In this series of articles, I’ll be posting reviews that have recently resurfaced. A number of the reviews I wrote in the past I thought had been lost to time, but after coming to a realization that they might still exist on the Wayback Machine, I was able to relocate many of them. I believe there are still some that are lost and they may be lost in perpetuity, but I will periodically search for that data or re-write those reviews that I have never found or which I never wrote to begin with.
For now, this series will be extensive with over 300 regular (400+ words), short (400- words), and quickie (1 to 2 paragraphs) reviews. I will attempt to combine them as best as I can. Reviews written in early 1998 or earlier, no date of creation exists. I will post the original writing date where known, otherwise the date will be listed as “unknown.” These reviews were written between the date of my site’s founding in 1996 through much of 2002. It was only after this period that I settled on the standard format and length of reviews as well as posting each one to its own individual page, which is why the old data was ultimately lost.
All but the review content has been replaced to match my current formatting guidelines, which are a bit more thorough than they might have been in those early days. Please note that I am attempting to retain as much of the original editing integrity as possible, so spelling and/or grammar errors may still be present. This may also mean that some factual data is not there as IMDb was not as ubiquitous as it is now. So, let’s get on to today’s review.
The Day I Became a Woman
Marzieh Makhmalbaf, Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Fatemeh Cherag Akhar, Hassan Nebhan, Shahr Banou Sisizadeh, Ameneh Passand, Shabnam Tolouei, Sirous Kahvarinegad, Mahram Zeinal Zadeh, Norieh Mahigiran, Azizeh Sedighi, Badr Iravani
In every life there is story. Each story is different. There are stories that ask to be told; there are stories that need to be told; and there are stories that shouldn’t be told. “The Day I Became a Woman” is a story that asks to be told, but shouldn’t have been.
The film is a trilogy of works. The stories themselves follow a child, maiden and crone motif. The first story is of the child. Hava (Fatemeh Cherag Akhar) is turning nine and for her culture, the age is a right of passage from childhood to womanhood. Her grandmother (Ameneh Passand) forbids her to play with Hassan (Hassan Nebhan), a young boy from the neighborhood. She doesn’t know the difference between play and adulthood and is forced to give up her childhood to soon.
Born at noon, her grandmother agrees to allow her to go play until the shadow of a stick in the ground is gone when she must return home to begin her life as a woman. Her playtime is fraught with frivolous pursuits…a reckless abandonment of tradition…youth.
The next story is that of the maiden. Ahoo (Shabnam Toloui) is a young woman who rides bicycles. Her husband (Sirous Kahvarinegad) disagrees and arrives on horseback to demand she get off the bike and come home to be with him. He tries many time to force her home, but each time, she continues riding in a bicycle race with other women of her nationality. In defiance, she stays on the road, taking her own womanhood into her own hands, allowing herself to take responsibility for herself, even when her society is certain she’s wrong.
The final story is that of the crone, Hoora (Azizeh Sedighi), who has come to the big city to buy things she’s always dreamed of. With pieces of cloth tied around her fingers to help her remember what to buy, she is escorted by wheelchair around the city by a young boy (Badr Iravani). After a life being controlled and not being able to make her own decisions, Hoora takes back her feminine essence and lives life for herself.
“The Day I Became a Woman” could easily be the story of the same woman, even if they didn’t share a name. The problem is that it isn’t the same woman and it’s not the same story. Each makes the transformation into a woman on their days. While Hava’s story is quite literal, Ahoo and Hoora’s stories are quite figurative. The latter stories revolve around the women taking control of their own destiny, regardless of what may befall.
The story is interesting, when you look at its as a metaphor. The problem is that the film’s poor craftsmanship including horribly faux sound effects and uniform acting don’t lend themselves to the art form. Perhaps that helps the film reach a more sophisticated audience. It also benefits from being filmed in a foreign language.
All that aside, “The Day I Became a Woman” doesn’t really capture the imagination at the end. The film tries very hard to make a statement, but its inability to solidify the basic filmic elements make it weak and irresponsible, even if it is thought provoking.
Little seen and little known, “The Day I Became a Woman” has little chance.
September 23, 2001