DIRECTORS: Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini
CINEMATOGRAPHY: The Directors shot this and it is a documentary
CAST: Real folks here. No acting!
ONE WORD: Life can be hell for women ... unless there is another world out there!.

(Seen at the 22nd Portland International Film Festival, Portland, Oregon)

The toughest thing for any reviewer to do is to avoid cultural traps and bias, in order to be able to base a review on solid evidence that makes the film either good or bad. I imagine that when it comes to a "documentary" that has its hands tied, the rules change somewhat. But to what?

"Divorce, Iranian Style" is either a searing attack on a system that is horribly unfair or it is a plight to the Iranian people that things must change somewhere down the line in history. But this is really easy for any of us that are not a part of that life to say ... and some people might object to the thought that the western way is the way to live and the eastern way is not! Presumably, as more women become members of society, rather than just wives, the respect will evolve into a more equitable system set of laws that will give the women an opportunity to gain some self esteem. while this film may not be the best representation of the system, I have been told that richer families that get divorces do not have to go through the indignations found in this film.

What is amazing is that this film escaped the Iranian sensors. It's hard to believe that a film like this would be allowed out, but if anything, it makes the actual people involved in the situations look petty, stupid, while the judge himself, comes across as a very strong and well defined hand for the Islamic law, adding to it, that he does have some humanity, although he is still bound by the rules. If this is intentional, then Iranian law is the winner and the people the losers all around, well, at least the women of course. But the sad part of the story is that the three women that end up being showcased, get screwed. And there is no other way to describe it. While the husbands walk away to continue either their abuse, or lack of respect.

There is only one victory for a woman, and this is on another case, when we find a different judge that is ruling on a case where the husband has taken a second wife. He is insisting that the 2nd wife live in his house in separate quarters, to which she vehemently disagrees and is petitioning for a divorce, since he has returned to the first wife and remarried her. The judge rules that she can not live in the same house, and we presume that this will eventually become grounds for the divorce down the road. The husband can not afford a second place for her.

Filmed in 16mm, and shown in a theater not equipped for such, this small film, even with its problems still makes its mark. Shown in a place like America, it is not likely to mean much, except of a reminder as to why many people have left Iran and will not return, specially women. Sadder still is that the country is entering a modern time, and is not allowing its children to grow and study -- one divorce is granted but the dowry which would have put the girl in school is not going to happen ever -- is eventually going to show itself. This film is ample reason that things are happening that may change some of these laws in the future. The question may be when.

While this film sticks in my mind as one of the greatest examples of human indecency, unfortunately, in it there is one example where even the woman falls, and hurts her own cause while fighting for her child. With no lawyer, or advisor, her emotions get the best of her, and she tears up a deed and then lies through her teeth, although her emotional plight has plenty of justification. The judge, however, while not able to reverse the laws, does show some leniency and lowers her detention ... but in effect, this woman has already lost everything she has. Pile up enough of these and you will have a revolution in your hands sooner or later, it's just a matter of time.

A documentary, that is really more important for the eastern world, than the western world. Anywhere else, these marriages and situations might not hold at all, and the men wouldn't get away with the lies to get what they want .. a 37 year old tricking a family to get their 16 year old daughter and such .. and ruin her ability to go to school and grow more. One can only hope that any country, or religion that kills its inner spirit this way will sooner or later find itself judged in the end. But as I stated in the beginning, the hardest thing for a reviewer to do, is to check with something like this. This is not about acting, or directing, or a film. This is all about how much more can human indignity and indecency go, in this century and into the next. have we yet to learn that this means all of us, not just men?





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