Massoud Bakhshi

France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, 2020 / 89 min / Persion OV with French subt. / Drama

LuxFilmLab - 7th October

Sentenced to death for the accidental killing of her husband, Maryam has to beg her stepdaughter to forgive her on TV in order to survive.

Maryam, a young Iranian woman, has been sentenced to death for accidentally killing her husband, Nasser, a 65 year-old man. But Iranian law allows for the victim’s family to forgive the culprit and spare their life. On Yalda, the winter solstice celebration, Nasser's daughter Mona will have to decide Maryam’s fate on the country’s most popular televised reality show, “Joy of Forgiveness”. If Maryam manages to win over her stepdaughter over, her impending execution could be converted into a prison sentence. In front of millions of viewers, the two women are forced to relive the past.

“Compelled by the social complexities of contemporary Iran, Bahkshi started as a documentary filmmaker, during which time he met several women who had murdered their husbands. Their stories stayed with him as he developed this powerful exploration of women characters. Although Maryam and Mona are condemned in some way and subject to Iran’s profound patriarchy, they find agency, moral authority, and freedom within those confines.” Sundance Film Festival

Wed 07/10 20:30 Ciné Utopia Persian OV with FR subt. Public

“A clever, suspenseful exposé of Sharia law. […] The way religious law penetrates every aspect of Iranian life, from a murder case to how a TV show is run, is probably the most striking aspect of Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness. The perverse logic of temporary marriage, inheritance laws favoring boys and homicide laws stacked against wives, not to mention the practice of paying one’s way out of a hanging with “blood money” to the victim’s relatives, become casual plot elements in this well-shot, cleverly scripted melodrama.” Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter, 05/02/2020

“Temporary marriage, blood money (the sum to be paid to the family of the deceased), the gulf separating social classes, hints of venality and inheritance conflicts — Massoud Bakhshi methodically decyphers Iranian reality through the twists and turns of a captivating melodrama (obsessed with her own innocence and with the truth about her marriage, Maryam does not abide by the contrition required for pardon) that offers superb roles to its two lead actresses. A fascinating duel for control with many emotional outbursts […], the film also gives the director opportunities to intelligently address the mechanisms of TV spectacle” Fabian Lemercier, Cineuropa, 27/01/2020

“The second dramatic feature from Iranian writer/director Massoud Bakhshi attempts to use the story of one individual to illuminate wider issues surrounding the plight of women in a deeply patriarchal society. The slick assurance of Bakhshi’s approach makes for an accessible, pacey melodrama […] There is also just enough in the bustling […] narrative to make us aware that in many respects both women are victims of a society in which the ultimate power resides with men.” Allan Hunter, ScreenDaily, 27/01/2020

  • Grand Jury Prize – World Cinema Dramatic Competition, Sundance Film Festival, 2020 (USA)
  • Best Screenplay, Sofia International Film Festival, 2020 (Bulgaria)
Cast & Credits
Sadaf Asgari, Behnaz Jafari, Babak Karimi, Fereshteh Sadre Orafaee, Forough Ghojabagli, Arman Darvish, Fereshteh Hosseini
Massoud Bakhshi
Julian Atanassov
Dana Farzanehpour, Denis Séchaud
Leila Naghdi Pari
JBA Production, Niko Film, Close Up Films, AMOUR FOU Luxembourg, Shortcut Films, Tita B Productions, Ali Mosaffa Productions
Panache Productions, La Compagnie Cinématographique

Born in Tehran, Iran, in 1972, Massoud Bakhshi has worked as film critic, scriptwriter and producer from 1990 to 1998, before making 12 documentaries and short films which were awarded internationally. His first fiction feature film A Respectable Family (2012) was selected for the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes. Yalda, A Night for Forgiveness (2020), his second fiction feature film, won the Grand Jury Prize of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at Sundance Film Festival 2020 and was seleced in the Generation 14+ strand at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival.

  • 2020 – Yalda
  • 2012 – Yek khanévadéh-e Mohtaram / A Respectable Family
  • 2008 – Arayesh gar e Bagh Dad / Baghdad Barber (documentary short)
  • 2007 – Teheran, Tehran / Tehran Has No More Pomegrenates! (documentary)
  • 2004 – Panjerehay-E-Gomshodeh / Lost Windows (documentary short)
  • 2003 – Namaze baran / Praying for the Rain (documentary)
  • 2001 – Vaghti Behrang Ayoumi ra molaghat mikonad / When Behrang Meets Ayoumi (documentary short)
  • 1999 – Shenasaeiye yek zan / Identification of a Woman (documentary short)
  • 1999 – Cine Citta (documentary short)