Paradise

Paradise poster

Paradise movie poster

Following the striking and already cult vampire western A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, here comes another promising debut featuring a young Iranian woman as its center character.

Shot guerilla-style in Tehran, Paradise follows Hanieh (Dorna Dibaj), a 25-year old schoolteacher who tries to be transferred to a school closer to her home.  Whether she deals with frustrating bureaucracy, travels a long way to school or teaches, she looks detached and prisoner of a tedious life. Several sequences aim at emphasizing this feeling: In one scene we see her stuck in an elevator, in another one a bird gets trapped inside, without even mentioning a fishbowl and a soccer ball that keeps falling from outside on the school’s playground.  What writer/director Sina Ataeian Dena is doing here is pretty clear, as he uses these moments not only as metaphors for Hanieh’s feelings, but also for Iranian women in general. Despite being a man, the filmmaker does a great job at showing us how women there can feel trapped, whether it’s by religion and government rules or a male-centric society.

Paradise also tells us that women are not allowed to have fun and should hide to enjoy themselves. For example, Hanieh finds escapism when going to the park in regular clothes to smoke a cigarette while her students sing pop songs in the school bus– in A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night the main protagonist also used music to escape her world. Similarly schoolgirls get constantly scolded, especially when playing with the soccer ball, another fun symbol of the outside world.

Mr. Dena doesn’t stop his critique of Iranian society there, a constant menace lurking in the background. Not only have several schoolgirls disappeared on their way to schools but Hanieh also has a stalker who follows her everywhere. Once again, the filmmaker is making multi-level metaphors: the most obvious one is that being a woman in Iran can be dangerous while, underneath, he is implying that the Iranian society doesn’t want women to get education.

While the script is undoubtedly strong and subtle, it is also supported by a beautiful cinematography and a sober, naturalistic direction, which makes Paradise an even greater achievement, since it was shot guerilla-style with a mostly non-professional cast.

Director: Sina Ataeian Dena – Actors: Dorna Dibaj, Reyhan Bokaie – Running Time: 1:40 – Year: 2015 – Country: Iran
Click here to watch the Paradise trailer
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Fred Thom

Fred Thom

Editor-in-Chief/Founder/Film Critic at Plume Noire
The founder and editor-in-chief of Plume Noire, Fred Thom covers film festivals and writes movie reviews. He was born in Marseilles, France and is now living in Los Angeles, California.