"A women's revolution", the hope of an award-winning Iranian actress

“A women’s revolution”, the hope of an award-winning Iranian actress

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Paris (AFP) – Her intimacy has been exposed to everyone’s eyes in one of the most conservative countries in the world: awarded last May at Cannes, Iranian actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi confides to AFP her hope for a “women’s revolution” in Iran.

“I am going through a madness (…) I have not yet understood what is happening”: a month after winning the prestigious prize for female interpretation at the Cannes Film Festival, the 41-year-old actress who lives in Paris, explains that she “still hasn’t woken up from (her) dream”.

In “The Nights of Mashhad”, by her compatriot Ali Abbasi – also in exile – she plays a pugnacious journalist who tries to unravel the mystery of the murders of several prostitutes. Crimes that move neither the population nor the Iranian authorities.

Far from the Iranian cinema to which the public is accustomed, the film is not in the ellipse or the metaphor: the homicides face the camera, the systemic violence which is exercised against women confronts the public.

The film was also banned in Iran.

“Traumatized”

“Looking in a mirror is not easy, we don’t want to, we prefer not to see reality. I think that showing this violence is necessary”, she observes.

The Iranian actress, interpretation prize at Cannes, during a photo shoot in Paris on June 21, 2022 JOEL SAGET AFP

This role of journalist, Zar Amir Ebrahimi says that he “existed” in her.

Like this journalist who evolves in a hostile environment where harassment and sexual assault are in order, the actress has experienced the consequences of a patriarchal society, her life and career were shattered by the theft of an intimate video, broadcast without his consent by a friend of his ex-companion.

The scandal will be such that even friends and colleagues turn their backs on him. Prosecuted, humiliated, she ended up leaving Iran for Paris, where she arrived in 2008, completely “traumatized”.

But now, actress recognized in Iran, she is unknown in France. “You arrive somewhere, you can’t understand the language. I was in the metro, I understood nothing. For 12 years, it was like that,” she recalls.

Failing to be able to play, she reinvents herself as a casting director.

However, it is not a broken woman that AFP meets. Frail and hesitant in her voice, she nevertheless exudes strength and determination. The interview is done in French, which she speaks fluently even if she apologizes for the mistakes.

A resilience that the jury of the Cannes Film Festival wanted to salute.

“Short actress”

Her career, “made of humiliations” she said in Cannes, did not make her bitter. “I have nothing against Iranians, even against the society that destroyed me,” she said.

“I immediately began to understand that we are all victims. We are all victims of a tradition, of a religious society… Everything changed with the revolution (of 1979, which ousted the Shah and transformed the country into an Islamic republic, editor’s note), we lost everything”.

The Iranian actress, interpretation prize at Cannes, during a photo shoot in Paris on June 21, 2022
The Iranian actress, interpretation prize at Cannes, during a photo shoot in Paris on June 21, 2022 JOEL SAGET AFP

And, to believe in change thanks to the youth of the country: “We, in our time, we really did not have the courage to take off our veil in the street. But there, I see that things are changing”, assures you. she, while saying she hoped for “a women’s revolution”.

“I think there’s so much pressure on us that at some point it explodes,” she continues.

The actress is also leading a fight in her adopted country: to establish herself as an actress. Like the one she calls her “sister”, Golshifteh Farahani. Another actress exiled from Iran, who managed to shoot in Hollywood and make a name for herself in French auteur cinema.

“She is really a model for me”, underlines the one who deplores that the tricolor cinema perceives her as “a refugee and not just as an actress”.

Will his performance award be a game-changer? “I hope so, but so far I’ve only received a filming proposal.”

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