Reporting from the Denver Film Festival.
It opens with Mina (Maryam Moghadam) sitting in the passenger’s seat while a single tear rolls down her cheek. The movie will end with another car ride with a single tear running down Mina’s cheek. Both are shed for her husband, but under very different circumstances, and with significantly different men in the driver’s seat.
Ballad of a White Cow is an exceptional piece of work. Mina’s husband is put to death by the Iranian government for killing another man. One year later, the police call Mina back to headquarters and give her the bad news: Another man confessed to the killing, and her husband was innocent. For this, the state will pay Mina blood money, “full amount for one adult male,” for the mistake.
This does nothing to quell Mina’s pain. But now money is involved, and her father-in-law plans to sue her for custody of Bita (Avin Poor Raoufi), Mina’s young daughter, and the blood money the government will someday pay. Then Mina is evicted from her apartment for being seen with a non-relative male.
Mina’s life is one of oppression. Mostly under the men who rule the world around her and the rules the men adhere to—rules even they question regularly. No one speaks directly to each other, and social niceties complicate matters.
Then there is the matter of the non-relative male. He is Reza (Alireza Sani Far), a judge who had a shaky relationship with the law. The execution of Mina’s husband has rattled him to his core, and he reaches out to her in her need. Then, when tragedy befalls him, she returns the favor.
Written and directed by Moghadam and Behtash Sanaeeha, Ballad of a White Cow is a sharp narrative about how little society helps each other until after the damage is done. It’s the kind of movie that’ll make you wonder what you would do in such a situation.
Ballad of a White Cow is playing at the Denver Film Festival on Sunday, Nov. 7 at 5 p.m. and on Sunday, Nov. 14 at 3:45 p.m. It is also available to view via DFF’s virtual platform.