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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Review - Paradise (Ma Dar Behisht)

Director: Sina Ataeian Dena – Iran, Germany

Hanieh is torn between her private and professional life. The young teacher lives with her sister's family in a liberal district of Teheran commuting to the outskirts of town where she has found work in a girls' school. She is caught in an atmosphere of military discipline with schoolchildren lining up for roll call every morning singing praise to Allah on the top of their voices. Playing ball games on the school grounds is forbidden according to the restrictive interpretation of the religious law. It is not only the wearing of the hijab that is depressive for her but also the cool and violent behavior of the strict school mistress with a face like an unmoving mask. Added to the constant feeling of violence is the mysterious disappearance of two school girls. Nobody knows what has happened to them.

Sadly, Hanieh's only highlight of the day is a secret drag on her cigarette whilst sitting on the toilet seat. Even the short phone calls to her boyfriend seem gloomy. Her application for transfer to another school gets shifted from one desk to the next, a torture with little hope of success. It is no wonder that there are long scenes when we see Hanieh staring out of the window or riding home on the bus with a sullen look on her face. She seems to be sleepwalking through her days.

For the producers Yusuf Panahi and Amir Hamz the film represents a collaboration of upcoming young Iranian artists wanting to give a true and almost documentary look into the daily life of women, showing a part of today's Iran. Paradise was made under difficult circumstances without official approval. This was the closing film at the Filmfest Hamburg after the premiere at the Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland, in August 2015. (Birgit S.)

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