Venice: Digital Cinema Award
People famliar with Abbas Kiarostami might recognise Mania Akbari from Ten. I am pleased to report that this woman's talents only begin at acting.
20 Fingers, her feature-length directorial debut, is an incisive eye-opening film about gender relations in contemporary Iran. Each scene consists of a 10-minute, one-shot dialogue between two characters (played by Akbari and Bijan Daneshmand).
Usually, though not in every scene, the two characters are a couple - Mania, a progressive woman who says what's on her mind and Bijan, a not-so-progressive man who also says what's on his mind; they honestly discuss subjects that range from abortion and adultery to lesbian experimentation and jealousy.
Purposefully shot on DV in Iran (where 35mm equipment must be borrowed from the state), 20 Fingers has been effectively rejected by state censors and will not be shown on a large screen. Luckily for the rest of us, prints are making their way around the world - to places like the Venice Film Festival, where it took the top prize for 'Digitale' filmmaking earlier this year. 20 Fingers is a startlingly accomplished debut - keep an eye on this director. --schemamag
Cast: Bijan Daneshmand and Mania Akbari
Produced by Bijan Daneshmand
Cinematography by Turaj Aslani
Film Editing by Mania Akbari
Sound Department: Mohammad Shahverdi
Sound: Seyed Mahmood Moosavi-Nejad, Mohammad Shahverdi
Production Manager: Ahmad Keshmiri
20 Fingers (2004)
Mania Akbari, best known as the actress in Abbas Kiarostami's "Ten" wrote, directed and starred in this film which is a series of seven conversations between a man and a woman. In each section Bijan Daneshmand plays the part of the man, he also produced the film.
Each of the conversations deals with a different topic that raises differences between men and women, 1 or 2 are issues which are more prominent within a Muslim or other strict religious society but the majority are universal.
The first section caused the film to be banned in Iran, a woman's virginity is forcibly taken by her fiancé, why? because in his words "I had to be sure" that she was a virgin. Immediately you are thrown into a society where the majority of women are treated as second class citizens, checked to ensure their virginity is intact before marriage because the loss of it is a source of deep family shame. The woman worries how she will explain the bloody stain to her family while the man appears pretty blasé about the whole incident.
Each section picks up a different issue - petty jealousy and attention seeking, abortion and the importance of having a son to carry on the family line, infidelity, what it would be like to be the opposite sex and even lesbianism. The conversations are natural and frank, you feel as though you are eavesdropping on the couples. Apart from one of the sections, the conversations all occur in moving vehicles representing the journeys couples embark on together through life.
The chapters are well filmed and special note must be made on the third part which was filmed in busy traffic in Tehran, the couple start of on a motorbike with a young child, because they keep arguing the wife and child disembark from the bike and get a lift from a passing car, the husband on his bike forces the car to pull over, the wife and child exit and after another argument they all ride off on the bike again. Doesn't sound too impressive till you realise it was all done in a single take, no cutting or editing and in real traffic, very skilled film making.
As already noted, a lot of these issues are universal but probably more emphasised because of the strict religious background, it is common around the world that a man who puts it about is a stud and is held in esteem by his peers while a woman who does the same is a tart or slut, not only in the eyes of men but of other women as well, something isn't quite right with that ideology.
As far as the title goes, I had assumed before seeing the film that the "20 Fingers" referred to the couples, 2 hands each, 20 fingers between them. During the film we're told through one of the conversations that it refers to a remark the woman's Grandmother had made along the lines of "The 20 fingers represented the number of men a woman could sleep with and still be regarded as a woman, any more than 20 and she would be regarded as a prostitute." I was taken aback but this remark is probably metaphorical.
This is very brave film-making and hopefully we will see more from Mania Akbari, Recommended viewing. --IMDb
14 May 2005 | by Brandy001 (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews
Directed by Mania Akbari, dedicated to Abbas Kiarostami
Starring Mania Akbari, Bijan Daneshmand