Screen Reviews


directed by Sonia K. Hadad

starring Elaheh Afshari, Sadaf Asgari, Masih Kazemi

Three Garden Film

We are somewhere in the Middle East, possibly Iran but perhaps not. The sky is grey, the walls plastered with graffiti, and trash blows everywhere. Young Farjid (Afshari) has an important exam today; it might admit her to college and a shot at a better life. She attends an all-girls school, and everyone is swabbed in a dark cloth motif that makes Catholicism look bright and cheery. She’s running late, as we all are, and to complicate things her father wants her to drop off a package and bring him the cash. “That’s too much money for me to carry!” she insists. “Have your friend wire you the money.” Clearly, this package is not filled with falafels. She proceeds to a corner that might be in the Bronx on a bad day. There’s a small sad tree, rusted corrugated metal, chain-link fencing at crazy angles, and creepy guy walking by giving her the evil eye. But no connection. She texts here dad and runs off, just making it into the final exam room in time. Why is she late again? She spins a plausible lie. “Take your test” commands the teacher. She begins. Then: disaster: the head mistress of the school pops a surprise bag check. She finds plenty of contraband: make up, a hair curler, pop music. All offensive to Allah, truly a divine kill joy. Just imagine how bad Farjid’s contraband will look. Where can Farjid hide this stuff? Desperately, she swallows it. Hopefully, it won’t kill her.

We’re left hanging, and there’s more question than answers in this 15 minute slice of life. Clearly, its set in a land where drugs and religion battle for the hearts and minds of the citizens. And women receiving education in not widely accepted. And the economy looks pretty bleak, or at least opportunity is in short supply. A palpable tension fills the screen. You directly sense the terror in this young woman’s dilemma: obey her family or reach for the brass ring of higher education. For a short film, this drama packs in a lot of questions, and like the name of this distant land its set in, few answers are revealed.

This movie was shown as part of the 2020 Florida Film Festival.

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