Massoud Bakhshi’s ‘Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness’, which screened at IFFI, is an “eye for an eye” drama set in a TV studio

Posted on January 23, 2021


The premise of this Iranian drama is almost farcical. A matter of life and death is being decided on a reality show with a garishly lit set.

Spoilers ahead…

The International Film Festival of India went virtual this year. One of the films I watched is Massoud Bakhshi’s Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness (2019). It’s a tale of conflict, and the conflict arises from the very title. The first word refers to the winter solstice festival in Iran. It is a celebration, a day of joy. The last word of the title, however, refers to the fate of Maryam (Sadaf Asgari), a young woman who killed her much-older husband. She says it was an accident. But she fled the scene, so the evidence stacked up heavily against her. She has spent months in prison.

The other major character in this story is Mona (Behnaz Jafari), the daughter of the dead man (through his first wife). She is older than Maryam, too. The two women have been called into a television studio for a special programme where they will be seated opposite one another, with an anchor probing them to hear both sides of the story. If Mona forgives Maryam, the latter will not be executed — though, Maryam, frankly, does not seem to care. After her child was stillborn, she says she died anyway.

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