Ballad of a White Cow (Ghasideyeh gave sefid)
There’s a deep-seated and inevitable sense of bleakness to Ballad of a White Cow, from co-directors Behtash Sanaeeha and Maryam Moghaddam. Still, it’s not as though a film dealing with the emotional and logistical aftermath of a mistaken execution would be all that cheery. However, the feature takes on its burdensome subject matter with intelligence and compassion, delivering a story that’s rather affecting.
The Iranian authorities have admitted that they made an error in executing Mina’s husband, as it turns out that someone else committed the murder for which he had been condemned. Mina (played by co-director Maryam Moghaddam) will be compensated with the “full price for an adult male.” Beyond that, this vulgar miscarriage of justice is dismissed as God’s will. The repercussions of her husband’s death linger as Mina and her young daughter are forced to deal with the normalised devaluation of being a single woman in contemporary Iran.
The insights into Iranian society are fascinating to behold, although they’re presented without judgement or direct commentary – it’s more a matter of viewing Iranian societal norms from a Western point of view. When the protagonist attempts to find a new flat, she’s told that landlords are unwilling to rent to “widows, dog and cat owners or junkies.” Mina faces mounting prejudice simply by virtue of having lost a husband. Moghaddam is outstanding in the role, giving the character a warmth and control that avoids histrionics.
It’s the appearance of Reza (Alireza Sanifar), a supposed acquaintance of Mina’s dead husband, that gives the picture its narrative momentum. The fact that he has his own agenda is plainly obvious, even though Mina may not immediately see it. This point comes across as engineered, with the sort of coincidence necessary to advance a film’s plot, and is immediately forgiven, if noticed at all.
Ultimately an indirect indictment of capital punishment and the judiciary and general society that permits it, Ballad of a White Cow is infinitely more uplifting than its content might suggest.
Ballad of a White Cow (Ghasideyeh gave sefid) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Ballad of a White Cow (Ghasideyeh gave sefid) here: