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July 19, 2012

Facing Mirrors

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Aynehaye Rooberoo
Negar Azarbayjani - 2011

Even though Facing Mirrors has been getting most of its stateside expose through GLBT film festivals, Negar Azarbayjani is as must concerned with questions about gender roles as well as gender. While some aspects are also specific to Iran, there is more than enough to keep the film from being culturally specific. This may help explain why the film has gained not only significant festival exposure but also various awards, with special notice for actress Shayesteh Irani.

The film is about the friendship that develops between two women who are bonded by the untraditional choices they make for their lives. Rana's husband is imprisoned due to a bad business deal that left him legally responsible for some bad debts. Rana drives a cab, an occupation that while not illegal, is something she keeps secret from her husband who believes Rana is working the more traditional work of helping tailor wedding gowns. Adineh would rather be known as Eddie. With close cropped hair and a boyish appearance, her goal is to transition to male, a goal impeded by her traditionalist father who believes that marriage will cure his daughter of any confusion.

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Eddie's situation may be the more dramatic, but what Azarbayjan has in mind are multiple questions, about the meaning of romantic love, the meaning and expression of parental love, and how to live when you can not fit into the expectations or demands of society at large. At one point, Rana sees her young son, four years old, running about with a scarf over his head. She's horrified that he is exhibiting what would be considered feminine behavior. She immediately chastises the boy, causing him to cry. Rana wants her son to grow up to be an ideal male, but also confronts the idea that children do not always grow to fulfill the dreams of their parents.

While there are a couple of mirror shots of Rana and Eddie, and while the thrust of the film is about these two women facing truths about themselves, it is also about the other people in their lives also facing themselves honestly. While Shayesteh Irani has received notice for her performance as Eddie, Qazal Shakeri more than holds her own as Rana, the woman with an untraditional job who has to look beyond other cultural traditions. The film is the debut feature for Negar Azarbayjani who also cowrote the screenplay. That this is also the first Iranian film with a transgender person as one of the main characters is even more remarkable considering the difficulties many Iranian filmmakers are currently facing.

To the best of my knowledge, Facing Mirrors can only be seen at screenings at various film festivals at this time.

Facing Mirrors is presented on July 21 by the Denver Film Society's Cinema Q Film Festival.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 19, 2012 08:35 AM