03 Jan 2022
HKAFF 2021 Young Jury Reviews (III)

HKAFF 2021 Young Jury Reviews (III)

Ballad of a White Cow

Ballad of a White Cow. The story of a White Cow, but not a literal white cow.

Written by: Jasmine Choy


“When Moses said to his people, “Indeed, Allah commands you to slaughter a cow.” They said, “Do you take us in ridicule?” He said, “I seek refuge in Allah from being among the ignorant?”

Quoted from Al-Baqara, a Surah in the Quran, also translated as The Cow, shown right at the beginning. In Quran, people see cows as the 'source of sustenance'. In the film, ‘cow’ refers to Mina’s husband, the main source of income in the family. However, I find the two usages of ‘cow’ quite different. In the Quran, slaughtering the cow is an act of breaking the belief of worshipping cows instead of worshipping God. The cow is like a distraction from their way of worshipping God.

Yet, the director referred to ‘cow’ as innocence. I don’t quite see the similarity between the two. Another verse in the same Surah, “And when you slew a man and disputed over it, but Allah was to bring out that which you were concealing.”, describes the plot more accurately. Reza says that he wasn’t there during the first trial and didn’t listen to the witness’ testimony. He is trying to pass the buck to the other judges, yet the verdict was unanimously decided by them.

Undoubtedly they share the same responsibility. Mina blames the judges for her misfortune, but is it their absolute fault to kill an innocent man? I was actually pitying Reza near the end of the movie. Is he really the source of evilness? Or is the villain the legal system? The movie leaves a question mark and gives us food for thought. I noticed the characters in the movie explain everything in God’s name; whether it is Mina's misfortune or the judges' misjudgement, they all say it’s God’s arrangement. In this way, they never face the problems and never step out to make a change. That brings me to my next point, but beware of spoilers!

The movie ends with two versions. We first see Mina poisoning Reza with a glass of milk. Then we see Reza soundly sitting in the dining room while Mina leaves his house with her daughter. Either version is, after all, a punishment to Reza, either physical or psychological--he will never be free from the guilt of killing an innocent man. In a way, the latter ending is a more persistent punishment. I like how the director handled the ending, giving Mina a chance not to be passive and fight back.

I enjoyed watching this film, and I think the plot is quite gripping. I liked how the set creates layering and how the cinematography makes good use of it. Though I interpreted the symbols with reference to the Quran, I think there is much room for imagination. Ballad of a White Cow is a movie that discusses social issues and entertains you at the same time—quite a worth-watching one.