The Circle

on March 09, 2001 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
   "The Circle" is a tough but obvious look at the plight of women in Iranian society.

   Beginning with a pregnancy that brings into the world an unwanted girl, "The Circle" then switches focus to three women, all newly released from prison. One is arrested, the other is scared to leave town and the third is sent to find a fourth woman from their group. That woman also turns out to have dire problems of her own, as do the other two women the film picks up on in turn.

   Startling provocative in its harsh portrait of Iran, "The Circle", which begins and ends with women behind a door, states that the country is one big prison for women. (Not surprisingly, it's been banned there.) But director Jafar Panahi ("The White Balloon") displays more subtlety with his technique than with his message. Eschewing complexity, he only allows oppressed women into his world. This circle is too small.    Starring Fereshteh Sadr Orafai, Maryiam Parvin Almani and Nargess Mamizadeh. Directed by Jafar Panahi. Written by Kambozia Partovi. Produced by Jafar Panahi. No distributor set. Drama. Farsi-language, subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 90 min.

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