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Fascinating mock documentary
on 23 June 2000
Families are massively important. Seventeen year old Samira Makhmalbaf is following her father's, Mohsen, vocation in becoming a highly regarded film director. He also wrote the screenplay for 'The Apple' in which twelve year old twins, Zahra and Massoumeh, have been virtually imprisoned in their own home by their impoverished father and blind mother. Neighbours complained that the children had not bathed and could not speak. Makhmalbaf shows the twins attempting to function beyond their parents' wall after social workers have intervened. Their legs are so skinny that they can barely walk; this could be due to lack of practice or malnourishment. They lack social skills to the extent of being unaware that they have to pay for food.
What makes the film remarkable is that it is based on a true incident and uses the family involved. It seems staggering that the father agreed to participate, although he is portrayed as misguided rather than intentionally cruel. His comments reflect how girls are treated differently to boys in traditional Iranian society: 'God made woman for her to marry' and 'My daughters are like flowers. They mustn't be exposed to the sun or they would soon fade'. Yet this mock documentary refuses to condemn and therein lies its power. Even though the mother is seen swearing at her husband and the social worker, it is easy to muster sympathy seeing her terror when she goes out alone and a child dangles an apple in front of her.