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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Samira Makhmalbaf
New Yorker Films 02/99 DVD/VHS Documentary
This unusual Iranian documentary is based on the true story of a poor and religious 65-year-old father who kept his two 12-year-old daughters locked in their small house from the day that they were born. Their blind mother agreed with the arrangement since she was unable to supervise them in any other way. Thanks to the concern of neighbors over the plight of Massoumeh and Zahra, a social worker looked into the matter and found the girls unable to talk or walk properly. They were given the first baths in their lives and then returned to their home. The father, believing that he has been publicly shamed by his neighbors, promises not to keep them imprisoned anymore.
Eighteen-year-old-director Samira Makhmalbaf, the daughter of the filmmaker responsible for Gabbeh, takes this raw material and spins a fascinating drama out of the experiences of the girls after they are liberated by the social worker. Makhmalbaf uses the apple, which is a symbol of knowledge and enjoyment of life, as a major motif in the unfolding story. The film celebrates freedom and presents a severe critique of the continued shabby treatment of women in societies where patriarchal authoritarianism still holds sway.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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