What happens when society stops looking inward? How do people suffer when they refuse to admit victimisation lest it jeopardises their social standing? The victim is declared the convict and the suffering of the hunted is perpetuated.
After watching ‘Hush! Girls Don’t Scream’ as a part of the FFSI International Film Festival at the Indian Habitat Centre, my faith in Iranian cinema strengthened further. As far as the story goes: A woman gets her hands smeared in blood by murdering a security guard on the day before her marriage. As the fear of capital punishment lurks, the interrogator and the attorney try to unearth the real reason behind this crime, and that too at a least opportune moment for the accused.
It turned out that the accused was a victim of child abuse. She has been living in “fear, doubt, and hatred” because she has been repeatedly violated and her honour was decapitated from her existence. Life is one long nightmare for her and she is too afraid to turn off the lights. The childhood trauma graduated into an everlasting phobia that made her do things which are hard to justify.
A nation (read Iran) that treats ‘women’s rights’ as an oxymoron, is still a hostage to a justice system that is incapable of delivering justice. Like all other nations, conclusion is drawn based on proofs and circumstantial evidence. There’s no place for contemplation (or introspection, if you wish). Bodily harm leaves behind traces of crime and the perpetrator faces the noose. But what happens to those offenders who commit crimes against the soul? Their ghastly act doesn’t leave any tangible trace for the court of law to consider.
Director Pouran Derakhshandeh took it upon herself to highlight the inept mechanism in use for delivering social justice. She takes a leaf from the everyday situation wherein the victim is left at the mercy of ‘evidence’ to convince the judges that she is not the hunter, that she is being hunted.
The movie smacks of courage. It doesn’t shy away from raising another grave concern – under-reporting of cases of child molestation. This is rooted in the tacit acceptance of the age-old practice of intimidating the ‘weaker sex’ into silence. The women in the movie didn’t keep mum. They poured out their angst and anger. Yet, they looked as helpless as the judiciary – incapable of safeguarding the tormented.