Friday, November 18, 2011

Dog Sweat

Screen play by Maryam Azadi

In the opening scene, a few young boys are having a casual party, drinking and debating the quality of Johnny Walker Red vs. Black or Gold label while what they have access to is only a poor local vodka commonly referred to as dog sweat.
The boys’ party breaks up when one of them is called by his uncle to rush to the hospital to attend his mother who had been hit by a car on a bridge. He leaves the three other to weave the tapestry of Iranian youth and their problem for us.
The next scene is of their female counterparts. The girls, who will later each become connected to these boys, are preparing themselves for a party, putting make up on each other, having short chats about the boys, dropping remarks and even flirting with each other. And then we met all the characters of the film in a loud mixed party just for a second or so which ends quickly with a sombre, slower life.
The complex of the youths’ relationships with each other, with their preceding generation, with society’s normal and abnormal is portrayed and narrated freely by the youths themselves. Simple friendship, the cornerstone of Iranian society and culture, developed into incongruous phenomena. Sexuality emerged even more confusing without proper rules of conducts. Giving in to the expectations or following one’s will and ideas leads to indecision.  Finally, fitting into society and letting one’s identity be shaped by it or changing it to one’s desires, or simply letting go of both and submitting to whatever goes glues all these confusions together in a thematic series short episodes. 
The setting is the streets or parks of Tehran, dotted with only few scenes inside which we meet a pair of the opposite sex. Though the film gives us a chance to visit Tehran with all its noise and contradictions, it seems that the outdoor life has also been selected quite purposefully for this film, where the private and inner side of youth are closed to us as well as to themselves.
Not long into the film, I felt that I had an urge to scream, “Say something for God’s sake!” when immediately the facial expression of an actress shuts me up, saying, “What is there to say. Don’t you see?”
No, I don’t see if there is no talk, no laughter, no crying, no discussions, no debates, no complaints, no questions, no answers, not a single complex sentence. But why?
“We are in strange land my dears, where language has gone through a massive transformation.  Language as the medium for communication has lost its function where communication has lost its place in the society and culture, where the efforts are made to hide rather than reveal, where one must divert rather than to direct, where one has to misguide rather than to guide; then words are better forgotten if one has to lie,” I’m whispering to myself.
Lips do not kiss, hands do not touch, gazes are afraid to connect. It is not restraint but hiding. There is no need for censorship since there is not even any desire for of any sort expression. There is still an outcry for an “empty nest,” an empty room, a dangling key to an empty apartment. It seems that finding “that key” is the ultimate goal, though I’m not so sure that there is anything but darkness behind the closed door. Even passion is absent …
‌But little by little, I learn to hear them. I learn their language. It is very simple, their facial expressions, sweet faces with bitter and sad expressions, tell us of boredom, aimlessness, hopelessness, very gently and good-naturedly.  But beneath those bitter expressions on those faces, those cold faces, those deadly silences, one can see the residue of some drive, of some hope and some faint and colorless shadow of something that might once have been a dream or fantasy. 
They narrate their own story, as if the film were a documentary and had been made spontaneously, with actors and actresses, without script, on stage thriving to tell their stories. It seems they have something to say only if they find someone to listen, if they feel safe, if they find privacy, if they know how.
The story is also about a lonely generation which has to live an unexamined life, a life without serious challenge, without tough critics, without interaction and even without a given, the clash between two generations. A tale of living in two worlds with no connection in between, the worlds of young and old, public and private, openness and dead tradition. The story of a generation which is even deprived of the unity that should exist naturally within the family. It seems that this dual existence has crept under the skin of life permanently and has given each a double self.
Sexuality is confusing, as is expected, though there are not only heterosexual relations but gay and lesbian ones. It seems it is the main preoccupation of our young generation, torn between tradition, the mainstream, avant-garde fads or even sometimes biological needs. Gay couples that do not even dare to admit it to themselves, naively thinking that they can have it both ways, a heterosexual marriage and a supplement of homosexual relationships in the guise of a regular one. Confused, wondering why it fails...
Tradition and modernism clash with each other quite often and the youngsters, as well as parents and older generation, learned to get around it or pass by it without being affected by it or even without trying to get their point across. No, we do not hear the cliché of my generation, “You don’t understand me.” They simply assume the barrier is impassable. They are resigned to it.
And yes, resignation! It comes in all forms and shapes. A gay couple finds no other way but to give in to their parents’ demand for a conventional marriage. To make her mother happy, a girl consents to marry a gay man and give up her dream to become a pop singer, only to find out shortly after that she had made a mistake;  her mother’s real happiness lies in the tomb of a martyred imam in Najaf. 
Disillusions, failures, and disappointments all come one by one as one may expect. Kathy, our lost soul, separates from a lover, her cousin’s husband, and does not know what to do with the proposal of an admirer who appeals as a last resort to attract her “an apartment in Dubai and a car there waiting to make her happy.” This is tempting enough to drag her out bed to move out of the house let herself be picked up by the third or fourth car that stops by, “Hey! Let’s have a little fun!” Her smirk betrays her. She does not believe in having fun either, but she sits in the back seat impassively.  In a car behind her, the boy is watching her wondering if she didn’t care for the “apartment in Dubai and a car waiting” or she didn’t believe it.
And, yes, parents, the generation that in their youth witnessed all their values and learning turned into nothingness over night, are not even prepared to face the kind of problem their children may face, leave alone know how to deal with it:
A mother notices his son is gay and suffering in his new role as a married man and she cries!!
Another finds a condom in her daughters room, slaps her on the face and locks her in.
A religious mother does not know what to do with her daughter who sings underground and pushes her to marry the first suitor who comes along.
And where are the fathers? All absent. One is making money somewhere. The rest are dead, or martyred.
Even death seems incapable of bridging the gaps between these two worlds. Upon the mother’s death in the hospital, our young character, torn between the mother’s siblings, pushes him for revenge and the guilty driver and his wife beg his forgiveness. He turns away to free himself from the burden of executing this justice. “What is my right? Who has any rights in this country?” In pain and agony, in need of love and support, he is offered only the opportunity to revenge. He submits to it, thought, avenging himself. He gets into arguments with three Basijis in an isolated place in the middle of a dark night and gets killed.
Yes the movie moves quickly from one episode to another just to hastily depict the scenes of loneliness, despair, resignation, and hopelessness. It is indeed gloomy and dark, the life of generation of victims whose name we never learn.
But all through they all remain good-natured kids who simply want to live, just simple living, the only thing they do not have a right to.
Mariam Azadi and Hussein Keshavarz did marvels in this film. They both took us into the heart of young Iranian society.  I assume their personality, their passion for their profession, and their dedication has contributed to the actors and actresses in this film offering their best. Not only have they provided a safe and private place for them to narrate their story, but they carried it safe and sound to us in this part of the world to listen to their outcry. Indeed, their story came right across and sat in our heart.  So many thanks to them both for the wonderful job they did.

1 comment:

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