Films: Four Wives—One Man

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Four Wives—One Man  {Fyra Fruar Och En Man}

Four Wives—One Man
Fyra Fruar Och En Man

Iran, 2007, 76 Minute Running Time
Additional Countries: Sweden
Genre/Subjects: Foreign, Womens Issues
Program: Documentary Films
Language: Persian English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Nahid Persson
Producer: Setareh Persson
Editor: Bernhard Winkler, Nahid Persson
Screenwriter: Nahid Persson
Cinematographer: Setareh Persson
Principal Cast: Farang, Goli, Shahpar, Ziba, Heda, Golshah

Though polygamy is sanctioned by the Koran, only 14 percent of rural Iranians engage in its practice. With this documentary, Nahid Persson, the award-winning director of Prostitution Behind the Veil, paints a vivid portrait of one family who does. Set against an arid, glaring landscape, the story of its members’ lives alternates between peace and chaos, humor and heartbreak, family picnics and literal food fights. The patriarch, Heda, has taken four wives and produced twenty children. Even as Farang, Goli, Shahpar, and Ziba herd sheep, weave carpets, bake bread, and tend to their brood, they find themselves wrangling in bitter rivalry or conspiring in solidarity. Hurried whispers about who’s sleeping with Heda, who’s being beaten, and who works the hardest are counterbalanced with mutual acts of kindness and compassion—as when second wife Goli gives her newborn baby to Ziba, the barren fourth wife. Comic relief comes in lewd outbursts from the women’s ancient, cantankerous mother-in-law, who jokes harshly about her son’s sexual appetites. But the old woman is no less sure to defend him fiercely against the wives’ complaints about their lot—even amid rumors that Heda plans to take a fifth wife, namely a young virgin who doesn’t talk back.

Persson, who shot this Swedish-Iranian coproduction over the course of three years, is careful to avoid both the sensational and the sentimental as she charts territory utterly foreign, yet ultimately knowable, to Western audiences.

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