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Permission is a handmaid’s tale taken straight from the headlines. In 2015, Niloufar Ardalan was captain of the Iranian women’s indoor football team, which had just reached the Asian Championships final in Malaysia. Incredibly, she was prevented from playing, because her TV presenter husband would not give her the permission to travel abroad that married women in Iran legally need.
A fictionalised version of this extraordinary situation, Permission is the debut feature from Iranian dramatist and film-maker Soheil Beiraghi. Baran Kosari plays Afrooz, the player who is turned back at the airport and who then realises that her sporting celebrity and Instagram following count for nothing. Her cowed teammates won’t support her (they could go on strike, but don’t); her husband Yasser (Amir Jadidi) is a preening TV star who presides over a blandly conformist discussion show, spiteful and petulant about his wife’s greater fame. Team coach Ms Noori (Sahar Dolatshahi) is a reactionary figure, unquestioningly supporting Iran’s patriarchal sports federation who are siding with Yasser.
Beiraghi raises the dramatic stakes with fictional inventions: in this situation, the couple are getting divorced, and Yasser’s withholding permission is the latest shot in their private war. This husband is a borderline psychopath who rams her car and later sadistically reneges on a deal to give permission in exchange for Afrooz renouncing her “marriage portion”.
And what did Afrooz have to do to get this deal? We don’t know, but, whatever it was, we see her afterwards frantically brushing her teeth. This is perhaps inspired at some level by Jafar Panahi’s Offside (2006) about Iranian girls disguising themselves as boys to sneak into a football match (where women are forbidden) and the influence of Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation (2011) is detectable in an extended, acrimonious divorce hearing scene.
There is a cool, austere restraint to Beiraghi’s style, a habitual feature of Iranian cinema, and sometimes I felt more passion was needed. This is nonetheless a vehement film about a grotesque injustice.
• Permission is released in the UK on 22 November.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Permission review – female footballer pays penalty in Iran | Drama films