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Not Without My Daughter

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The movie Not without My Daughter is about the true story of Betty Mahmoody. She is an American woman, married to an Iranian man in the States; they also have a daughter named Mahtob, around the age of four at the beginning of the story. The husband “ whose real name we never know, he is just called ˜Moody “ decides to take his family to Iran, but he lies about his real motives to his wife, telling her it will be just a temporary visit to his relatives, and that they will be safe. However, upon returning to his home country, he finds a different Iran than what he left. Religion now plays a major role in peoples lives, to the point that women can be arrested if they are not dressed in the proper, decent way. At first he finds it strange, but he soon begins to see it as a way of expressing his pride of being an Iranian and a Muslim. So he goes back to the rules of his old life, and treats his wife as Iranian married women are treated. Thus Betty finds herself in a situation she has no control over.

As an Iranian wife, she can not go anywhere on her own, she is always watched by the relatives, and she should always do as her husband says. She wants to fight against this: her only aim is to get back to the US together with her daughter. After her first unsuccessful attempts to escape and being beaten and closed up by Moody, Betty tries to behave as she is expected to, afraid that she will lose her daughter if she does not. Mahtob starts school in Iran, and Betty gains the trust of her husbands family by her behavior, and this enables her to escape with her daughter in the end. When she was rebellious and fighting, she was never allowed to go anywhere alone and taking Mahtob. She finds some people who are willing to help her, such as a shopkeeper who allows her to make telephone calls, and another man, an aristocrat, who finally arranges the flight for them. Finally, after a long journey where they can only count on other peoples good will to take them across the border, they arrive to Turkey. œWe are home, baby, we are home “ these are Bettys words to her daughter when she sees the American flag over the embassy in Ankara. Analysis

A comparative analysis is possible between the ways Betty behaves in different situations, in her home country and in the foreign country. In Iran, she does not understand anything at first, and even after a while when she does, she still behaves according to her own cultural codes, as an American. Her behavior within her own and her husbands family is, for example, absolutely different. The family scene at the beginning of the movie, with Betty, Mahtob, Moody, and Bettys parents, is completely calm and peaceful. We are convinced we see a typical American family; the husband seems to differ only in his name and origins. Betty herself is calm as well, serving food, playing with her daughter, talking to her husband and parents; she behaves like an American housewife usually behaves towards her family. This atmosphere, however, changes in Iran, where she is expected to behave according to the rules of a Muslim household. Her own rules, her own way of life is no longer respected; she becomes desperate, and her actions show this. Her gestures are different, she shouts, she screams, and this makes her situation worse because such expressions of emotions are not accepted from women. One particular scene is when she tries to explain herself to her husbands family.

But her attempt is not successful. She has to communicate through a translator, and also her point of view is so different that the Iranian family would not respect it. A woman is not supposed to do what she is doing, so it is impossible for her to be accepted this way, and she does not know any other way. Another example is when she wants to take her daughter from school but she is not allowed to do so without her husband. She screams œI want my baby, I want my baby while the other women, the other mothers, try to hold her and keep repeating to her she has to wait for her husband. Then she gives up and breaks down crying. Bettys gestures and behavior in Iran are totally different from the ones in her own culture, and this shows how she feels in this seemingly hopeless situation.

Religion Whereas Bettys husband did not practice his belief in the Koran all the time in the States, this changes immediately when he is back in Iran. Symbols and signs of religion are everywhere and almost exclusively displayed as a threat or force. The Iranian inhabitants are constantly being displayed doing excessive prayers, be it during the night or on the street during the day. The Iranian- Islamic Religion is the central theme of the movie since all cultural values appear to originate from there. In one scene Betty, her daughter and the rest of the family are on the street packing their purchases into the car when all of a sudden Betty gets attacked by strangers with weapons. It turns out that some of her hair was not under her headscarf and thus she failed to follow the dress code, which is predefined in Islamic religious scriptures. Women

The minor role of women originates from religious beliefs and can be seen in several scenes where the women are not allowed to be part of prayer. They have to sit at separate tables while eating and have to cover themselves up and they are not allowed to show any positive or happy emotions. There are many scenes where Betty and her daughter are playing with each other and laughing when all of a sudden the Iranian men or women turn around to them and give them a fearful look. All women seem to accept their situation but Betty wants to escape and starts planning her escape with the help of the American embassy and an aristocrat. Communication

When comparing the communication situations back in America to the ones in Iran as depicted in the film, one aspect becomes clear: the people in Iran always communicate in a high pitch of tone and in an aggressive manner. They use fearful gestures with their hands (in which often are guns) and they speak in Arabic whenever something bad happens or something negative is being discussed. However, all people in the movie are able to communicate in English with Betty but most of the time she is excluded and people talk about secret things. Iranian women tend to whisper most of the time and give her dirty looks whenever she breaks a law or laughs. Family

Bettys own nuclear family changes drastically once they are in Iran and meet Moodys family. Every single member of his family wants to interfere in their life and is against Betty. They want to change the œAmericanized Moody and force Betty into the role of the Iranian woman. The family strictly follows all laws and rules of the Koran and imprisons Betty and her daughter. At some point Betty meets another American woman at the market and discovers that this is the case for everybody who comes to this country. Interestingly, Moody undergoes an enormous change when he meets his family again. He turns into a furious person driven by religion and his family, which constantly influences his actions up until Betty does not recognize her husband anymore. Freedom

At the beginning of the movie there is a long scene with trees and beautiful nature in America with camera settings implying liberty accompanied by harmonic classical music and endless landscapes. However, in Iran there are old concrete houses and dirty streets where black- dressed gestalts sneak around. As soon as Betty enters the country she loses all her rights and her daughter becomes property of her husband. Neither of them is allowed to leave the house and they are closely-guarded by her husbands brother and sisters. Review and evaluation

It is not easy to write an acceptable review of a movie which has been praised for its artistic quality, yet criticized for its controversial perspective and lack of objective representation. It becomes even more problematic when you consider the fact that the events are based on a true story. On the surface, there is not much to criticize. Molina and Field both deliver outstanding performances and the settings, as well as story development, are solid. However, on the level of discourse and meaning, the movie becomes quite difficult to analyze. It has a very tense and sinister atmosphere, because throughout almost the entire movie the viewer is presented with suffering, fear and basically the worst things that can happen in a marriage. I don’t think that the movie fully represents, or is even meant to represent the true nature of the American or Iranian culture. The director of the movie tried to show the story of one woman and her experiences in a foreign culture. Betty is confronted with cultural differences and even though she tries really hard at the beginning, it is almost impossible for her to be accepted by Moody´s family.

On the œInternet Movie database, I have come across some reviews, which also state that it is just the story of one woman and that it does not give ALL Iranians a bad name. In fact, it was Iraninas who helped her to escape in the first place. Some of the critics also praise the movie for being very authentic when it comes to representing a Persian culture. The director has paid attention to every detail, such as the language, the locations and even the character names. The aspect of cultural representation is also dealt with by some critics, which criticize the movie for being stereotypical and only favoring a negative representation of the Iranian culture. According to a review in the Los Angeles Times, the movie œfails to distinguish between the Iranian state and the ordinary people. The New York Times describes the movie as œexploiting Iranian stereotypes¦ However, there are also other aspects which contribute to Betty´s misery and which are not necessarily bound to intercultural communication.

The movie deals with problems such as mutual inconsideration, domestic violence and family pressure, which are personal issues rather than cultural implications. The character of Moody undergoes such a radical transformation that it is almost hard to believe that a man is capable of such a change. Even in Iran, he seems to have two different faces; when he is alone with her, he is nice, but when he is surrounded by his family his mood changes and he treats her differently. So I think that the real problem here lies with Moody, who preferred to focus on his family and their problems, rather than showing consideration for his wife and daughter. Assigning domestic violence and fear to the Iranian (or even Islamic) culture, would be a very stereotypical way of thinking, since we are only presented with the shadow side and these negative qualities also occur in other cultures. I do not think that this movie would be very suitable for an intercultural communication class, because it does not deal with objective cultural representations. However, it is worth watching and it and the movie could be discussed in terms of stereotypes and culture. Julia Benovics, Hanna Gabel, Elvira Jaskic

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