Mini Review: Hava, Maryam, Ayesha

Year: 2019
Runtime: 86 Minutes
Director: Sahraa Karimi
Writers: Sahraa Karimi, Sami Hasib Nabizada
Stars:  Arezoo Ariapoor, Fereshta Afshar, Hasiba Ebrahimi

By Caelyn O’Reilly

“Hava, Maryam, Ayesha” is a film about the everyday struggles of three Afghan women – specifically in relation to patriarchy, marriage and pregnancy – directed and co-written by fellow Afghan woman Sahraa Karimi. In its opening section, focusing on Hava (played by Arezoo Ariapoor), the film makes its focus on the everyday very clear with a documentary-like realism. A frequently handheld camera that shows the routines and chores Hava spends her days performing in full, unbroken takes. Her laboured, exhausted breathing makes up a large part of the film’s soundscape in this segment as she is belittled by the men around her and treated like a disrespected employee rather than a family member.

“This film is carried by the naturalistic and engaging performances of its three co-leads.  It is an incisive look into how modern women live in Kabul, made from the perspectives of those same women.”

Maryam (Fereshta Afshar), in contrast, seems to have found a way to manage and improve her station within this patriarchal society. She works as a newscaster with a forceful personality. But it is slowly revealed that even she is bound by the whims of the men around her. But Hasiba Ebrahimi’s Ayesha is even more restricted, being forced into an arranged marriage to her cousin. The film makes sure to show these women exist in the same world, positioning their struggles in contrast to one another. This makes the audience think about what unites them and what makes them different. As the film states “this city is full of poor and distraught women”. This is made clear by the film’s ending which shows how deeply connected these women are.

hava
Fereshta Afshar in Hava, Maryam, Ayesha (2019)

This film is carried by the naturalistic and engaging performances of its three co-leads.  It is an incisive look into how modern women live in Kabul, made from the perspectives of those same women. And despite some occasional grammatical and spelling errors in the English subtitles, it is equally captivating for us uncultured westerners as well. All joking aside, I would heartily recommend this film to all who are interested.

4 stars

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