Women, Life, Freedom: In a Moving Short Film, Roxy Rezvany Zooms In on the Protests in Iran

“The women of Iran, the young people protesting on the street, are saying, ‘We don’t even want reform. We want an end to this dictatorship.’” So declares Iranian-born, New York-based artist Shirin Neshat in Women, Life, Freedom, a new Vogue-commissioned short by Roxy Rezvany, the British Malaysian-Chinese-Iranian filmmaker behind 2018’s “Little Pyongyang.” Conceived against the backdrop of Iran’s roiling protests—which began in September after the death of Mahsa “Jina” Amini, a 22-year-old visitor to Tehran from the city of Saqqez who was detained by police for allegedly wearing her headscarf incorrectly—it engages three leading Iranian creatives in a moving conversation about oppression, bravery, and hope. (Along with Neshat, the short features commentary from Paris-based actress Golshifteh Farahani and London-based designer Paria Farzaneh.)

For its setting, Rezvany dreamed up an old-fashioned Iranian living room with creative producer Saba Kia and production designer Rana Fadavi, leaning into the idea of a “life interrupted.” “I was devastated to hear the news of the death of Mahsa Amini, and even more pained as I saw the government crack down on protestors, many of whom have been beaten, shot, and killed,” Rezvany tells Vogue. (Framed portraits of Sarina Esmailzadeh, Asra Panahi, Hadis Najafi, Hananeh Kia, Minoo Majidi, Mahsa Mougouyi, and Nika Shakarami—just a few of the hundreds who have died since demonstrations began—are included in the film.) “A TV playing to an empty room, an unfinished game of backgammon on the floor, a half-finished meal laid out on a sofreh…Iranians have long been used to living a life caught halfway, whether [it’s] those in the diaspora who have been displaced or exiled, or those who have had to suspend everything to take to the streets to fight for their rights to be recognized in their own homeland.” 

Rezvany (far right) on set with assistant director Cindy Cheng and production designer Rana Fadavi.

Photo: Martina Amoretti

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