The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It (2000) (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 33, Number 1, 2003
- pp. 70-72
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Film Reviews | Regular Feature Despite this and a few other shortcomings (like other Iranian films, the subtitles are brief and contain the occasional grammatical mistakes), the documentary succeeds in capturing the complexity and vibrancy of contemporary Iranian society while telling a particular story. It does so in large part by letting Zinat's personality come through. The film does not position Zinat as a prototypical figure standing in for all oppressed Iranian women, butrather as an individual simultaneously fighting and working within the system in her own way. Rather than singling gender discrimination out as an isolated problem (a mistake made by many contemporary discussions of women in the Islamic world), the documentary situates gender discrimination within the context of needed political reform, the struggle to provide healthcare, and Ungering problems related to poverty and lack of infrastructure. Comparing the above strengths to Mokhtari's handling ofthe same issues in his 1994 filmZinat exposes their import to the overall effect of the film. Zinat, which is documentarían Mokhtari's only feature film, alters the details ofZinat Daryaie's life, yet uses documentary-like features to make it appear "reaUstic." In the cinematic version, Zinat began working as a healthcare assistant before getting married. Uponherengagement, hermother-in-law-to-be convinces her parents that working outside the home is bad for Zinat. Through various methods, including locking her in her bedroom , Zinat's father thwarts her efforts to continue working at the local cUnic. After Zinat's marriage, her mother-in-law carries on the obstructive practices. Thanks only to a local emergency (and her husband's subsequent approval) does she eventually return to providing the village with basic medical services. The story tine changes have two effects: they single out gender inequities from all other social issues and make Zinat appear as a struggling but ultimately passive player in her own life. The film casts Zinat as a generic example of the rural Iranian woman's fate at the hands of her parents, husband, and in-laws. Nuance and complexity have been sacrificed to drive home the social message, deteriorating the film into a sort of Iranian "after school special." Hamid Dabashi, in his 2001 book, Close Up: Iranian Cinema , Past, Present and Future, states that in the U.S. there is "no critical apparatus" for evaluating Iranian films (276). Based on the line-ups at many Iranian film festivals in the U.S., this observation is particularly apt in regard to films that deal with gender. The topic seems to overshadow critical appraisal. Perhaps the onedimensional images presented in movies like Zinat fit our stereotypes of Iranian women's lives and therefore are taken at face value. Comparing such portrayals to exceptional films like Zinat: One Special Day reveals their inadequacies. That the same person , Ebrahim Mokhtari, created both films seems ironic and yet symptomatic of the difficulty even good filmmakers have in addressing the subject of gender in Islamic societies. This exceptionality is what makes Zinat: One Special Day worth viewing. Moreover, by focusing on one real, albeit remarkable, woman on one particular day, Zinat: One Special Day provides an engaging introduction to a number ofinterrelated topics at the heart of changes taking place in Iranian society. Thus, the film should be of interest to anyone concerned with gender issues, current Middle Eastern politics, Iranian cinema, or the art ofdocumentary filmmaking. Whatever your interest, the feisty Zinat is sure to charm you. Deborah Hutton Skidmore College The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It (2000). Paradigm Productions, Inc., in association with the Independent Television Service Making the World Safe for Dissenters In recent years, Americans have been virtually bombarded with the visual culture of the Second World War. Part of the reason is that the aging participants themselves are eager to tell their stories; the baby-boomer children ofthese men and women, meanwhile , are increasingly interested in the historical events that shaped their own lives. The Good Warand Those Who, Refused to Fight It is an excellent recent addition to the documentary film record of World War II, and a useful corrective to the spate of films emphasizing battlefield experiences. The military story is historically...