March 5, 2021
When her husband is executed for murder, Mina is left to fend for herself in a society that is reluctant to allow her even to find somewhere for her and her daughter to live.
But when it turns out that her husband was wrongfully executed, events take on a whole extra layer of complexity in ‘Ballad of a White Cow’, a film by Iranian directors Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha that is in the running for a coveted Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
Moghaddam herself plays Mina, whose struggles with grief are compounded first by the difficulty of dealing with her immediate loss in social status and then by the struggle to win compensation for her husband’s wrongful death.
“Mina is fighting to survive in such a misogynistic society, where law is a burden,” Moghaddam said. “This story is not made up – it’s the story of many people in countries where there is a death penalty.”
The film, one of 15 in the Berlinale’s main competition, comes with a burden of expectation on its shoulders: last year’s Golden Bear was won by fellow Iranian Mohammad Rasoulof’s ‘There is No Evil’, a study of the injustices caused by capital punishment. Rasoulof is a festival judge this year.
Securing permission to make the film took three and a half years, Sanaeeha said, describing how it proved impossible to film an actual prison, forcing the team to film a museum instead.
Despite all the effort, the film is unlikely to get a showing back home, both directors agreed.
“We hope that maybe we can find a way of showing it in Iran, but there is very little hope of this,” Sanaeeha said. “The main audience of people who should see it are the Iranians.”