The Iranian video and photography artist Shirin Neshat has always impressed and moved me. When it comes to visual artists, for me, she’s the bomb, the ultimate genius. She’s been working on the feature film Women Without Men–her first–for seven years. I saw it last night at the Quad Cinema on 13th Street.
The review in the New York Times, which I’m glad I didn’t read beforehand because it gave away so much of the movie, honored the work. Yet the review doesn’t do justice to the film’s power or its bravery. As Neshat said in her introduction last night to the film, so much of Iranian art and literature that reaches the West concerns the aftermath of the Islamic revolution of 1979. That makes Iran seem a static nightmare. Here, Neshat turns to a more dynamic historical turning point that has been relatively ignored: the British and American supported overthrow of the democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh and the reinstallation of the Shah to power.
Neshat’s portrayal of this politically rich time comes from an adaptation of Shahmush Parsipur’s magical realist novel set in 1953 Tehran during the days leading to the military coup. The novel, regarded by many as a masterpiece, allows Neshat’s visual acumen and imagination to shine. Some of the images from the film are stunningly effective. I just hope people see the film.