Saturday, June 30, 2012

Facing Mirrors • Aynehaye Rooberoo • آینه های روبرو

Facing Mirrors (Aynehaye Rooberoo • آینه های روبرو), dir. Negar Azarbayjani, 2011, Iran, 102 min., in Farsi with English subtitles,  [trailer]
Monday 6/18, 6:30 @ Castro, MIRR18C
Adineh/Eddie (Shayesteh Irani • شایسته ایرانی)
and Rana (Qazal Shakeri) in Facing Mirrors
(Aynehaye Rooberoo • آینه های روبرو)
Tuesday 6/19, 9:30 @ Elmwood (Berkeley), MIRR19E

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a study in contradictions. On the one hand, it is among the most barbarically repressive nations in modern history in regard to homosexuality, sentencing men to horrific torture executions for nothing more than the “crime” of loving another human being. At the same time, Iran is in some ways among the most progressive nations in its treatment of transsexuals. Shortly after the 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a ruling that changing one’s sex was acceptable under Islamic law, and the government now offers financial assistance for the transition. (Sadly, many gay men have been coerced to pretend to be heterosexual transwomen in order to escape persecution.)

It is against this backdrop that we meet a woman named Adineh who is in his heart a man named Eddie. Adineh is trying to get a passport to travel to Germany for gender reassignment surgery, not because it’s impossible to get the surgery in Tehran, but because his father is trying to marry him off to put an end to what he views as shame brought upon the family. Fleeing from a pack of goons his father sent to kidnap him, Eddie flags down a gypsy cab driven by Rana, a woman whose husband’s imprisonment has forced her to provide for herself and her son. In keeping with social and religious customs, Rana accepts only female passengers, so Adineh dons her chador and they head off. After an awkward incident involving the restrooms at a roadside rest stop, Eddie tries to explain that he is really trans, but Rana is overwhelmed; in a panic, she drives into the path of a bus. Eddie stays to help Rana return home to recuperate, in the process hiding where his father would least expect, right back in Tehran. To their own surprise, Eddie and Rana find a real bond between them, as each tries to navigate the narrow path their society allows them.

Shayesteh Irani, who was in the banned 2006 film Offside as a female fan of men’s soccer, brings Eddie and Adineh both to life, interweaving the two aspects of the character with sure-footed grace. Qazal Shakeri came to the project as a costume designer, but found her true calling playing Rana, a woman who is rooted in conservative religious values but who has a core of inner strength and conviction equal to a bra-burning feminist. Above all, Eddie and Rana never lose sight of their humanity. Facing Mirrors is the first Iranian film ever with a transgender protagonist, but even apart from that worthy achievement, it is a fine film in its own right, with skillfully drawn characters and an engaging story. Unquestionably a Must-See film for all audiences.

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