Very Bard Things

A small, direct, tantalizing documentary, Divorce Iranian Stylechallenges preconceptions about what life is like for women in Iran. The most startling thing about the film is simply that it was made. The filmmakers—Kim Longinotto, who codirected the fabulous Dream Girls, and Ziba Mir-Hosseini, an Iranian anthropologist who is divorced herself—set up their camera in family court and follow the cases of three women who are attempting to divorce their husbands. Although Iranian religious law frowns on divorce, a man is allowed to claim the privilege without needing to show cause, provided he pays his ex-wife compensation. A woman, however, can only sue for divorce if she can prove that her husband is sterile or mad, or if he agrees to let her out of their marriage contract. In the last case, the compensation becomes the bargaining chip: the man will sometimes give his wife her freedom if he doesn't have to pay.

Star-cross'd: Paltrow and Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love
Laurie Sparham
Star-cross'd: Paltrow and Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love

Details

Shakespeare in Love
Directed by John Madden
Written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
A Miramax release
Opens December 11

Divorce Iranian Style
Directed by Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini
At Film Forum
Through December 22

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The women are assertive, demanding, and persistent to a degree that confounds stereotypes of oppression. They challenge the judge, badger the uncooperative clerk for misplaced files, chew out their husbands and their husbands' families. At one point, the judge tells a little girl (the daughter of the court stenographer who has been a fixture in the court from the age of two months) that he has a man picked out for her who's "not like the riffraff that come in here." The girl has a more radical plan: "I won't marry ever, now that I know what husbands are like."

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