(Photo Courtesy IDFA 2002)
Who could ever forget the terrifying plight of Betty Mahmoody (as played by
Sally Field) when it was served up before us a little more than a decade ago
in the film "Not Without My Daughter"? Based on Mrs. Mahmoody's best-selling
novel which describes the American wife's plight and flight out of Teheran
across the desert accompanied by her 6-year-old daughter, Mahtob. After being
held allegedly captive by her husband for eighteen months, she was glad to
finally reach the shores of Western civilization once again, where she could
resume her private life and begin writing.*
Ah, but where does truth lie? This new documentary, anno 2002, directed by
Alexis Kouros and Kari Tervo presents the Iranian father's point of view and
this tale, though diametrically opposed to the first one, also bears listening.
Dr. Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody has unsuccessfully been attempting to make contact
with his daughter for the past sixteen years. In this film he calmly,
sometimes sadly, reminisces about the past and tells how things were according
to his version. The testimony of family friends in Teheran, amongst them
other American women, who have taken up residence in Iran, also seem to
contradict Betty's statements and writings. But then again, one must question
how reliable these witnesses are and whether their personal agendas are
influenced by opposing incentives? The film does not present itself as a way
toward unraveling the difficult questions surrounding the Mahmoody family, but
further complicating the puzzle.
Most striking of all the interviews, however, is one with the American judge
involved in the case. He reacts amiably enough to Mr. Mahmoody while
questions are being presented by the hapless father, but all the hopeless
man's requests are to no avail. Later in the film, the same judge is seen
venting his pent-up feelings against the Iranians when stating what actions
he would have taken against them if he had been present on the battlefield
during the Gulf War. It is disappointing to watch this dispenser of the law,
along with other various representatives of a legal system, reacting not
directly to the situation at hand, but to the emotionally induced politics
and social policies prevalent at the time of the court's ruling (and still to
date). Security undoubtedly remains a necessity for the protection of the
nation, but intelligence should also be applied in equal quantity when
dispensing justice. Mr. Mahmoody has become listed as an undesirable alien
and will no longer be permitted entrance into the US, whether it be to search
for his daughter or otherwise.
It is also interesting to note that the scenarist for the Hollywood film
version of Mrs. Mahmoody's book was the same scenarist who wrote "Midnight
Express." Both of these scripts contain a powerfully built structure
successful to action filming which, incidentally, seem to express a similarly
strongly sentiment toward foreign elements. This does not necessarily mean
that the reality was altered for dramatic effect, but remains yet another
detail worth taking notice of and possibly investigating. One might hope
that, ten or fifteen years down the road, a filmed interview with the daughter
might clear things up, but even that possibility seems doomed to failure, if
one considers the influences at work.
One could easily wonder whether or not the truth behind the story emanates
from a desire for revenge on both the husband's and wife's side in a marriage
gone wrong and in which the child is the ultimate victim. Of course, none of
this is suggested on the screen and one can only surmise that such might
possibly be the case by basing this thought upon incidents that have occurred
in so many other marriages.
It would be most interesting to view both versions of this story back to
* The 1990 film version of "Not Without My Daughter"
will also be screened during the IDFA.
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