The Day I Became a Woman Review
The two most important names in contemporary Iranian cinema (that we see in the West, that is – there's much routine commercial product that doesn't get exported) are Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The two have worked together, and most other directors whose work has made an impact have worked with one or the other. Makhmalbaf's production company, Makhmalbaf Film House, produces his own work (such as Kandahar) as well as that of other directors. These include his daughter Samira, who has directed The Apple and Blackboards. Makhmalbaf has produced and co-written The Day I Became a Woman, which marks the directorial debut of his wife, Marzieh Meshkini.
The Day I Became a Woman is made up of three parts, set on the Persian Gulf island of Kish, linked only at the end of the film. Each part centres on a woman at a different stage in her life.
It's Hava's ninth birthday, and the day from which she has to wear the chador as she is now a woman in the eyes of the law. As noon, the actual anniversary of her birth, approaches, she plays with boys for the last time.
Ahoo is taking part in a woman's bicycle race, to the disgust of her husband, who wants her to go home with him. He catches up with her on horseback, a local mullah in attendance, and threatens to divorce her.
Hoora, a wheelchair-bound old woman, arrives on the island by plane. She goes shopping for everything she always wanted but couldn't afford, but there is something she can't remember...
Meshkini's film is a short film telling three simple stories, but what it says about the status of women in Iran couldn't be clearer. It makes its points simply, effectively and in places movingly. Meshkini's direction, in the neo-realist style of much Iranian cinema, doesn't draw attention to itself but is appropriate, and varies from the still camera of Hava's story to the long tracking shots of Ahoo's story. She shares with her husband an eye for a striking image, notably the sight of a large group of cyclists all clad in black chadors.
The Day I Became a Woman is further evidence of the vibrancy of contemporary Iranian cinema, and of particular interest to feminists of both sexes.