WEDNESDAY, MAY 9/ CHAHARSHANBEH, 19 ORDIBEHESHT. Iran. Starring Niki Karimi, Vahid Jalilvand. Directed by Vahid Jlilvand. 102 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes).
This is a fine Iranian film. It can be said that for the last four decades, or even more, if one were to search national industries to find dramas that explored human values, often profoundly, Iran would have to be at the top or very near the top of the list. While the Iranians have made many movies for television, slight melodramas and popular comedies, their output in serious dramas has been extensive. SIGNIS (The World Association for Communication) has made numerous awards to their films.
The film opens, as the title suggests, on Wednesday, May 9, where an ad has been placed in the paper inviting people in difficult financial circumstances to come to an address and lay claim to an extensive grant. A mother and daughter appear, rather overwhelmed by the crowd, seeing the man in charge being taken away by the police, puzzled over what is happening with no one seeming to know and the police moving the crowd on. She then goes to work in a factory which processes chickens, phones her husband who has been in a serious accident and tells him she will be home late and that her daughter is with her.
Suddenly, the story comes to what seems an end and a new date appears on screen, from the preceding month, a new address. The thought comes that this is a film of different stories. Later, we find that it is not.
The second story packs more of an emotional punch than the first. It takes up the dominance of men in Iranian society and focuses on family themes of honour with consequent victimisation of a woman and a justification of violence against her. This episode is about a young woman who lives with relations and who is challenged by her male cousin about riding on the back of a motorbike with a young man – the cousin condemns her, then assaults her, which leads to a violent confrontation in the street with the young man and, what may seem strange to an audience, the young man being prosecuted for blood money and being taken to jail. What is to happen to the young woman?
But then we are back to May 9, the initial story starting over again but this time from inside the building where the man who placed the ad and works from his friend’s office has to deal with the crowds outside, the role of the police, the question of his motives for offering a grant to someone in need. We have already seen this man in his dealings with the mother and daughter, so it is not a surprise. But, as the day goes on, and the motivation of the man is revealed, we appreciate the tensions in his relationship with his wife, his being overwhelmed by the applications, and the interview with the young woman from the second story.
Once again, an Iranian director (who co-wrote the film and edited it as well as appearing as the older man offering the donation), we are given human dramas, an exploration of basic values, stories of humane concern.
Potential Films. Released September 29th.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.