Under Her Eye review: Ten

Read the shortlisted Under Her Eye reviews then vote for your favourite.

As part of Stylist’s Under Her Eye initiative, we’re on the hunt for three new female film critics. We asked aspiring reviewers to send in a 450-word review of their favourite film – and after an overwhelming response, we’ve whittled it down to a shortlist of 20. 

Read one woman’s review of Ten below and click here to see the other entries and vote for your favourite.

2018 has brought us the fall of Harvey Weinstein, the unprecedented success of the MeToo movement; we’ve even seen Nike launch the Nike Pro-Hijab, yet Iran still plagues the news over its failure to grant women the right to choose whether to wear one. It’s hard to separate the political struggle faced by Iranian women from my memories of Abbas Kiarostami’s groundbreaking film Ten, which taught me more about women’s position in Iran than years of trawling through the BBC news. Ten illustrates the sociopolitical landscape of Iran in the early 2000s through Kiarostami’s poetic vision, oscillating between documentary and fiction.

You may ask why a film that was originally shot in 2002 by a director you may not have heard of deserves a retrospective in 2018, a year that has provided us with a vast array of diverse new stories. Yet Kiarostami timelessly touches upon women’s inferior position in both the domestic sphere and the political through the consciously clever dialogue of a woman and her customers. He continually defies both gender and cultural roles, subverting the masculine role of the taxi driver through the subtly anarchic image of the female driver, played by Mania Akbari. The film becomes a mosaic of the complex female role in Iranian society, which has given me a unique and intimate insight into the modern Iranian women.

In a recent report by Amnesty International, Iranian women have faced “discrimination in law and practice, including in access to divorce, employment, equal inheritance and political office”, areas in which Kiarostami draws light on with poignancy and sensitivity. Using the familiar argument between mother and son, he discusses crucial aspects of Iranian marriage legislature; her son failing to forgive her for lying about his father’s drug addiction in order to file for divorce. Her son’s imposing voice becomes a looming echo of male authority that still dictates the country today; the disembodied female voice characteristic of Kirostami’s picture of the female experience in Iran.

Mania Akbari, whose career serves as a map of feminist film in Iran, commands the camera with a sense of wry comedy in her social commentary, an element that is lost in Western perceptions of Iranian women. Stripped of emotive editing, the film reveals a series of profoundly private moments between a woman and her subject which provides a fascinating snapshot of Iranian culture. The relative technical simplicity of the film juxtaposes perfectly the great complexity of the political climate in Iran, and sets the film apart as one of the most nuanced political commentaries of the decade. Whilst the film was originally banned in his country, Kiarostami lives on culturally and politically, reshaping how I, and many others, view Iran.

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