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:: The Circle

This film by Iranian director Jafar Panahi tells of the plight of women in his country. It’s quite a hard-hitting drama, especially at the beginning, where a grandmother has been told that her daughter has just given birth to a baby girl. The ultrasound had previously indicated that the baby was going to be a boy. The nurse stares at the older woman through a door’s glass pane, oblivious to the shame that this birth will bring to the family. The older woman tells a relative to inform the family of the baby’s gender. The mother flees. Panahi’s direction then shifts to the story of three women who have just escaped from jail. The film flutters from one piece to another, each telling tales of how women are treated as second-class citizens.

It is probably the most poignant view of the condition of Iranian women ever shown on screen. Such is the expressive nature, that Iranian authorities banned the film. So we see a series of cases, in the “circle”, whereby different stories about the oppression of women are so pervasive that no woman can escape. It may be distressing to watch and it offers little hope for the women we meet along the way.

The case of the three women who made their bold bid for freedom will grab the focus. In the process of avoiding soldiers or police, they gradually get separated from each other, and the story takes on a loose, episodic structure. The camera work shows this careful study that leads to inevitable danger. Director Panahi seemed intent to record all the incidents of injustice and broadcast the results to the wider civilised world. There are some sequences in the film when time lags, so there could have been better editing. Maybe that’s just the way of those women’s lives. Their circle is a cycle of fate – one of disillusionment and abandon.

Screening at the Kino Cinemas