The location is an Iranian shelter for runaway and abused girls. It is clean, neat, and freshly painted. We see that the caregivers are genuinely concerned about the suffering of the five victims, whom we meet individually through on-camera interviews and as they go about their daily lives. This brings their individual — and often conflicting — personalities into relief. Yeganeh, for example, is a live wire of a girl, her headscarf often pushed far to the back of her head (“You look cheap,” a girlfriend teases). She seems happy, but she frequently threatens to run away. Haneh makes threats, too, but in her case they are of suicide and self-mutilation, such as when she is not allowed to call her boyfriend — who has gotten engaged to someone else. Farzaneh lived on the street disguised as a boy. Shahnaz is visibly disturbed: she is wary, aggressive, and suicidal. While some hide behind an angry exterior, others hide behind a happy one. The individual portraits are punctuated by the recurring image of the central corridor accompanied by the sound of a slamming door. The camera is ever-present, filming their intimate and confrontational conversations. In one particularly intense scene, Behnaz receives a visit from her father. She refuses to adopt the strict, traditional behavior he expects of her. “A dog is loyal, but not this girl,” he bellows.
One of the most popular and influential Iranian filmmakers of his era, Mohsen Makhmalbaf was born in Teheran on May 29, 1957. As a working-class teen, he became involved with a militant terrorist group battling against the Shah’s regime, and at the age of 17, he was sentenced to die after stabbing a policeman. Ultimately, his youth allowed him to escape the fate of a firing squad, and after serving only five years of his sentence, he was freed in the wake of the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution. After his release, Makhmalbaf helped establish an artists’ group known as the Islamic Propagation Organization, and he became a prolific writer of plays, essays, short stories, and finally screenplays.
His first filmed script was 1981’s The Explanation, and he directed his first feature, Nassouh’s Repentance, the following year. Throughout the remainder of the decade, he wrote and directed roughly one film a year, each wildly different in style and content. Among his other early works were… read more