| Consisting of three stories that ultimately
intersect in a mundane, unspectacular, and uncontrived way,
The Day I Became A Woman is a little gem. The movie portrays
Islam’s effect on women’s lives as just as cloistered and repressive
as many non-Moslems, especially Westerners, might think but
be too PC to depict.
The first episode, “Hava,” takes place on the title character’s
ninth birthday, the day she becomes a woman and must put away
childish things. On this day Hava (Akhtar) must stay home
and don the chador and may no longer freely associate with
her best playmate, Hassan (Nabehan). Using the kind of religious
technicality so often available to those who live by the Law
instead of the Spirit, Hava is allowed one final hour of unsupervised
The “Ahoo” episode is especially interesting for its bald
depcition of a how much a wife’s life belongs to her husband,
her community, her father, uncles, brothers--nearly everyone
except herself. Ahoo (Toloui) rides her bicycle in a women’s
marathon, even though her husband forbade her. The story of
Ahoo biking by the sunny seaside (Kish Island, where the film
was shot, is so beautiful that I longed to be with those women
on one of those bicycles.) with other veiled, completely covered
women is fascinating not only for the wave after wave of proprietary
males who gallop up, ordering her to quit, but also for the
non-reactions of her fellow bikers. If this is a metaphor
for Iranian feminism and sisterhood, woe betide!
Finally, “Hoora” is a woman in complete, if baffling, control
of her own life. Armed with a pocket full of money, Hoora
(Seddighi) wraps colorful strings around each finger to remind
her of the purchases she intends to make, then heads to town.
Enlisting the aid of young porters, the elderly Hoora makes
her way from store to store, buying all the things she’s always
wanted. It’s not clear where Hoora’s money comes from and
her solitary state is only alluded to. While she could hardly
be expected to head for college or the boardroom, it’s depressing
that, after a life of deferred dreams, her desires have to
do with consumer goods instead of self-determination or empowerment
(as they are understood in the West).
It’s like watching the ages of Iranian Woman: The film moves
from girlhood (Hava) to wifehood (Ahoo; no other option is
presented) to solitary old age (Hoora). Meshkini and her husband,
Makhmalbaf, tell very interesting stories that almost seem
more truly foreign for their leisurely pace than their content.
Clearly these folks did not grow up on “Sesame Street” or
hyperactive MTV. The first segment felt almost real-time with
Hava’s last hour of freedom, though of course it wasn’t.
These stories show female existence as such enforcedly small
lives, that I had to wonder how these films were received
back home. Well, mostly they’re not. So far only one theater
in her native Iran has screened The Day I Became A Woman.
What a shame. Meshkini’s films are so fine that I’d like not
only like to see them again, I’d like to read them.
—Roxanne Bogucka, an Action Grrl