9 November 2003 | Red-125
Heartbreaking, but essential
Ruz-egar-e ma (2002) [shown in the US as Our Times], is a
documentary by Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, an extraordinary Iranian female director.
This film portrays two aspects of the Iranian presidential election of 2001. Because these aspects don't overlap, the film is not cohesive. Still, each aspect is fascinating in its own right, so this dichotomy is not a fatal flaw.
The first--and less dramatic--narrative follows the director's daughter as she and her friends establish a campaign office for the incumbent President Khatami. I don't know enough about Iranian politics to know whether Khatami is a logical choice for the young, artistic people who choose to support him. Maybe he has virtues that they perceive; maybe they are comfortable with the establishment and are happy to be supporting a candidate whose re-election is apparently a forgone conclusion. However, their joy as young people-- and as women--in actually casting their ballot is delightful to witness.
The second--and darker--aspect of the film is the story of a young woman named Arezoo Bayat, who attempted to have her name placed on the ballot as a presidential candidate. It's not clear from the movie why her name was rejected. It's apparently not against the law for a woman to run for president in Iran, but no women candidates actually managed to have their names placed on the ballot.
However, Arezoo Bayat's candidacy is not her real challenge. Her challenge is finding a home for her mother and her daughter in Teheran, where single women are looked upon with distrust at best, and open hostility at worst. We follow Arezoo's search for a place to live with increasing frustration and even despair. She is an intelligent, articulate, motivated woman but--as the film makes obvious-- the odds are stacked against her in Iran in the early 21st century.
This movie gives us what appears to be an extremely honest view
of two particular lives that inform us about Iranian culture, politics,
and gender inequality. It's not an uplifting film, but it's definitely
worth seeking out and watching.