Bad Samaritan Ballad of a White Cow (Ghasideyeh gave sefid)
Omar Larabi, de FILM KRANT 28-09-2021
With subtlety and steadily accruing power, Ballad of a White Cow depicts how painfully a justice system can fail -- and how that failure can haunt the lives of those affected. --Rotten Tomatoes
In some ways, "Ballad" feels engineered to put a maximum number of obstacles in Mina's path, but as executed, the movie doesn't feel the slightest bit didactic, despite its unusually stiff style. --Variety
Ballad of a White Cow does not flinch - not once - in its exposé of how a great injustice cannot be magically fixed by bureaucrats; rather, its trauma spirals outwards, endlessly and unnecessarily, ruining the lives of all it touches. --AWFJ Women on Film
A widow struggles against the horrific vagaries of Iran's religious bureaucracy. Maryam Moghadam and Behtash Sanaeeha's third feature is at its core a classic drama about guilt and penance.
270 million toman (about 55 thousand euros): that's how much is worth the life of a man who has been wrongly executed in Iran. Widow Mina (Maryam Moghadam, also co-director and co-screenwriter) is told a year after the execution of her husband Babak that he was innocent. An envoy from the court tells her dryly. After all, it happens more often.
When Mina's brother-in-law learns about the future payment of the 'blood money', he is quick to advise his sister-in-law to move in with her daughter Bita with her in-laws so that she can help with the rent. If she refuses, Mina's custody of her daughter is at stake.
But one day a generous helper suddenly shows up at the widow's door who still has to pay off a debt to Babak. Reza (Alireza Sani Far) emerges as Bita's new-fangled uncle, while helping Mina, among other things, in the search for a new home.
Remorse of conscience is carved into Reza's face, and what's on his mind can be guessed at. Mina, on the other hand, thinks she's dealing with a genuine Samaritan. She candidly tells him how she feels about the Iranian legal system in beautiful, poetic phrases like: “Should I complain to them about themselves?” And when Mina is told it's "all in her hands," she counters with: "It's never been in my hands, I wish I could handle them with my hands."
In Ballad of a White Cow (Ghasideyeh gaave sefid), filmmakers Moghadam and Behtash Sanaeeha sketch through characteristic Iranian insights – also think of the work of Asghar Farhadi – the vagaries of Iranian religious bureau creation and how a woman without a man is powerless in a system in which religious teachings lead to arbitrary rulings.
This relationship between law and religion is aptly portrayed at the beginning and end of the film by a visually abstract dream scene in which a white cow is camping in the courtyard of the prison where Babak is on death row. It is a reference to the sura The Cow from the Quran, in which Moses has to slaughter a cow at God's instigation.
Two judges tell each other in the film that their death sentences also have the approval of God. With which they legitimize the executions that are carried out on the assembly line in Iran.
It is therefore no coincidence that Mina is on an assembly line for her work in a milk factory, but a good metaphor for female resentment: the sweet product of the cow, diluted with poison, turns out to be a perfect means of revenge against the Iranian legal system.