At Five in the Afternoon Review

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A 20 year-old woman (Rezaie) defies her father (Yousefrazi) and attends a secular school in Kabul, where she announces her ambition to become President of Afghanistan.


Since the turn of the Millennium, several Iranian filmmakers have been quietly advocating a more worthwhile role for women in Islamic society. So, following her contribution to 11'09''01, Samira Makhmalbaf returns to Afghanistan to explore the plight of women who are still largely subjected to repressive control, despite the fall of the Taliban.

However, Makhmalbaf is not solely concerned with the prejudices and restrictions endured by the burka-clad majority, as she is also keen to expose the ignorance of ordinary people - whether they be Pakistani poets or French soldiers - and the motives and methods of the political masters who control their destinies.

Some of her observations are naive (despite input from her filmmaking father, Mohsen), while cart driver Abdolgani Yousefrazi's reckless determination to keep Agheleh Rezaie and sister-in-law Marzieh Amiri on the move means that the action is markedly more contrived than it was in The Apple or Blackboards.

Yet with Ebrahim Ghafori's camera capturing the desolation of the war-ravaged landscape, and debutant Rezaie's expressive face conveying both her inquisitiveness and confusion, this is still a provocative insight into a hellish situation that is far from a satisfactory resolution.

Tellingly alternating between intimate close-ups and uncompromising vistas, this ambitious feminist critique of the misuse of political power meanders occasionally, but still hits home hard.