Divorce Iranian Style

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Iranian women don't have it easy, judging by this fly-on-the-wall doc of marital hell and legal purgatory. They can only sue for separation if their hubbies are loopy or limp.

"The court disapproves of divorce and assumes women want to stay in their marriages."

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Not so by the look of this lot. The women may have limited rights, but they do all the talking and do it a far sight better than the fellas.

Kim Longinotto films mostly in a divorce court. The judge is a wise, enigmatic, gentle man, with a quiet sense of humour. The couples come and argue in front of him, or rather the women let rip ("I wasted my youth and my life in this man's house") and the guys look sheepish, or wipe away tears. It is informal theatre, devoid of ritual. The laws are strict and decisions can be tough, especially those concerning custody of children.

The film leaves you torn between fascination with the lives of these women, admiration at the informality of the proceedings and a fear that lasting damage could be done to young children by prejudicial laws in favour of fathers. The directors are unbiased and make no attempt at mocking men. They mock themselves.

The judge is different. He resembles a character from Alice In Wonderland, with the wit to realise that infallibility is a fool's charter. Surprisingly, amongst so much simulated anguish and genuine suffering, there is humour and humanity.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Documentary charting custody cases in Iranian divorce courts.
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Director: Kim Longinotto, Ziba Mir-Hosseini

Writer: Kim Longinotto, Ziba Mir-Hosseini

Year: 1998

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: UK

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