Thursday, June 13, 2013

Going Up The Stairs (2012) Human RIghts Watch FIlm Festival 2013

This brief film, screening with Camera/Woman, is a wonderful look at Arkram, an Iranian grandmother and artist whose children have arranged a show of her work in Paris for her. The trouble is she doesn’t know if her husband will let her go to the opening.

The film is a full-on portrait of the woman; we watch her talk about her life from her engagement at seven to marriage at nine and eventual discovery of painting. We watch as she paints and repaints and creates some truly amazing works of art. The film is a glorious portrait of a woman who has survived and thrived despite living in a repressive situation.

It’s the repression and the marriage that brings the film to the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. It’s a scary thought that such a lovely woman would have to endure such abuse over the course of her life. We hear matter-of-fact tales about how her husband, who does not come off well, threatened to break her legs even before they were engaged if she didn’t wear a burqa. It was a comment that ended her schooling (she still can’t read) and began a life of fear (which she views as if it was no big deal—except when it is). There is a sadness to what has been lost to her in this locked away life. One can only imagine what she might have achieved had she been allowed to flower fully.

On the other hand overcoming the repression is the resilience and joy in the woman herself. She may be afraid of her husband but at the same time she has raised a couple of kids who seem to have turned out okay and she has managed to create some truly spectacular art, which has rightly been praised around the world.

It’s with art that Arkram takes control of her life. Watching her create is a joy to behold, especially when she takes control of things as her husband offers suggestions which she deflects. (You must stay into the credits to see a marvelous exchange between the pair). Actually the joy is watching her in an art gallery and having her mind blown by all of the art. Seeing her face light up is one of the happiest things you’ll see all year.

A wonderful film with a wonderful woman.

See this film.

The film plays Sunday and Tuesday. Details at Human Writes Watch Film Festival.

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