Radiograph of a Family
"Mother married a picture of my father,” is the opening sentence of this intimate film that won the award for Best Feature-Length Documentary at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2020. Director Firouzeh Khosrovani is not speaking metaphorically though. Her mother Tayi literally married a portrait of Hossein in Tehran—he was in Switzerland studying radiology and was unable to travel back to his homeland for the wedding. The event illustrates the abyss that still exists in their marriage: Hossein is a secular progressive and Tayi a devout, traditional Muslim. But this family history is also a sort of x-ray, laying bare the conflicts of Iranian society in the run-up to, and aftermath of the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
Besides Khosrovani’s commentary, we hear letters being read aloud and recollections of conversations between her parents. At the same time, we see photographs and videos from the family archive. These fragments of intimacy are interspersed with stylized shots of the filmmaker’s parental home, its altering decor and furnishings subtly reflecting each new phase in her parents’ conjugal life—and in Iranian society.
The pictures Khosrovani uses do not only have a documentary function, they are also valuable objects and beloved memories. They are often shown with their ragged edges and damages. Lots of pictures were actually destroyed by Tayi in her attempt to erase images from her pre-revolutionary self. In one of the most eloquent sequences in the film, young Khosrovani tries to reconstruct a torn picture of her mother by drawing in the missing pieces. X-rays also play a big role in the film, concerning a back injury Tayi suffered when she was young, which might have influenced some decisions in her life, as is indirectly suggested.
This deeply personal film won the IDFA 2020 Award for Best Documentary.
Firouzeh Khosrovani's documentary uses the tensions between the filmmaker's parents as a mirror for Iran's turbulent recent history.