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Listening and Understanding Those Wounded Souls

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By Roger Costa

SUNLESS SHADOWS

Award-winning Iranian writer/director Mehrdad Oskouei continues to explore the traumatic experiences of abused girls turned criminals with his latest project, named Best Documentary at both Krakow and Big Sky Film Festivals.

Gaining total access to a juvenile detention center, the director collects truthful, heartbreaking and shocking revelations from the incarcerated girls, as they wait for their sentences. Their crimes vary from theft to drug smuggling and murder, most of them related to a close relative, such as brothers, mothers and fathers.

Throughout the investigative, inclusive narrative, the audience becomes attached to the girls and their dramas, loneliness, hopelessness and depression. They fear the future, the inclinations to suicide and violence, society, the system, and most terrifying, they fear the contact with family again, as it means suffering and abuse.

At random moments, one by one, come to a private room, and facing the camera, they reveal their humiliating past and what led them to commit the crimes: after enduring brutal beatings and negligence from the authorities (“he is your father, you must have done something really terrible to get beat up, there’s nothing we can do”), watching their mothers falling apart, they turned to drastic measures, becoming murderers.

Oskouei does not justify their crimes or absorbs them; instead of judging them, he only collects the information, their reasons and perspectives on the subject of domestic violence in Iran, painting a relevant, humane and precise canvas of women forced into violent acts in order to defend and protect their lives.

Intimate and revealing, sometimes hard to digest (due to the proportion of their traumas), it’s a highly dramatic and provocative humanitarian testament.

(A Cinema Guild Release. Screens August 5-30 as part of the Retrospective Bound Unbound: Four by Mehrdad Oskouei at Museum of the Moving Image’s Virtual Cinema. Go to http://www.movingimage.us/programs/2020/08/05/detail/bound-unbound-four-by-mehrdad-oskouei/ for details.)


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