I love Iranian films. They are beautiful even when they show the ugliest sides of human nature. They provide a vehicle to transmit to uninformed Westerners what it is like to live in an Islamic society that allows little or no freedom for Muslim women and oppresses them and their children. So, whether they are fiction or documentaries, the films are teaching tools as well as artistic endeavors and make Hollywood movies look like cheap hookers in a war combat zone.
The documentary, Four Wives and One Husband, by award-winning Iranian-Swedish filmmaker Nahid Persson Sarvestani was made under extremely difficult circumstances, with the raw footage smuggled out of Iran and finally edited in Sweden.
The film is an investigation of Islamic polygamy that allows a man to have up to four wives (as long as he treats them all the same way). Persson-Sarvestanti brings us immediately into the intimate lives of this family of one husband, four wives and twenty children in rural Iran. We see their daily lives, their interactions with each other and the sadness of what it means to be childless in this society. With consummate skill, Persson-Sarvestanti never crosses that fine line of voyeurism that some documentaries seem to delight in. The camera is always there but never intrudes. Masterful!
This is not an uplifting film with a smiley face happy ending. But we come to understand the jealousy and envy of women who must share a husband and the trials that this family system brings. Their story elicits our heart-felt compassion, for these women will never escape their almost slave-like existence that binds them to each other and to their husband by Islamic culture, religion and law. Four Wives and One Husband is a must watch! I give it five stars.