I hope that the viewers of "The Day I Became a Woman" enjoy as much as I did its captivating subtleties and the remarkably intelligent way in which it poses necessary and important questions that concern all human beings; questions of self-actualization, the overcoming of fear, and the experience of drastic change in a given moment. This film asks us to look deeper than popular, taken-for-granted understandings of concepts like dominance and submission, self and other, man and woman. It effectively forces us to question myth and memory and to challenge what we have been led to interpret as the condition of women in Islamic societies.
Director Marziyeh Meshkini has done a superb job of neutralizing myths and stereotypes, introducing her audience to three different women of three different generations, each experiencing the same "problem": each of their lives changed forever on the days they became women. Meshkini's story is told in three parts: in the first, we meet a young girl on her ninth birthday who is told by her mother and grandmother that she can, after a certain point in that day, no longer play with her male friend because she has become a woman, subject to the same restrictions as her mother, grandmother, and all other females she will encounter in her lifetime. In the second vignette, we are introduced to a young woman riding her bicycle with all her strength, away from her husband. The force she expends riding from something she knows she can never fully escape is amazing, and to watch it breathtaking. While attempting to run from her designated "place" pre-determined for her by society, she experiences an act of pure will that cannot be categorized as mere defiance of a norm or dominant mode of thought. This norm or mode is somehow not necessary for her will to exist.
In the third and final section we meet an old woman who, for the first time in her life, is able to purchase the things she has always wanted but has never been able to buy. Meshkini uses particularly subtle and fascinating technique in this vignette, and her audience is able to see that the distinction between what we have come to know as "apparent" or "obvious" and "fantasy" is blurred.
I am especially pleased that this film is being released on DVD with lots of special features. I went and found the website for the film ([...]) and noticed that it comes with an essay by Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, and with an audiocomentary by Richard Pena. This DVD is definitely worth a look if you are looking to watch a unique and highly intelligent examination of the condition of womanhood, not just in Iran but throughout the world.