Analysis Saturday Matinees Preview

Saturday Matinees Preview: Fracture (2023)

Director: Ali Sineh Baghi Zadeh & Amir Mohtashami

Writer: Ali Sineh Baghi Zadeh & Amir Mohtashami

Cast: Sara Tajdari

Running time: 23mins

The costs of running a film festival often mean they struggle to break even, let alone make a profit, making fee waivers difficult to grant. As a result, filmmakers who already struggle to have their voices heard are often further marginalised.

But movies from 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 six weeks, the latest series of Saturday Matinees is showcasing work from places where monetary and legal constraints have prevented the free communication of political and social issues.

The third film in our free-to-view programme comes from Ali Sineh Baghi Zadeh and Amir Mohtashami, two filmmakers based in Iran. The film examines one of the many dark consequences of pushing women to the peripheries of society – as a young woman trying to access an emergency back-street abortion falls prey to a lurking serial murderer.

The way a lot of popular culture engages with the notion of the serial killer is problematically romanticised. From Hannibal Lecter to Dexter Morgan, there is a pervading narrative that these people are somehow exceptional individuals, and their unique abilities enable them to repeatedly commit murder while evading agents of the law. But as criminologist David Wilson pointed out in an interview with Vanity Fair, serial killers most often avoid detection because they target disenfranchised groups of people, who do not have easy access to the justice system, as discriminatory laws have firmly ensured they remain on society’s periphery.

In Iran, abortion is still forbidden, and depending on the timeframe in which it takes place, can carry as much as a 10-year prison sentence for both women and the practitioner involved. What has been proven time and again, however, is that rather than preventing abortions from taking place, bans simply make it a more dangerous undertaking. Either because women must trust unverified practitioners who may be underqualified or out to exploit them, or because it leaves them in dangerous situations without any legal protection.

Fracture follows Sara (the excellent Sara Tajdari) as she ventures into the darkened alleys and shadowy streets of her city after nightfall. Having distanced herself from her partner, and a male friend who she suspects may have ulterior motives, an increasingly wide-eyed and shaken Sara makes her way into an unfamiliar neighbourhood – which a serial killer has also made his home.

Scenes in the film establish the area as one in which sex workers operate – another group whose lives are made exponentially more dangerous by laws that carry the death penalty in extreme cases, divesting them from access to any possible protection the state could afford them – and, apparently, the murderer is also aware of the clinic’s existence. With access to a continuous flow of victims who have been rendered powerless by their legal and social standing, he has already caused at least four other ‘disappearances’.

Exactly what the murderer’s motives are remains relatively unexplored, though I suspect some people might go into very detailed discussion according to the few scraps he does drop for the audience. What is most refreshing about Ali Sineh Baghi Zadeh and Amir Mohtashami’s story (a point you won’t get from the film’s horrendously hyperbolic trailer), however, is how little interest it takes in his demonstrably unexceptional behaviour. Instead, the story seems more concerned with highlighting how the Iranian government’s laws have dehumanised women, and left them open to the abuses of the very worst kind.

That’s not just a problem in Iran, though; it’s true of societies right across the West. As the US elite (and some quarters of increasingly vocal UK politics) push for the re-criminalisation of abortion – with the bad faith argument that the change is motivated by ‘concerns’ for a foetus – the move will leave more and more fully-conscious adults open to exploitation and brutality.

Returning to Wilson’s interview, he provides what I think is a fitting conclusion to any discussion following Fracture.

“I am not interested in what motivates a serial killer. I am much more interested in who a serial killer is able to kill. If we concentrated our attention on the groups that serial killers constantly target, we would do a lot more to reduce the incidents of serial murder in our cultures, as opposed to any number of offender-profilers, who claim that they can enter the mind of a serial killer. If you really want to do something to reduce the incidents of serial murder in our culture, let’s challenge homophobia, let’s have a grown-up debate about how we police those young men and young women who sell sexual services, and above all, let’s try and work out why the elderly are so vulnerable in our culture, because they don’t have a voice and have no power.”

Fracture will be available to view for free in full from 09:00 UK time on Saturday the 15th 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.

Viewers can also vote to score the film out of five stars – the Saturday Matinee which receives the highest score will be declared the winner of the third season.

Stay tuned for another film next week!

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