Written and Directed by Yama Rauf
Starring Noor Jamal and Habibullah Nikzad
Short Film Review by Georgia Wren
No Woman is provocative from its very title, a bold statement, creating intrigue from the offset as to the viewpoint of the film and filmmaker. As it is, the 3 minute short by filmmaker Yama Rauf is a smart, very honest piece of filmmaking.
Centred around two young women, the stark avant-garde style presents a startlingly bleak image of the restrictions put upon the characters, based on something as simple as their gender. Rauf makes this theme undisputable as the girls approach an unseen border, marked by a sign post declaring “No Woman”. The gatekeeper for this invisible border arrives, masked and armed, to enforce the unwritten rule of no women.
Admittedly, the plot itself is rather simple and obvious and, perhaps, the metaphor is a little in your face, but what makes the film so good is the manner in which the film addresses its subject.
The first thing to strike me about this film was the sound design, which is well layered and very atmospheric. In a short with no dialogue, the sound here flies, elevating the piece beyond being a throwback to early experimental cinema to a contemporary, intense experience.
Shot in black and white, the cinematography is stunning, using space and colour to highlight the distance between the oppressed and the oppressor, and allows the rolling clouds above the characters to create a palpable, oppressive tension. It is sublimely shot, making great use of the landscape and capturing some wonderful and subtle performances by Noor Jamal and Habibullah Nikzad.
The black and white, 4:3 style choice is incredibly reminiscent of early avant-garde filmmaking, a choice that throws us back in time, perhaps attempting to remind us that gender based discrimination is sadly an old, but ongoing, issue. And while Rauf tells us the film is largely about women in Islamic societies, the film feels wonderfully universal, even down to the opening shot of the first two women’s feet, both dressed in vastly different shoes but stood at the same line, the same ambition and the same obstacle.
This is an idea compounded in Rauf’s editing, and his fantastic use of repetition. Every cut feels full of purpose and he conveys a very cyclic view of women’s struggles, almost suggesting a bleak futility in resisting. That is until he reverses the footage, taking the power from the male character who is stripped of his mask and collapses to his knees. Rauf allows the challenging woman to overcome her obstacle, passing the weeping man, only for her to once again come across the same figure, raising a gun.
At its core, the film appears to be about the repetition of denial and how literally defying and unmasking those who deny others is our best way forward. Rauf has achieved so much in this film, taking on almost every role himself and coming out with a movie that threads so much into such a short space of time. Simplistic and bold, it is a technically very well made film with some brilliant performances and the sheer strength of its wonderful images stick in your mind well after watching.