Political Film Society - The Hidden Half


PFS Film Review
The Hidden Half (Nimeh-Ye Penhan)


 

Many recent films from Iran focus on the oppression of women in post-revolutionary Iran, but none so deeply as feminist Tahmineh Milani’s The Hidden Half (Nimeh-Ye Penhan). Indeed, she was arrested, charged by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court of supporting "those waging war against God" and of supporting counterrevolutionaries through film when The Hidden Half was released; she is now out on bail, and her arrest has even be criticized by President Mohammad Khatami. The story, however, is much milder than one might think. Fereshteh (played by Niki Karimi) tells the story of her life in a manuscript secretly presented to her husband Khosro (played by Mohammad Nikbin), a high-ranking judge who is sent in the film to Shiraz to interview a woman accused of a crime who has filed an appeal. After a flight to Shiraz, the husband checks into a hotel, opens the dossier, and discovers his wife’s autobiographical manuscript, which she hopes will open her husband's eyes and soften his heart to listen carefully to the woman’s case. She begins her story when she is eighteen, attending the University of Tehran. The revolution that swept the Shah from power piques her interest in radical ideas, she joins a Communist sect, and she distributes leaflets critical of the new regime. Her activities bring her in touch with a pro-Mossadeq-era intellectual (played by Atila Pesyani), who is intrigued by her naïve dedication to a noble cause. While government authorities crack down on the university campus and arrest agitators, the intellectual offers her the possibility of escape to England, but does not tell her that he hopes to live with her there. The intellectual’s wife, however, tells her that he is married so as to kill the relationship, and she stops seeing him. She then marries but does not tell her husband about her past and plays the subordinate role of a woman while secretly frustrated that she has been denied her own identity over more than two decades. The film ends as her husband interviews the accused woman, who begin to relate a similar tale of suffering, so filmviewers are in doubt what the husband will do next. Iran’s authorities clearly objected to the sympathetic treatment of counterrevolutionaries in the film, but the Political Film Society has nominated The Hidden Half for best film exposé and best film on human rights of 2001. MH

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