This is a beautifully made Iranian documentary that immerses itself in the lives of teenagers in a ‘rehabilitation and correction’ centre, which seems to be a cross between a juvenile justice centre and a refuge. With no narration, we see these young women establish lives and friendships in the centre and slowly hear their individual stories.
All seem to come from families where they are not safe. Parents who are addicts, who pimp their daughters out for drugs, uncles who have abused them, families who won’t believe their stories. They have been charged with everything from adultery to murder and some are there just for a few days or weeks, others for much longer. Regardless of the difficulties of their pasts, in the safety of the centre we see them act like teenagers; singing songs, playing spin the bottle, teasing and comforting each other. It becomes apparent that this place of confinement may be preferable and safer than freedom for them.
There is a powerful moment when an imam comes to lead them in prayer and talk to them about human rights. He asks if they have any questions and they throw a barrage at him, “Why can a father kill his child without punishment but a child who kills her father is executed?” “Why is the spilling of a man’s blood worse than the spilling of a women’s blood?” “Why do we call God and man and not a woman?” He answers by telling them they must focus on their own behaviour to help make the world a calm and peaceful place, their powerlessness clear.
The director, Mehrdad Oskouei, spent seven years trying to get permission to film in the centre and he is able to quietly and respectfully give a voice to these young women. It is sobering to realise how few options they have, how little chance they have of escaping the destructive limitations of poverty and patriarchy.
Bechdel test – pass