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'The Day I Became a Woman'

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 6, 2001


    'The Day I Became a Woman' "The Day I Became a Woman" is in Farsi with English subtitles. (Mayssam Makhmalbaf/ Shooting Gallery)
Short on drama but long on poetry, the feature debut of Iranian filmmaker Marzieh Meshkini (the wife of Mohsen "Gabbeh" Makhmalbaf) is actually three lyrical vignettes strung together, all set on the Persian Gulf island of Kish, a part of Iran geographically, visually and culturally distinct from the mainland.

Titled "Hava," "Ahoo" and "Hoora" after the names of their central characters, the three only tangentially related episodes concern, respectively, a 9-year-old girl, a beautiful young wife and a senile dowager. Each stripped-down mini-drama hums with what is essentially a single point of tension.

In the first, set on the morning of the heroine's ninth birthday, Hava (Fatemeh Cheragh Akhtar) tries to draw out the hours before she must make her official debut as a woman – complete with brand new chador and the forswearing of beloved male playmates.

In the second, Ahoo (the striking Shabnam Toloui) tries to complete a bicycle race (Kish is the only part of Iran where a woman may ride a bike freely) while an angry husband, several brothers and a dour mullah on horseback try to stop her.

Finally, Azizeh Seddighi plays an elderly shopper arriving on Kish with "an inheritance from God knows where." After buying every conceivable appliance and home furnishing from the island's gleaming malls, Hoora, who has endured a lifetime of poverty, surveys her loot on the beach.

As characters from the earlier two episodes meander by, the old woman tries to remember the one item she has forgotten. It's the film's most surreal and touching moment and, as scripted by the director's husband, it fits in nicely with the overarching theme of female freedom and the contradictions that liberty sometimes implies.

"The Day I Became a Woman" (Unrated, 78 minutes) – Contains nothing objectionable. In Farsi with English subtitles.


Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company

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