Dir.: Soheil Beiraghi; Cast: Baran Kosari, Amir Jadidi, Sahar Dowlatshahi, Leili Rashidi, Hoda Zeinolabedin, Abbas Moosavi; Iran 2018, 88 min.
Best known for her debut feature Me, Soheil Beiraghi’s second film is based on real events: in Iran, a husband has the legal right to stop his wife from travelling abroad. And this is the case no matter how high profile or successful the woman becomes. At least eight prominent female athletes have fallen foul of this law – not to mention the countless numbers of ordinary women.
Permission plays out like a thriller Beiraghi setting the tone from the opening scenes. The supervisor reminds the national team members about the zero tolerance policy on exposure of female hair or skin – they will be banned if they break this rule. After winning the final qualifier for the finals, the captain of the Iranian Women’s Futsal (indoor football) team, Afrooz (Kosari), joins the players at the airport for the flight to Kuala Lumpur, only to discover she has been grounded: her husband Yaser (Jadidi), a TV presenter, has invoked the law to stop her from travelling. The couple are separated, the relationship irreparable.
Together with her best friend and co-player Masi (Zeinolabedin), Afrooz discusses a strategy to convince her ex to change his mind. This seems to have worked: the suave, reptilian Yaser has signed a document permitting his wife to travel – but in exchange she must give up her half her divorce settlement. Then outside the court, he rips the document to shreds forcing Afrooz to seek help from a feminist lawyer Pantea Aledavood (Rashidi). They argue with Yaser in front of an (unseen) judge, but Yaser is adamant: he simply wants to destroy his wife.
Mostly shot during the hours of darkness Permission sees Afrooz and Masi drive around, hotly pursued through the streets by the angry Yaser: a nightmare of medieval proportions set in the present. For Afrooz the car becomes her home – quite literally, after Yaser throws her belongings out of her flat, changing the locks. She is reduced to an animal in fear of its life. Beiraghi avoids a happy-ending, staying with what is the reality of a society where women are owned by their husbands. Kosari (now blacklisted by Iranian State TV) is brilliant. And there have been few more unlikable villains than Amir Jadidi’s slimy, whining creature who turns into a despicable bully when cornered by his wife.
When Permission opened in cinemas across Iran, Hozeh Honari, a large cultural institution affiliated with the Islamic Propaganda organisation, boycotted the feature. It was not shown in any of Hozeh’s 100-branch cinema chain. And the Iranian State TV, controlled by hard-liners, did not broadcast the trailer. The only consolation for the filmmakers is that the film has gone viral on social media, and has now become a protest watch for vast number of Iranians, and not just women. AS
ON RELEASE AT SELECTED ARTHOUSE CINEMAS | 22 November 2019