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14 May 1994

Zinat
Critics Week

Iran,Ebrahim Mokhtari

Ebrahim Mokhtari is one of Iran’s more controversial directors, handling potentially stereotypical subjects with restraint and insight. In Zinat, he deals with several pressing questions at once- health care for Iran’s urban population, the place of women inn society and the related issue of utilising the country’s full human potential by allowing women to work. In view of Iran’s stringent Islamic traditions, these issues are now highly politically charged, but Mokhtari has chosen to treat them in human terms.

 The issues are explored through the main character, Zinat, a young woman who works in a health center and is about to be married. In fundamentalist Islamic Iran, this implicitly - but absolutely- means she will give up her job to dedicate herself to her husband, his family and eventually to their children.

 Zinat is determined to continue working-not so much through desire to build a career as through dedication to her patients and to their overwhelming need for health care and education.

 Mokhtari is painfully aware that centuries-old traditions are both the glue holding this society together and the barrier keeping them from benefiting from even the most rudimentary medical advances, such as vaccination for babies, which we see is so new and strange for most people, that many children die of easily preventable diseases because tradition-bound parents refuse it. in her family life, she is in constant and essential opposition to her own family and to her husband because of attitudes and desires that seem incredibly  tame to western eyes.

 Her husband, who appreciates her sensitivity and intelligence, can’t make the step of recognizing her need to use it constructively. For him, “as long as you (persist), you belong to other people, not to your husband.” That she should and must “belong” to her husband is never questioned, either by him-or by her. It is in these unsaid dictums that the full force of age-old attitudes is felt-there cannot be discussion if the basic premise is silent and invisible.

 Zinat’s parents are convinced they are looking after her well-being when they pressure her to conform. Even when her father beats her, it is “for her own good.” Without pointing a finger, or drawing mean or stupid characters, Mokhtari has fashioned a scathing accusation theocratic tyranny-but also of hope and belief in human nature through the courageous and generous character of Zinat.

Bethany Haye



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