Tahmineh Milani is one of the well-known Iranian film directors who pay special attention to the role of women in Iranian society. As a rule, she portrays Iranian women who fight for their rights. The Fifth Reaction is her seventh film which was success with the female public, but it was criticizes by the male population. It is known that Tahmineh Milani is an independent and strong woman who is not afraid of criticism. Once she was arrested by the officials of revolutionary tribunal of Tehran and was charges for her film The Hidden Half (2001) where she offended against Islam (Zeydabadi-Nejad 111). Although Tahmineh Milani was condemned to death, several months later she was set free and returned to the film industry as a film director. In her film The Fifth Reaction, Tahmineh Milani criticizes the established patriarchal foundations of the Iranian nation where female population is limited in rights and freedoms. According to Terri Ginsberg and Chris Lippard, “patriarchy’s collusion with economic and gender discrimination is powerfully analyzed in the film” (277).  The film The Fifth Reaction is focused on Fereshteh (Niki Karimi), a young, but rather progressive widow who makes everything possible to keep her children out of the clutches of her powerful father-in-law Haji, a successful trucking boss. The conflict between this young woman and a man is discussed in the upper circles of the Iranian society. Tahmineh Milani discusses serious problems of women’s rights in Iranian society. The main characters are five women who live in Tehran. The film starts with the scene in the restaurant in Tehran where the main characters discuss their marriages and their husbands. It is found that each of the women faces serious problems and is limited in her rights. The main story is the story of Fereshteh, a young woman who works as a teacher and who has just lost her husband. According to the established traditions, she should live with her children in her father-in-law’s house, who is a powerful and angry man. He often humiliates women and treats Fereshteh badly.  He wants her to marry the younger brother of her husband. However, she refuses to fulfill the order of her father-in-law. She is afraid that she will have no opportunity to see her sons again and makes a decision to leave Tehran and search freedom and independence with her children. Fereshteh’s friends help her to escape. The film The Fifth Reaction depicts women who express their resistance to male domination in Iranian society and their female friendship (Zeydabadi-Nejad 112).  Terri Ginsberg and Chris Lippard state that “in The Fifth Reaction, Milani holds up for careful scrutiny the psychosocial effects of separating a mother from her children in case of widowhood in certain sectors of Iranian society” (277).


It is known that female film directors in Iranian cinema have different attitude to the representation of women in films.  Mariam Bassiri states that “in the newly revolutionized cinema women gradually found their place and took steps to overcome their side and marginal roles” (1). Although today there are still some films in Iranian cinema in which women play marginal roles or have no role at all, the majority of films represent women in leading roles.  The general themes in these films are focused on women’s ideology and thoughts. Moreover, Mariam Bassiri argues that “in such works endeavor is made to display the psychological and sympathetic value of the woman in the family, in education and political and economic fields” (1). As a rule, the female film directors try to represent women as victims, but they are always strong and powerful personalities. Due to their specific interests, the female filmmakers choose some specific social or individual characteristics of the women and engross them in their films. For example, Derakhshan Bani-etemad, one of the Iranian film directors does not compare women with men in her films, and she does not depict women’s capabilities, skills and power. Instead of these facts she tries to assess both the values of men and women. This is contrary to the image produced by male film directors who do not show the worth of women. Derakhshan Bani-etemad pays special attention to the role of women in patriarchal society.

In addition, Pouran Derakhshande, the other influential female filmmakers gives credit to some educational issues in her films. She “exhibits women as active and progressive elements” (Bassiri 1).  In her film Relation, a young girl has serious health problem connected with poor speech and hearing and is humiliated by her friends and neighbors. However, she is supported by his mother who does everything possible to cure her daughter’s handicap.

Iranian women in cinema are not “helpless and fooled by the patriarchal system, in which they live in”, they are active feminists who fight for the changes in Iranian society (Mottahedeh 23). They play a significant role in the development of Iranian society as they act not only as filmmakers, but also they hold positions of political, social and economic importance in Iran. It is found that “in the past decade or so, Iranian women have established themselves as highly respected filmmakers with a popularity that often exceeds men’s” (Whatley 30). They have already received high international accolades for their fearless representation of the realities of women’s lives and the oppressive system they live in. Tahmineh Milani says in one of the interviews: “I say openly that I am fearful of the future of girls and boys in society. I am more anxious about the girls, since I see a duality in their being that has no end. I am certain that, as those responsible have said, we have been defeated in the task of educating the youth. I would very much like to make a film on this but I knew that this would not be possible” (The true face of women: A missing link in Iranian cinema). Tahmineh Milani, as well as some other women film directors, such as Puran Derakhshandeh, Rakhsan Bani-E’tamad, Marzieh Makhmalbah, act as the fighters for equality in Iranian society. They criticize male domination and prove the fact that women are talented and active enough to participate in social, political and economic spheres of human activity in Iranian society.


In conclusion, it is necessary to say that Iranian women are represented in different ways in Iranian cinema. The portrayal of women from a feminist point of view in Iranian cinema gives an opportunity to learn more about the most pressing problems faced by women in Iranian society. These problems include lack of mutual understanding in family relationships, male domination, gender discrimination, humiliation and oppression of women in the workplace, strict compliance with the established traditions and rules, etc. The best way to learn more about these problems is to watch Iranian films made by the female film directors, such as Marzieh Makhmalbaf, Tahmineh Milani and other well-known Iranian filmmakers. Moreover, the victory of the Islamic Revolution made in possible to carry out serious changes in Iranian cinema. The film industry in Iran was revolutionized, and both the general nature of films and the role of women in Iranian cinema have been changed in a positive manner. In the majority of films made by female directors the themes of female boldness and sagacity, love of culture and self-sacrifice, friendship, faith and kindness are revealed.


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