Lion Women: The Fight for Freedom in Iran

Here is a rather short film review I wrote for the Middle East Studies Center at The Ohio State University what seems like an age ago now. I feel, given the ever escalating situation in the Middle East, and the somewhat conspicuous way the world fails to acknowledge the women from/in/of The Middle East, particularly Iran, this review is highly relevant. I think that, with the violence, constant threat of war, power shifts and revolutions, we forget to talk about everything else: The art, beauty and culture. Personal politics. Basic human rights. (which is what they claim we are fighting for, but I beg to differ)

To know me is to know that, besides my obsession with Classic Hollywood Cinema (I’ll battle you in a movie quiz any day), I absolutely love films from the Middle East. Directors such as Makhmalbaf (both father and daughter), Abu-Assad, Folman, Satrapi (who is also a wicked witty author and one of my favorite human beings of all time), Akbari, Majidi, al-Mansour (the first female Saudi filmmaker!), and Kiarostami, just to name a few, have forever changed my life with their brilliant and lyrical storytelling. Keen eye for detail. Attention to the human condition. And truth.

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Lion Women: The Fight for Freedom in Iran

“I refuse any kind of inequality, and I believe we can live another way.”

This powerful quote, spoken by one of Mir-Hossein Mousavi supporters during the 2009 Presidential elections in Iran, is central to this story of the women of Iran’s fight for freedom. It is apparent that the director, Gry Winther, is passionate about their cause, the One Million Signature Campaign, which has become the strongest symbolic movement for change in Iran. She offers these brave and strong female activists a safe space where they can be open, honest, and uncensored to tell their stories.

The narratives are gritty, tragic, and heartbreaking, but at the same time, full of hope. The tone of the film is one of freedom and positive change, and includes interviews from noted journalists, lawyers, University of California Professor Reza Aslan, and influential women like Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman and first Iranian citizen to receive the Noble Peace Prize. While the layers of this film & the stories included are intricate, the viewpoint is rather narrow in that the spectator is only briefly informed of the beliefs of those that do not support the One Million Signature Campaign. This exclusion does not allow for a complete depiction of the political and religious climate in Iran, and instead, creates a division, which is exactly what this film claims to seek to avoid.

Gry Winther, Director and Producer, is an award-winning Norwegian journalist and independent documentary filmmaker. She has covered international news and current affairs for 18 years. Gry moved to the U.S. in January 2004, and has been working as a political correspondent registered with the U.S. Foreign Press Center for Norwegian television, radio, and newspapers. Her work includes conversations with Nobel
Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, as well as an interview with former Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Khatami. In total, Gry has made 10 documentaries for the major networks in Norway and for international television. Her film Lion Women: The Fight for Freedom in Iran was nominated in April, 2010 for best documentary at Norway’s Volda Film festival. Gry is also on the board of the LA Press Club, and is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy in Caliornia. She has presented several speeches on journalism for media students, and a segment on “documentaries and movies, focusing on foreign policy” with Oscar winner Lawrence Bender (Producer of An Inconvenient Truth) for the Pacific Council on International Policy. She is currently living in Los Angeles, California.
Keya Crenshaw