Director: Afsaneh Aghanezhad & Vali Bagheri
Writer: Afsaneh Aghanezhad & Vali Bagheri
Cast: Afsaneh Aghanezhad, Aylin Bagheri, Razieh Karimi
Running time: 20mins
The costs of running a film festival often mean they struggle to break even, let alone make a profit. That can make granting fee waivers a very difficult ask – resulting in filmmakers who already struggle to have their voices heard being further marginalised.
Movies told by artists from low-income backgrounds, opposition groups hit by censorship, or individuals in nations subjected to international sanctions still need a platform. That’s why Indy Film Library’s Saturday Matinees are returning for a third season.
Over the next six weeks, the latest series of Saturday Matinees will showcase work from places where monetary and legal constraints have prevented the free communication of political and social issues.
The first film in our free-to-view programme comes from writer-director team Afsaneh Aghanezhad and Vali Bagheri, two filmmakers based in Tabriz. For child never born follows a grandmother, mother and daughter, as they struggle to survive in modern Iran – in the shadow of national and international protests against the authoritarian regime’s treatment of women.
In September 2022, Iran was rocked by mass demonstrations triggered by the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini – a young Kurdish woman – while in the custody of the Guidance Patrol, also known as the ‘morality police’, for allegedly violating the hijab dress code. While For child never born does not tackle these themes directly, it slowly builds a damning portrait of a society where women without the ‘protection’ of men are brutalised and belittled on a daily basis.
After the death of her husband, ‘Mom’ (Aghanezhad) must find ways to make ends meet, as she raises their daughter (Aylin Bagheri), and cares for her own mother (Razieh Karimi), while also preparing for the birth of her second child. A series of traumatic events sees the family pushed to the brink – making it increasingly clear why Karimi is so distant and silent throughout the film, while Mom is gradually pushed down that same route. When her howls of anguish fade away, the horrific events she has endured will likely leave her in a similar condition.
The star performance comes from the youngest member of the cast, though. Aylin Bagheri’s quiet resilience steadily builds throughout the film, as events lead her to abandon her childhood frivolities to become the family care-giver. There is something tragic at the heart of that, though, as she is forced to grow up too quickly – and leaving a dark cloud hanging over her, as she becomes painfully aware she will now become a target for the same kind of abuse her mother was subjected to, as reflected by the film’s chilling final sequence.
For child never born is not for the faint-hearted, and leaves little room for optimism at the end of its run-time. But it is a patiently delivered and ideologically brave film; unflinchingly tackling the biting inequalities at the heart of Iranian – and global – society, from filmmakers looking to give a voice to the trauma endured by women, whatever the cost. That makes it a wonderful starting point for our third run of Saturday Matinees.
The film will be available to view for free in full from 09:00 UK time on Saturday the 1st of July, until the end of the weekend, via our Saturday Matinees theatre page. As the film is still trying to gain access to other festivals, the page is password protected. Use the code IFLMATINEE23 to access the film.
Stay tuned for another film next week!