What does not mean without my daughter

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Not without My Daughter

Betty Mahmoody's book "Not Without My Daughter" is more than a bestseller: it is uncomfortably ubiquitous. You can't buy the ingredients for an Irish stew without actually getting in touch with them in one way or another. Well there is the film that is due, and in a clever way Senator-Film has refused to allow any press screenings, so that our widely anticipated reviews will only be insulted regrets to an equally universally anticipated public success.


Nobody needs to say what the book and the film are about. At most for people who have made the superhuman effort to occasionally renounce the flow of myths of our popular culture, let it be added briefly: An American woman is married to a doctor from Iran who, after the Islamic revolution, she visits his relatives on the pretext of visiting relatives Home beckons. There, under the influence of his fanatical family, he lets out the Muslim pig, does not want to return, locks the woman up and wants to raise his daughter strictly Islamic. After unsuccessful attempts to find help from the remaining diplomatic agencies, the woman succeeds in escaping from Iran, which is at war with Iraq, to ​​Turkey. The story really happened and so it was somehow true; and millions of readers seem to have waited for this very story, and that makes it much truer.


Six discourses are looking for a collaborator:


1. The woman versus man discourse. It's about nothing else than the fight of a brave, strong and good woman against a cowardly, weak and bad man. Why shouldn't the supermarkets of our popular culture also juxtapose the bulging shelves with misogynistic images with a few men-hostile offers?


2. The discourse of the black wedding fantasy. An entire genre of paperbacks, notebooks and confessional magazines tells the same story over and over again: a woman marries a man who introduces her into his family, and this family turns out to be a real hell of neuroses, evil traditions and neglectful meanness towards the young woman. The man is too naive and too weak to defend them against this family, so the woman has to take her flight into her own hands. None of this is missing in NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER. (Incidentally, the film is also underhandedly misogynist: Islamic fanaticism is working, it seems; not least from the women who, for example, lead machine gun brigades through the city, who check whether the dress codes are being adhered to.)


3. The mother / daughter discourse. After a hundred years of male Oedipuselism was somehow enough, this discourse has become hugely popular in the women's media market in recent years. Here, too, it is about identification and competition, about power, oppression, about the absence of love. The tension created in this way literally cries out for a redemption myth.

A mother who, with her daughter in her arms almost equally brave, struggles through the enemy country of men, probably drags a plentiful load of feelings of guilt, fear of frustration and loss with her over the Kurdish mountains. "Not without my son" - that would definitely not have been a bestseller.


4. The Christianity / Islam discourse. In pictures of bare SATURDAY EVENING POST-Americana, Betty Mahmoody and her daughter pray that God would lead them out of the land of suffering, while outside the "fanatical" Muslims secrete sermons at threatening volume and throw themselves on the ground. We understand: that Christianity is a religion for people, Islam is a religion for the masses.


5. The Arab Terrorists' Discourse. All right, Iranians are not Arabs. But for an American camera, that's really irrelevant. The "Arab terrorist" screams incessantly, waving his Kalashnikov, breathing wildly, and threatens the free world: Children playing on the street are caught unceremoniously, dragged onto trucks and sent into the Iraqi minefields. Real order does not arise here; the Arab one Terrorist creates a kind of hostile confusion. Khomeini hangs everywhere and looks like an ogre.

The man who finally helps Betty Mahmoody is certainly no coincidence a follower of the Shah, who sells (or at least pretends) elegant shirts while outside everything goes around in uniforms or the simplest of clothes, and that of the Persian gardens and that Paradise babbles and speaks in a hushed voice, while everyone around screams. (The enemy is always shouting.)

The Kurds are rough but honest fellows. Just so we don't lose sight of Discourse 1 completely, one of them tries to rape the heroine.


6. The discourse of patriotism. How much it is about returning to the Promised Land is not only clear from the prayers of the heroine and the structure of her escape. At the end we get another blow with the ideological mallet over the already buzzing skull: Betty sees the American flag in Turkey; "We are at home," she says to her daughter. It is the image of the flag that everything was aimed at.

Success and perfidy in the marketing of this story does not lie in the individual discourses - which were to be expected, but in their connection. The meta-discourse is the battle between the Christian, American, maternal-emotional, individualistic woman and the Muslim, "oriental", patriarchal-rigid, institutional man. Salvation literally lets women rush to the flag; there can only be one answer to what the film has told us: war.


The real horror of this feminized war propaganda lies in its ability to destroy all educational impulses, all criticism, all debates, even every clear thought. Sally Field, who afterwards herself was a little shocked by what was happening and who tries to dissuade, even carries her image of a "liberal" into this subsequent declaration of war. Whether the film is good or bad "made" (it is about on the level of highly budgeted, uninspired mini-series on TV), whether his characters are believable, his dramaturgy works or not (travel, imprisonment, escape - that is more or less staged by itself), whether images such as those of typically dirt-smeared Light switches in the Iranian apartment, like slaps in the face, from which one could take cover if one felt like it - none of this really matters. Because what this film conveys you have to WANT to believe. It reveals how the ubiquity of the book, namely nothing but OUR fundamentalism. May one or the other be frightened by this one.


Georg Seeßlen


This text was first published in: epd film 5/91




USA 1990. D: Brian Gilbert. B: Brian Gilbert, David W Rintels (based on the book by Betty Mahmoody). K: Peter Hannan. Sch: Terry Rawlings. M: Jerry Goldsmith. T Eli Yarkoni, Jim Hawkins. Ba: Anthony Pratt. A: Desmond Crowe. Ko: Nic Ede. Pg: Pathe Entertainment. P: Harry J. Ufland, Mary Jane Ufland. V. Senator. L: 114 min. St: 11.4.1991. D: Sally Field (Betty Mahmoody), Alfred Molina (Moody), Sheila Rosenthal (Mahtob), Roshan Seth (Houssein), Sarah Badel (Nicole), Mony Rey (Ameh Bozorg), Georges Corraface (Mohsen).


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