The Girl in the Sneakers

By Sonya Rehman

Tagline: ‘Love is a strange journey’
Directed by: Rasul Sadr Ameli
Released: 1999

As with Iranian cinema, a majority of the Persian films that are churned out usually have strong socio-political undertones. But this is not to state that these graver undertones ‘override’ the film in any way, rather, they seem to ‘ground’ the story of the movie somehow. And the stories – that revolve around very simple people – are extremely black and white. Expect no grey areas. No blood and gore, seduction or scenes tipping over a mild ‘PG’ into a rather smutty ‘R’. You’ll find none of that in Iranian cinema. But what you can expect is this: a script that is rich, layered and structured – delivered by actors with expressive eyes…and stripped of any kind of ‘star façade’.

Directed by Rasul Sadr Ameli and released in 1991, ‘The girl in the sneakers’ (also known as ‘Dokhtari Ba Kafsh-Haye-Katani’ in Farsi), truly is a Persian classic.
The story follows young Tadai (Pegah Ahangarani), a doe-eyed fifteen year old girl and her adventures (on the streets of Tehran) in search of Aideen (Majid Hajizadeh) – Tadai’s friend and puppy-love-crush.
The innocence of their ‘relationship’ is captured right in the beginning of the film as it unravels – showing Tadai and Aideen walking in a park on a sunny day, and speaking of their dreams and a life together. But all of this changes when the local police are alerted of Tadai and Aidin’s ‘liaison’ by a passer-by in the park.

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Hauled off by the cops to the police station and after a series of brazen questioning of both children’s parents, both Tadai and Aideen are then banned from ever speaking to or seeing each other ever again.
Incensed and distressed, courageous little Tadai, cloaked in her heavy jacket, hijab and shiny white sneakers, embarks upon a long one-day journey where she winds up meeting strangers (gypsies and the homeless) that show her a rougher side of the tracks. As one film critic stated, ‘The girl in the sneakers’ is “made without any moral judgment”. It is true; the film flows like a nonjudgmental snapshot of Tehran’s youth.

In each scene, Rasul Sadr Ameli gives this simple little film, a very multi-dimensional feel that is often open to interpretation at each turn. Such as, Tadai’s understanding of her situation towards the end can be comprehended in many different ways – that she is at peace after a harrowing and eventful day, or that even after her newly acquired ‘life lesson’, she is pained and discontented.
Here, in comparison to the rest of the movie (which is represented in tones of black and white) ‘The girl in the sneakers’ dips, flows and makes its way into greyer areas.
It is true that one must have the patience and fondness of all films foreign to really enjoy this Persian movie…considering the fact that we’re so used to being fed an audio-visual diet of fast-paced Hollywood flicks. Yet, with its simplicity in both pace and structure, Tadai’s adventures in ‘The girl in sneakers’ is a must-see for each avid (foreign) film viewer out there.

Instep, The News

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