Thursday, October 13, 2011

Iranian Judiciary Lashing the Head-Bald Actresses?

These days, the incredible sentence given to the theater actress Marziyeh Vafamehr, one year of imprisonment and 90 lashes for appearing without head dress in an Iranian-Australian PhD-dissertation film by the Iranian Poet, and recently film scholar, Granaz Mousavi, has shocked the theater and cinema community into action.

How can it be? After all, appearing without a scarf and with a shaved head in post-revolutionary Iranian films is not new. Here's a list of precedents:

The fist (controversial) bald appearance on screen was by Farimah Farjami، in Masoud Kimiaii's thriller Lead in 1988 (سرب، مسعود کیمیایی). The film was about a couple of Iranian jews who wished to migrate to Israel in the 1940s, but witnessing the assassination of their Anti-Zionist uncle by a paramilitary group HAGANAH (that later became Israel's defense ministry), makes them a target and forces them into hide and seek exile. [*]

The second notable instance of a bald actress was in Abbas Kiarostami's critically acclaimed 2002 film Ten; where a heart-broken girl who rides with the main protagonist, encounters her for the second time with a shaved head; losing her hair to deal with the loss of her lover.

The third, is Women's Prison (2002), a unique film in the history of Iranian cinema, by Manijeh Hekmat, depicting the lives of three generations of women prisoners: convicted killers, political prisoners and delinquent teenagers. Here, Mitra (Roya No-Nahali) appears with a shaved head, a punishment for her disobedience in the Prison.

The credit for the following list goes to a "fundamentalist" blogger whose post was WARNING the "prostitution" in Iranian cinema (yes, if you do not have complete Hijab, in their view you are a prostitute) manifesting itself in the form of bald actresses!

Quarantine, 2008, (قرنطینه): By Manouchehr Hadi, a love story that begins with a car accident, when the rich boy falls in love with the poor girl, but cannot marry due to class difference. The woman suffers Cancer and begins chemotherapy --hence the shaven head. However, this film also arose complaints from the clergy (the pro-green ones, actually) for allowing a woman onscreen without headdress!

Bad Kids, 2001 (بچه های بد)، A film by Alireza Davoodnejad, about a chance encounter of a couple of Iranian guys with a runaway girl who survives suicide, and confesses to murder. The film did not receive enough box office attention to alert the moral-police; however according to a couple of reviews, it was an artistically successful film (I have not seen it myself.)

The Four-Finger, 2006 (چهار انگشتی), film by Said Soheili, and action film--presumably government funded and moralistic, with good guys and bad guys and a femme fatale; and from what I gather, full of cinematic "excess" but a box office flop. I could only find one picture of the "bald" actress from the fundamentalist's site.

Scent of Paradise, 2001; (بوی بهشت), by Hamid Reza Mohseni, about a broke pop star heads to a getaway in the North, and falls in love with a runaway girl who pretends to be a 'deaf and dumb' boy--hence the shaved head.

I don't understand Vafamehr's sentence! I don't understand why this film My Tehran for Sale, that according to the director was filmed with a permit, would be a candidate for such harsh treatment. If anything, the film is in line with the moral judgment of the IRI: "that the pro-western youth are a disillusioned bunch."

In a sequence of the film, a group of young men and women arrested in a mix party are sitting in prison, awaiting their turn, as they listen to the dreadful sound of lashes and screams of their friends breaking the silence of the cold room.

Has the IRI theater become so macabre, to make a fiction film come to reality, by lashing its delicate actress, before the eyes of the world? I hope to be proven wrong.

* حکایت جلال معیریان

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great complation Naj. An informative and rare contribution that made me think, 'why didn't I think of that?' Time-consuming, fruitful and -- above all -- highly creative. Thanks.