Divorce Iranian Style/Runaway (4 stars)

Divorce Iranian Style/Runaway

(E) 76min/85min (Second Run DVD retail)


DVD set featuring two films by Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini. Longinotto is a documentarist, often co-directing with someone from the country in which she’s filming, who explores the nature of power in a loosely observational style. (Though Divorce Iranian Style uses voiceover). In her relatively recent films – Sisters in Law, A Day I Will Never Forget and these two documentaries, she shows power not as a blunt, patriarchal tool, though this is often how it has been practised in the countries in which her films are set (Kenya, Cameroon, Iran), but as a mode of negotiation.

Frequently she shows men who assume rights over women having that assumption questioned, and there are great scenes here where a woman’s negotiating skills win out; or scenes where men find themselves taking positions more complex than we might expect. In one moment in Runaway a brother and father are taken to task by the woman in charge of a woman’s refuge for the way they have treated their daughter. In Divorce Iranian Style, a judge proves less hard-line than perplexed by the intricacies of certain cases. Longinotto may not always live up to her own dictum for documentary. ‘You’re on an emotional journey and nothing is coming between you and what you are seeing’ she once proposed in Vertigo magazine. But this is still fine, sensitive filmmaking. Extras include an interview with Longinotto, and a pamphlet where Mark Cousins interestingly invokes German philosopher Jürgen Habermas in relation to her work.

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