HKAFF 2021 Young Critics Reviews (I)
Written by: Brad Doo
The Iranian cinema has always been reiterating common themes throughout its many films. Oppression, injustice and favouritism. The directors of Ballad of the White Cow and its crew made this film hoping that it would be shown in Iran cinemas, but unfortunately due to political reasons, it was forbidden by the committee at first. The film was co-directed by Behtash Sanaeeha, and Maryam Moqadam, who also plays Mina as the film’s main protagonist.
She suffers immeasurable pain when revealed that her husband was wrongly executed. The film tends to focus on the life of Mina after revealing the death of her husband. The one woman’s determination in search for justice for her husband. The actress Maryam Moqadam has presented a character of hopelessness, sorrow, and the pain the character undergoes. Throughout the film and its many scenes, the camera tends to stay immobile.
A technique known as “static shot”. Providing a chance for us to focus on the scene more than ever, with no distractions, no rush. We can fully perceive the specifics of the scene, with clarity and certainty. The purpose of doing so was to emphasize the character’s emotions, the obstacles and the suffering they have undergone, whether it was Mina or her daughter. The director wanted us to pay attention to these vital details.
There are many elements in this film that highlighted and accentuated the normal things we experience in our own life. Such as raising a daughter, paying rent and having an economic struggle. The relation between the film and the society was very much relatable, especially to the ones low in the hierarchy. There are many happenings in the film where we experience it ourselves. We never tell our children that their father is dead, we protect them from the truth by telling another story, a lie. This is the goal of this film, its purpose is to relate to everyone by telling things, happenings that occurred in our life and have impacted us vitally. But most important it is to relate to the Iranian people because that is where the story is happening.
With many long and static shots, these elements made the pace of the film slow. For instance, in the recurring train scene. The mother and daughter were very closely framed. Both directors and their cinematographer Amin Jafari adds emphasis to this special and crucial moment by having a long and uninterrupted medium shot, indicating the hardship of the two and certainly the loneliness of the mother after losing her husband. The “two-shot” creates a visual relationship between the mother and her child. Highlighting the conditions and circumstances of their lives and how the death of one man, a husband, a father has altered their lives in a very negative way. On the road seeking justice for her husband, it was paved with tremendous obstacles. There is little to none that Mina could do. A helpless woman is obligated to take a stand against the supremacy of the government and the court. This again relates to the situation in Iran, that is the truth, the reality.
Reza, one of the judges that mistakenly sentenced Mina’s husband to death. Had helped Mina out of guilt, for mistakenly taking the life of her husband. When Mina learns about this, her anger for Reza’s sins is juxtaposed with the sympathy she had for him. Could she take revenge on the man, who mistakenly killed her husband but had been repaying his debt ever since. In one of the last scenes we see a cut between Reza’s choking after drinking the milk Mina gave him, to Reza not drinking the milk at all. This is a technique
known as “double meaning” as audience, we are unsure whether she is getting revenge or is she thinking about revenge. There is a perception that she does not want to be like Reza and all the judges that led to her husband’s death.
At the beginning of the film, and over the course of the film, there have been many scenes of a white cow standing in an execution area. The cow itself in many religious ceremonies symbolises the victim. And the white colour of the cow serves as pure innocence. The people around the white cow were essentially watching the ceremony being conducted as they killed the cow. The director uses cow as a conceptual part of the film. The cow in numerous religious ceremonies is being sacrificed and is dedicated to god. There are lots
of sacrifices being made in the film, especially about Reza, providing aid to the woman whose life he ruined completely. In the Quran, there is a chapter titled “The Cow”, revealing all the rules of execution, the quote “An eye for an eye” completely supports the fact that no matter whatever one does to redeem oneself, one can never be forgiven.
Written by: Chow Lok-yiu
Written by: Cheung Wing-ki