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[whitespace] 'The Day I Became a Woman'
Veiled Threat: Ahoo (Shabnam Touloui) takes the lead in a bike race of which her family very vocally disapproves.

Ages of Woman

'The Day I Became a Woman' offers glimpses into the lives of three Iranian women

By Richard von Busack

The Day I Became a Woman is an anthology of short films about the life of women in Iran, filmed at different beaches on the nation's coast. The second and strongest short is titled Ahoo, and it's a chase film. The girl Ahoo (Shabnam Toloui) hides in the pack of a shoreside bicycle race (the women shrouded from head to toe in black cloth as they pedal in the burning sun). She's pursued by her husband, a mullah, and the various members of her family as she tries to escape them all. Although it's not complex, the short story is powerful--the detail of how gossip travels faster than the furiously pumping girl does, for instance, gives a sense of everything Ahoo tries to ride away from. (The anti-clerical humor must be risqué in Iran, too--the elderly fool of a mullah yells to Ahoo that her bike is "the devil's mount.")

The first episode, Hava, is also touching. On her ninth birthday, the Iranian girl is officially a woman; here, the child Hava (Fatemeh Cherag Akhar) must renounce her best friend, a boy named Hassan, and wear the chador head covering. Given an hour's reprieve, she goes to the beach for what will be a last time, watching the boys as they launch a raft, and talking to Hassan through a window (he's been grounded for the afternoon).

Although the last story, Hoora, wraps things up nominally, it's the weakest tale; a granny (Azizeh Sedighi) flies into town and goes on a shopping spree occasioned by an inheritance. She recruits a pack of neighborhood kids to carry all her goods. To take inventory, she spreads all her possessions out upon the sand. The point of this story? That old widows are essentially the only women in Iran who can do what they please . . . or is this a satire on frivolous spending, and Western materialism? If it's the latter, the dart hardly hits its mark. Aren't the women in this country entitled to any pleasure they can legally get? It might be pedantic to search for a point in this episode, but it's not a very entertaining piece on its own merits. This episode seems especially cryptic, compared to the simplicity and poignancy of the first two.

The Day I Became a Woman is directed by Marzieh Meshkini, the scripts are by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Essentially this film's an appetizer for the best and final offering in the Iranian film fest, The Circle, a vivid and enraging series of stories on the injustice Muslim fundementalism has wreaked on women.

The Day I Became a Woman (Not rated; 78 min.) directed by Marzieh Meshkini. written by Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Marzieh Meshkini, photographed by Mohamad Ahmadi and Ebrahim Ghafori and starring Fatemeh Cherag Akhar, Shabnam Touloui and Azizeh Sedighi, opens Friday in San Jose at the Towne Theater.

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From the April 26-May 2, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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