Tahmineh Milani
courtesy of Tahmineh Milani

Despite the recent re-election of the reform government, despite the fact that her work had already been officially sanctioned, screenwriter and director Tahmineh Milani awaited the release of her latest film, The Hidden Half, with concern.

“I was worried during its making just as I’m a little nervous now that it is about to go on screen,” she told Holly during an interview last spring. “The first night of the filming, 15 publications were shut down, and this really depleted our energy and psychologically affected me… I think that even though it was a film that I made during Khatami’s era it is of very high risk.”

Indeed, just a few months later, she found herself in jail. The Tehran Revolutionary Court took exception to her depiction of the Revolution and charged her with supporting counterrevolutionaries. (The film features a woman reflecting back on her involvement with leftist rebels during the revolution in ‘79).

President Khatami’s reformist government, which approved the film before it was made, came to her defense and she was released from jail after two weeks. But the charges, which potentially carry the death penalty, still remain. Groups around the world have rallied to her cause, including Amnesty International and Facets Multi-Media, a non-profit arts organization in Chicago.

Chances are, the experience won’t stop the internationally acclaimed filmmaker from tackling more tough issues. “As a person who thinks about the health of my society, I try to make films that will create a movement — for example Two Women — so there will be discussions and debates,” she says.

In The Hidden Half, she sets out to address some of the unexplored aspects of the Revolution, which took place when she was 18. Most of the people who were jailed or killed in the turnover were part of her generation, and for the most part, she believes their stories, — especially the young women’s — have been stuffed.

“The issue is that our women don’t talk at all about themselves, their demands, their ideologies and their thoughts,” she says. “By making that movie, we tell all of them that as long as you remain silent and don’t say anything your problems will remain. Speak and pay the price for it, for it may transform and change your life.”

Her film Two Women, which took some seven years to win a governmental go-ahead, looks at how women are forced to stifle their true selves. The story is told through the eyes of two university friends, who are parted in the years after the Revolution and then reconnect.

“One of the most important problems that we are faced with in Iran’s society is that we are unable to express our true personality…,” she says. “For both men and women, their lives inside their homes where it is private is one way and outside of their homes where they have to observe social regulations it is another way… Our women also have two faces inside their homes: the image of what their spouses or their spouses’ families want them to have, and what is inside them.”

Tahmineh has written six of her own films as well as screenplays for other directors. While she may research the topics for months, she cranks out the scripts in a few days.

She says any problems she encounters along the way are far more likely to be political than artistic — even in today’s freer environment. “During these 23 years that have passed since the revolution, we have slowly learned what to make and what not to mention and in a way, we have automatically censored ourselves.”

From the Interview

“Because The Hidden Half talks about the unspoken issues of a generation, it offends many. It says, ‘Look what you have done to the people with your unjust and heartless judgments.’ We have to go and open up this part of history and speak about the past so the wounds that exist in society today will be healed.”

“Our kids today, don’t know themselves, don’t know their parents, have lost their dreams and are confused.”

“My generation was like a ship: all those of my generation were passengers on a ship and we were traveling on the ocean and we had an objective [destination] and it was clear where we were going. But all of a sudden they exploded a bomb under this ship and destroyed it. Some died and some found a piece of driftwood and swam.”

Coordinates: Iran

Tahmineh Milani

activist/ filmmaker


Tehran, Iran

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