Strong, Powerful and Brave

in 50th Gijón International Film Festival

by Radmila Djurica

In the spirit of the 50 year Anniversary of the Festival Internacional de Cine de Gijon, the spirit of the last 50 years in cinema’s history and also in the spirit of discovering an important European film festival, the Gijon Film Festival this year programmed homages and retrospectives of importance. One was for Iranian filmmaker Amir Naderi, one of the key figures of Iranian cinema in the eighties and the other to Juraj Jakubisko, a Slovak film director known for his colorful and poetic films. Beside the excellent program in all sections, the FIPRESCI Jury decided to celebrate and award brave women. To honor the courage of woman, our choice was The Patience Stone (Syngué Sabour) directed by Atiq Rahimi and adapted from his best-selling novel which was the winner of the most prestigious book award in France (Goncourt Prize) in 2008.

Throughout history many women have shown a strong will, whose main weapon was the allure: the Frines harlot who saved herself from the death penalty before the judges by showing her naked body or the mighty Countess, which after a passionate night with Napoleon III managed to persuade him to support the unification of Italy etc… Although thrones, commanding the army, preaching in churches and schools were unavailable to women for centuries, there is no doubt that women, due to their impact on men, could destroy the army and thrones as well as they are able to protect and love. But women adore, love, serve, fight and above all wants to be loved back. In some traditional societies, men do not let her be loved back so a woman dies or she fights.

So here it is, a little homage to a brave little woman from war raging Afghanistan. A beautiful Afghan woman tends to protect her husband in their bomb shelled bedroom, while he is comatose wounded and helpless in bed. The fighting rages outside while she clings to the hope that he will recover consciousness. She is brave and alone, sacrificing her safety, children and honor to a potential brutal violence upon herself. At first she obeys and submits to her husband and his family, neglecting herself, ending up alone and unhappy. And happiness is most important: releasing herself to a patience stone that is now her unable husband. She talks about her childhood, her frustrations, her loneliness, her dreams, her desires, everything that husbands, according to their Middle East tradition do not want to know about. She touches him, kisses him things she could never have done before in spite of a ten-year marriage. Therefore, this paralyzed man unconsciously becomes “syngué sabour”, a magic stone which, according to Persian mythology, when placed in front of a person shields him from unhappiness, suffering, pains and miseries, enduring all the words unspoken; in this case an undone and incomplete marriage. The woman is ready to serve, according to a Middle Eastern tradition, but also to be loved.

The Award of FIPRESCI at Festival Internacional de Cine de Gijon honored an absolutely spectacular performance by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, a brave and strong Middle Eastern woman neglecting society and turning her back on the patriarchal, men demanding society that she has been born into and uses her husband’s condition to her advantage, fighting and beating the hostile men around her. The film is complete visually and narratively, the story is powerful, real and courageous and honors the brave, little, strong women out there ready to fight for their life and their own sexuality as well as assisting others to overpower a demanding and cold man on their own way.

The Patience Stone is also about the ultimate sacrifice and the true meaning of the word sacrifice, where women end up far too submissive at their own expense, which is quite often the case in the patriarchal, men demanding and men focusing Middle East society.

Edited by Steven Yates