TABOO (Mitra Farahani) Rating: NNN
Iran is seen in the West as a repressive society, particularly where issues of women and sexuality are concerned. In this 2004 documentary - part of the Diaspora Film Fest - Mitra Farahani interviews young men and women, parents, clerics, doctors, a prostitute, a transsexual and a soldier to uncover private truths about sex in that country.
Predictably, young people feel most constrained by their country's sexual mores, which dictate that women must be virgins until marriage. Also not a shocker: the soldier feels the beliefs he fought for are disappearing. When he tells young unmarried couples not to hold hands in public, they scoff and say, Your time is over.
But the film holds some surprises. The prostitute, for example, who only has anal sex, is still technically considered a virgin. One young woman says the Iranian system gives women an economic advantage: all she has to do is stay chaste and she gets a husband who will take care of her, unlike women in other countries who have to work.
The doc's ultimate message isn't the most edifying ever: sex is a complicated business, in which biology gets mixed up with religion, social status and family pressures, among other things. But that could be the point: by taking her camera into Iran and bringing the film back to the West, Farahani is saying, See, we're not so different. (National Film Board, January 12)