Cinematheque film examines oppression of women

Illustration by Lizzy Cox.
Illustration by Lizzy Cox.

The VCU cinema department screened Iranian director Shirin Neshat’s 2009 film “Women Without Men” as a part of the Cinematheque program on Feb. 13 at Grace Street Theater.  

Through Cinematheque, the department hosts free indie and foreign films projected in 35 mm film every Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. The screenings are always open to the public. The department attempts to have a variety of films featured in each month’s array.

“Women Without Men” is an adaptation of a 2004 book of the same title by Shahrnush Parsipur. The film tells the story of four women in politically tumultuous 1950s Tehran, Iran. Each have a heartbreaking and twisted tale of men who have betrayed their bodies, minds or wishes.

Richmond native Zach Simon frequents the Cinematheque features on Tuesday evenings and thought Women Without Men was extraordinary.

“I come to a lot of these showings and this one touched me like no other film I’ve seen here has,” Simon said. “Those women are stronger than I will ever have to be.”

The theme of self-exploration is prevalent in “Women Without Men,” but not in the quintessential way of exploring sexuality or drugs. The women of the film are on a journey through a thick, overgrown brush that separates them from reality due to years of sexism ingrained in their society.

The film begins with Munis, whose brother constantly berates her about being nearly 30 years old and unmarried, calling her interest in radio news ridiculous and unfit for a woman. Zarin is a prostitute whose bones show through her clothes. Years of sex work drove her so far inside herself that she can’t speak.

Farrokhlagha leaves her husband and buys an orchard where she finds Zarin, barely conscious, in a stream in nearby woods.

All the women cross paths directly except for Munis, who is involved in her own world of political unrest.

The film has recurring themes of nature, water and an open road on which all of the women travel. The symbol of the road represents how all women in the country travel down the same difficult and alarming path due to the cruel hand of men

Other Cinematheque films that will be screened during the spring 2018 semester include “Black Power Mixtape” on Feb. 20, which examines the Black Power Movement, and “Soy Cuba” on April 15, showing vignettes of pre-revolutionary Cuba.

Madeline Wheeler Contributing Writer 

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