Iran's change at the top gives director cue to show social ills

Fri Sep 5, 2014 10:42am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

VENICE (Reuters) - Two years ago, Iranian filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemad knew she had no chance of showing a feature film in Iran about the depredations of unemployment, drug abuse and wife-beating, so she made a series of shorts instead.

The fact that she has now stitched them into a full-length movie in the running for top prize at the Venice Film Festival shows that Iran's new leadership can take a broader view, she says.

"It’s true that the questions we are dealing with are Iranian, but they are also global," she told Reuters in an interview in Venice, where her film received excellent reviews.

With the Middle East high on the world list of trouble spots, Bani-Etemad hopes that wider circulation for "Ghesseha" (Tales) will help people inside and outside the region to understand one another better.

"It’s set in Iran, it was made in Iran, the characters are Iranian. But these are problems that exist throughout the world and I see them in my society. "

The picture she paints of life in Tehran is anything but flattering.

Using the device of a documentary filmmaker visiting the city to record vignettes about everyday life, she shows such scenes as a shelter for battered wives where a drug-addled husband, who has disfigured his wife by pouring boiling water on her face, pleads with her to return.

In another strand, a functionary will not listen to an elderly former civil servant's plea to recoup crippling medical costs because the bureaucrat is more interested in taking a call from his mistress.   Continued...

Director Rakhshan Banietemad (C) and actors Habib Rezaei (R) and Peiman Moadi wave as they arrive at the red carpet for the movie "Ghesseha (Tales)" at the 71st Venice Film Festival August 28, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile