CamdenNewJournal

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A good point well made in Permission

21 November, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Baran Kosari in Permission

PERMISSION
Directed by Soheil Beiraghi
Certificate 12a
☆☆☆☆

CAN you imagine having your movements dictated by someone else? Another person claiming unilateral control over what you do, and when you do it?

This is a daily reality for women in Iran – and the simple question as to how it must feel to have your basic freedoms curtailed, for no other reason than the odd evolution of tradition in the country, is at the heart of this superb drama based on real events.

Afrooz (Baran Kosari) is the captain and centre forward of the Iranian national women’s futsal team. She has played the game for 11 years and the side have been building up momentum. They have the chance to win a major title, and enjoy the fruits of their hard work in a country where women’s sporting achievements are tempered by the despicable attitude towards what women should and should not do.

But the excitement generated by their qualification is wiped out when Afrooz gets to the departure gates at Tehran airport: an official checking passports tells her she has not got the permission of her husband to leave the country, so will not be allowed to head to the Asia Cup finals in Malaysia.

Her husband is a popular religious talk show host, Yaser (Amir Jadidi), who she is estranged from – and he holds the key to her being able to play futsal.

It sets off round after round of Afrooz trying to solve a situation, that when considered in the cold light of day, is of course ridiculous – but how do you argue a rock solid case against a society riddled with contradictions, built on inequality and sexism, and a fracture between private lives and modernity and public lives and traditions?

Yaser’s motives are also considered, through the desperation caused by his behaviour.

As Afrooz tries to negotiate her way through the legal issues she faces, Yaser’s true frustrations emerge: he is angry that instead of playing the role of the dutiful housewife, she has discovered her talent in the field of competitive sport – and in a sport that is considered globally to really be the preserve of men.

That she is friendly with a fellow football player, who has moved in with her, adds a layer of jealousy and intrigue – and in Yaser’s mind is another sign of how his wife has “fallen”. Director Beiraghi says he was inspired by true events: “It is a well known fact that many women, athletes or artists, cannot leave the country because they do not have their husband’s permission.

“One of them was the captain of the national futsal team – everybody has heard her story in Iran, but the law is the law and many women do not know about it. I wanted to talk about this law and about women’s rights through a story that was accessible to all.”

Moments are telling: we meet the team as they are about to qualify to play in the Asia Cup finals – and their coach begins their team talk by telling them not a scrap of flesh or a wisp of hair must be seen under their futsal kits and hijab. It reveals the sort of conditions these athletes are expected to perform under, and puts the astonishing notion that Afrooz could be banned from travelling with her teammates into context.

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