Iran: ‘Half Moon’ – film about women’s right to sing

25 April 2007
‘Half Moon’ is a feature film which talks of women’s right to perform in public, and to participate in the artistic development of a land

They jump into an orange mini bus and begin the search for a female singer who will join their company – which is not easy in a country where women are not allowed to sing in front of men.

“I must say it pains me that in 2006 we were celebrating the 250-years birthday of Mozart while in my country it is still forbidden for women to sing,” said the Kurdish film director Bahman Ghobadi. His fourth film, ‘Half Moon’ (‘Niwemang’), touches on the issue of religious music restriction in Iran, and it is a film in praise of music and freedom of expression. It is also magnificently shot in the Iraqi-Kurdish landscapes.

The film won the top prize (‘Best Film’) at San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain in September 2006, and it won the People’s Choice Award at the International Istanbul Film Festival in April 2007, a prize which is sponsored by the Turkish newspaper Radikal and which was determined by an audience vote.

‘Half Moon’ was also selected to represent the Iraqi motion picture industry in the category of ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ at the American Academy Awards in 2007.


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The storyline

Mamo, an old, renowned Kurdish musician who lives in Iran, has been granted permission to give a concert in Iraqi Kurdistan. It will be the first time in 35 years, only possible now that Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship has ended. Such a concert was forbidden under his rule. His faithful friend Kako offers to drive an orange school bus and help collect Mamo’s ten musical sons from all over Iranian Kurdistan.

Because the old Kurdish musician has waited 35 years for the chance to perform again in Iraqi Kurdistan, he ignores his son’s premonition that something awful awaits him before the next full moon.

While he does have permission to use a female singer at the concert, the fact that women singers are not allowed to sing in front of men in public in Iran means that the company must travel elsewhere to look for one. They reach a mountain retreat where 1,335 exiled female singers live, and here they find the singer Hesho (Hedyeh Tahrani) who they then smuggle, carefully concealed in the bus, past checkpoints and gruff border guards. It is a marvelous scene when the female singers of the mountain retreat line up on the roof eaves, and beat their drums as one of their own leave with the company of men to attend the concert.

The bus journey of Mamo and his musical group turns out to be troublesome, but Mamo’s persistence guides everyone towards adventure, emotion and magic.

Censored in Iran

The actress Hedieh Tehrani has a reputation as an Iranian superstar, but nevertheless the Iranian cultural officials accused the movie of ‘separatism’ because of its use of the Kurdish language and therefore refused to issue a screening license for ‘Half Moon’ in Iran. The film is, in other words, censored in Iran.

‘Half Moon’ was created as a joint production of Iran, Iraq, Austria, and France by the 38-year-old film director’s company, MijFilm.

Reviewer Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter called it a “touching and wise film that will grace screens at many festivals and in specialty venues worldwide.” Among a long list of film festivals, (listed on the page ‘About Half Moon’, see link below), the film was shown at the Natfilm Festival and the film festival in Denmark in the beginning of 2007.

Photos: By Bahman Ghobadi

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Bahman Ghobadi

Hedieh Tehrani



Bahman Ghobadi’s official web site:
About ‘Half Moon’
About Bahman Ghobadi film festival – March 2007:

Om ‘Half Moon’  (in Danish language)



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