One of the great mysteries in the world of movies is how Iran produces so many beautiful films despite the country’s strict censorship. In most countries that censor their film production, this has not been possible.
Indian film student Sreemoyee Singh is exposed to Iranian films in a class, is intrigued, and travels to Iran to learn about the culture that has produced them. She studies the language and falls in love with the works of the feminist poet Forough Farrokhzad. She learns Iranian songs and notices that this country, which does not allow women to publicly perform songs, still wants to hear them sung in women’s voices. The documentary includes interviews with Iranian filmmakers and feminist dissidents. One of the interviewees is Jafar Panahi, a director who was even sentenced to jail for his art, another is Nasrin Sotoudeh, jailed for her human rights advocacy.
The film’s approach to its characters and Iran in general is embracing of life and of coincidences. It emphasises an impression of Iran as a lively, culturally rich country, in which people gather at shopping centres to watch football and women fight for their rights.
Finland and other western nations tend to compare other cultures to their own. And, Towards Happy Alleys is interesting because its perspective for comparison is not western. Sreemoyee Singh is an Indian director, and the film’s cultural dialogue is Indian-Iranian. The film is a poetic and feminist whole, essayistic in nature, and a personal look at Iran and its film culture. It is nevertheless light, lively, and even humouristic.
Juhana Pettersson (translated by Herman Tikkanen)
Director Sreemoyee Singh is present in the screening of her film And, Towards Happy Alleys on Thu, Feb 1.