Shirin Barghnavard / Iran / 2017 / 73 mins
Part of the Edinburgh Iranian Festival
The heroine of this delightful film, part of the Women Constructing Men series (with English subtitles alongside the native Farsi and a little French) is undoubtedly Shirin Parsi, a farmer and environmental activist extraordinaire. This documentary depicts Parsi at home and in the fields, narrating her life and reading poetry, hence the title.
Shirin Barghnavard, the female director, allows Parsi to take us through rice production, paddy management, intricate family relationships, and her struggle to obtain a permit to mill the rice. Many times, the audience finds itself chuckling alongside Parsi at the irony of government officials’ decisions, or lack of them, and their staff who try to avoid making appointments with this indefatigable woman.
With beautiful shots of the green plants and yellow farm landscape in Western Gilan, stately trees swaying in the wind, and the vibrant red and orange scarves Parsi wears, we delight in this colourful account of Iranian rural living. We see her cooking and eating with her family, feeding the animals, visiting the nearest town and confidently issuing orders to the male workers, mainly her sons. The scenes of her planting and conversing with other women, all barefoot in the mud, slurping water melon and complaining about the younger generation, are heart-warming and life-affirming.
Highly articulate and not easy to ignore, Parsi collects women together and subtly educates them about the impact some of their farming methods have on the long-term environment. She speaks out as part of the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs and provides persuasive arguments for going organic and using the 260 local varieties rather than the suggested genetically-modified type.
What a contrast Parsi is, spirited, comfortable in her own skin and focused on the vital things of life, to the airbrushed model pretending to outrun a wolf in the fabric conditioner advert shown beforehand!