Western Washington University’s Reel World Film Series kicked off it’s spring lineup Wednesday, April 8, at the Viking Union with a screening of Iranian artist Shiran Neshat’s feature film debut, “Women Without Men.”
The historical drama is a story about four women’s intertwining paths during the chaotic days of Iran’s 1953 U.S.-backed coup d’etat and is based off of a novel of the same name by Shahrnush Parsipur.
“Women Without Men” touches on issues of gender roles, female independence, politics, sexuality, religion and freedom. It uses surrealist imagery of water and trees as well as graphic scenes of violence and conflict to help viewers get in touch with the characters and experiences they went through during the tumultuous times of Iran’s 1953 coup.
The centerpiece of the story is a gated orchard on the outskirts of Tehran where all four women eventually end up through various means. The orchard plays the role of a rural sanctuary amid the chaos of the city which helps the women find their own unique notions of freedom, but that is ultimately unable to remain peaceful under the tremendous weight of all the events taking place around it.
Due to it’s political nature, the film is banned in Iran and has been nominated for and won numerous awards. It won best cinematography and production design at the Austrian Film Award in 2011 and best foreign film by or about women at the Women Film Critics Circle awards in 2010.
Western freshman Lydia Lee said “I’ve never really seen anything like it before. I wasn’t really expecting it to be that powerful. It was very emotional too, even not being involved in that culture.”
Lydia also said that she hopes to attend more Reel World film screenings after seeing how much her perspective was opened and that she was disappointed more students did not show up.
The Reel World Film Series is in its first year and is a monthly event held by the Western Center for International Studies. The series’ mission statement is “to raise awareness about other cultures and about global issues,” according to their website.
Vicki Hamblin, executive director of the Center for International Studies, said Reel World chooses from submissions by faculty members and student groups that bring unique points of view from outside the United States that American Students may not typically hear.
“All the films that we choose tend to be films have something that may be surprising to U.S. audiences and that will increase their knowledge base and help them empathize with other cultures and help them see other perspectives as opposed to just U.S. perspectives, especially in cinema,” Hamblin said.
“Women Without Men” was submitted for Reel World by Western art professor Pierre Gour, who chose the piece due to it’s ability to show a perspective on Iran that is rarely seen due its strained relationship with the U.S.
“This is certainly an introduction to another culture,” Gour said. “The more you know about another country, the less intimidating it is. So what I think is important, especially with Sharin Neshad, is introducing us to completely different Iran that I wasn’t aware of.”
The Reel World Film Series’ next installment will take place at 7 p.m.Wednesday, May 6, at Old Main Theatre. The featured film is “Remote Control,” a piece by Mongolian director Byamba Sakhya.
Remote Control tells the tale of Tsogoo, a rural teenage runaway who becomes infatuated with the female resident of skyscraper penthouse.
As with all Reel World Film Series screenings, “Remote Control” has free admission and is open to anyone in the Bellingham community, not just Western Students. For more information visit http://international.wwu.edu/reelworld/.