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Directed by Azadeh Nikzadeh, this intensely powerful 4-minute film will be circulating among film festivals with its premiere in mid-June.


If you knew nothing about the exploitive practice of sigheh in Iran, the four minutes of Azadeh Nikzadeh's breathtaking film, THE GIRL SITTING HERE, would nevertheless leave you unsettled and distraught. You would feel the anguish of a young woman at the mercy of a man with whom she has made an arrangement from which she cannot disengage. You would be left with that disconcerting sense of familiarity that emerges from our regular exposure to accounts of assaults by powerful men on vulnerable women.

Ms. Nikzadeh, however, is a human rights storyteller and film maker with a deep devotion to exposing the condition of women and children who face systematic social and sexual violence.

In this film, she gives a human face to the adverse consequences of sigheh, a provision in Islamic law that allows for "temporary marriages." While decried by many modern Muslim and Western scholars as null and void, the practice has morphed into a legal loophole for prostitution and sexual exploitation. In effect, it allows men to marry a woman for a pre-determined period of time, have intimate relations with her, and then leave her without consequences.

Bahar (Bahar Beihaghi) is a young woman who has negotiated such a deal with Mr. Payam (Neimah Djourabchi). In exchange for funds to cover the costs of a surgery, Bahar has agreed to a temporary marriage.

From the moment that she arrives to fulfill the "promise," Joel Crane's lens hones in on her face ~ a countenance fraught with fear and anxiety; expressive eyes that signal doubt and shame; nervous hands that seem to reflect her inner struggle with what to do.

When the time comes to consummate the commitment, she relents. She wants to renege but realizes that she is powerless to do so.

Ms. Beihaghi's portrayal of Bahar is striking in both its sustained intensity and power to convey the depth and nuance of her character's emotions and the unbearable weight of Bahar's defeat. It is the perfect contrast to and thus the source of the palpable tension with Mr. Diouabchi's self-assured Payam. Both performances are outstanding and the chemistry between the two is convincing.

Kudos to the director and writer. The combination of Ms. Nikzadeh's keen sense for the use of space and time to convey a message and her profound social consciousness permeates this well-crafted and timely film.

THE GIRL SITTING HERE will be circulating among film festivals with its premiere in mid-June.

Photo credit to Azadeh Nikzadeh

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