In today’s “progressive” Iran a 35-year-old father Alireza who considers himself a “enlightened traditionalist” considers marrying off his 14-year-old grade 9 daughter Asal to Soroush a medical student in university.
If it wasn’t so sad and disgraceful it might be a comedy. As we hear from various relatives about the pros and cons of the proposed marriage some say a disaster, some say Alireza can offload her so he can marry his fiancée and some say it is a good idea. Kind of like a gossip fest.
Asal tells us that some of her classmates are already married. And Soroush, her suitor, is so nice as he bought her some Nutella and Gummy Bears as a present. Alireza thinks she can handle the marriage as she is just like him. He also wants to see them engaged so their relationship is “pure”. He also says Asal is gullible and she must do what her husband says. “Enlightened”?
Before we slam Iranians as a whole for being stuck in the 7th century we should take a close look of the imagery writer, director and producer Elahe Esmali weaves into the film. Lots of home videos of Asal as a very young girl, her rollerblading like any other child and her love of dolls and stuffed animals. Esmali is discretely telling us Asal is still a child and guiding the audience that perhaps child marriage is something that should be questioned.
Her views are more direct than her film and almost all of Western society would agree with them. The film was not censored despite the attempts of extremists in Iran to increase marriages even through marriage to underaged girls.
Esmali says, “I wish it was otherwise. Living in a patriarchal society for years has shaped my outlook as a filmmaker; inequalities due to being female, being a second-class citizen as well as the tough feeling of being a property of a man. These are the important issues that I’m going to criticize through my films to build a better future for the generations to come.”
The documentary will be available in Canada only until May 9th and is with English subtitles. You can purchase tickets here https://hotdocs.ca/p/hot-docs-festival Bravo to Esmali