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The Day I Became A Woman  

In the United States, our society has done a lot for women's rights over the last century. However, this is hardly the case in many parts of the world even today. "The Day I Became A Woman", an Iranian film from first time director Meshkini, shows us how it is to be a woman in their Islamic society from three points of view: a child, an adult and an elderly. It is a thought provoking piece of work about women searching for their identities in a society based on rigid traditions.

In the first chapter, we are introduced to Hava, a little girl on the verge of entering an important phase of her life. She is about to celebrate her ninth birthday, and according to social customs, this is when a girl puts on a veil and becomes a woman. Hava is not too thrilled about the idea since all she wants right now is to play with her friend Hassan. She promises her grandmother that if allowed to play, she will be back before noon, her official birth time. Thus, Hava is given a stick so that she can place it on the ground and check its shadow. This would let her know when it's time to head home. Hava's story sets the tone for the film by showing how little girls are brought in to fit the traditional role. Out of the blue, they are expected to have a different mentality for religious and social reasons. It was heartbreaking watching Hava as she keeps checking the shadow of a stick, indicating the end of her childhood.

The second story revolves around Ahoo, a married woman who takes part in a beach side bicycle race. Besides competing with the other cyclists, Ahoo has to contend with men on horseback trying to persuade her to come home. Bicycles are the devil's instruments and a woman's place is at home, they say. Her husband, her father, tribe leaders and her brothers all try to dissuade her from completing the race, but Ahoo tries to push on. Although the final scenes of Ahoo's story are powerful and her persistence admirable, I thought that this chapter needed a lot more editing. There were just too many repeating scenes for no other purpose than to fill time. It had a good message, but a bit too long in its delivery.

In the third and final chapter, we get to know Hoora, an elderly woman who travels and seeks out what she has missed all her life. She takes her inheritance money, goes to a shopping mall, and buys everything that she has always wanted: a bathtub, a refrigerator, an elegant sofa to name just a few. It is obvious that Hoora has gone through a lot in her life, and she finally sees the day where she is liberated to be herself. So what does she do? She buys things for a place she can call her own. We are happy for her, but at the same time we can't help but think that her freedom came a bit too late. Hoora's tale is lighthearted, yet bittersweet.

"The Day I Became A Woman" is a good movie, although I would not recommend it for everybody. It is slow, despite a runtime of only 78 minutes. It is not the most plot-driven movie, but one cannot deny its thought provoking take on women's status in Iran. The film is too short to be in-depth and deeply insightful, yet if you're interested in leaving suburbia for a bit and enjoy a virtual trip to the Middle East, check this one out.


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