by Loren King

This urgent documentary offers an up-close look at Iranian human rights lawyer and activist Nasrin Sotoudeh who for nearly 20 years, at great personal risk, has fought for the rights of women, children, LGBTQ people and political prisoners condemned to death by the Iranian government. For anyone not familiar with this ordinary yet extraordinary figure, Nasrin will be an eye-opening and life-changing experience.

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YALDA, A NIGHT FOR FORGIVENESS – Review by Liz Braun

Maryam has been imprisoned for the murder of her much older husband. Luckily, she has a chance to escape the death penalty by appearing on a reality TV show where she can beg her late husband’s family for forgiveness. This is the surreal setting for filmmaker Massoud Bakhshi’s feminist drama about contemporary Iranian life — the most surreal element being that such a reality TV show actually exists. Whatever passes for forgiveness or compassion here is mostly about money, and when the talk show host says, “There’s divine mercy in forgiveness,” you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 21, 2020: AFRICAN VIOLET

Both poignant and insightful, Mona Zandi Haqiqi’s African Violet is a slice-of-life drama set in a working class neighborhood in Tehran. With strong, naturalistic performances and a vivid sense of place, Haqiqi’s film draws you into its characters’ lives, sharing their triumphs and challenges and creating understanding and building strong feelings of empathy.

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AFRICAN VIOLET – Review by Jennifer Merin

African Violet, a winsome femme-helmed domestic drama Iran that reveals an intimate view of family life from a woman’s perspective. Exquisitely envisioned to convey complex relationships with subtle looks rather than words, the film’s fundamental kindness is revelatory and utterly compelling.

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AFRICAN VIOLET – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

The Iranian domestic drama African Violet, directed and co-written Mona Zandi Haghighi, is an elevated soap opera of sorts that revolves around an unusual three-way relationship. At its center is Shokoo (Fatemeh Motamed-Aria), a strong-featured yet still attractive middle-aged woman who is happily wed for a second time to the virile Reza (Saeed Aghakhani).

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JUST 6.5 (MIFF 2020)- Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Fast, smart and thrilling, Just 6.5 is a wild ride into the dark side of Iranian genre cinema. With a climax that demands we rethink the entire ethical construct of how the judicial system treats drug related offenses, Just 6.5 sees Saeed Roustayi excel with his sophomore feature.

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SUNLESS SHADOWS – Review by Diane Carson

Iranian director Mehrdad Oskouei’s documentary Sunless Shadows explores the lives of six teenage women confined to a juvenile detention center for murder. All the victims are men: fathers, husbands, brothers-in-law. Through unmediated footage of daily interactions and direct address to a camera they control alone in a room, the subjects reveal their personal and political reasons.

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Whistler Film Festival 2019: Sonia K Hadad on EXAM – Jennifer Merin interviews

Iranian filmmaker Sonia K. Hadad’s short film, Exam, is a compact, well-crated truth-based crime drama that delves into how familial pressures impact the life of an Iranian teenage girl. On the days of an important exam that will determine her future at school, the girl reluctantly agrees to her father’s behest that she deliver a packet of cocaine. Exam is among the films nominated for an AWFJ EDA Award at Whistler Film Festival 2019.

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