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Cinema Tehran, Oslo #5 - Women Without Men by Shirin Neshat (2009)

Shahrnush Parsipur’s censored, surreal novel of women against the state finds its perfect match in visual artist Shirin Neshat. A mysterious house outside time and place provides haunted refuge for several women. Far from society and the bonds of family, they find a new start. But what does a rich widow, a young sex worker, two spinsters, and a schoolteacher who would like to be a tree have in common?

In Women Without Men, Shirin Neshat portrays women in a society dominated by men – their lives, their dreams and their hopes – and along the way, tells a poetic and magical story of love, oppression and freedom in 1950s Iran.

Against the tumultuous backdrop of Iran’s 1953 CIA-backed coup d’état, the destinies of four women converge in a beautiful orchard garden, where they find independence, solace and companionship. Acclaimed video artist Shirin Neshat makes her directorial debut with this incisive reflection on the pivotal historical moment that directly led to the Islamic revolution and the Iran we know today.

The streets of Tehran, Iran, are teeming with protesters objecting to the overthrow of the prime minister, but four disparate women have more immediate concerns. Farrokhlagha’s (Arita Shahrzad) husband thinks he’s entitled to be married to multiple women. Munis (Shabnam Toloui) is a virtual slave to her brother. Faezeh (Pegah Ferydoni) has physical and emotional troubles. And Zarin (Orsolya Tóth) is an unwilling sex worker. Boldly, the women pursue solutions to the problems foisted upon them.

In 2003 the Screenwriters Laboratory of the Sundance Institute helped Neshat to develop and begin production on the feature film Mahdokht (2004), an adaptation of Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel Women Without Men; the screenplay is a collaboration between Neshat and the author, and the cinematography is by Darius Khondji, who also shot Tooba.

Portrait of Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat. Foto: Rodolfo Martinez


Shirin Neshat is an Iranian-born artist and filmmaker living in New York. Neshat works and continues to experiment with the mediums of photography, video and film, which she imbues with highly poetic and politically charged images and narratives that question issues of power, religion, race, gender and the relationship between the past and present, occident and orient, individual and collective through the lens of her personal experiences as an Iranian woman living in exile.

Neshat has held numerous solo exhibitions at museums internationally, including the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; The Broad, Los Angeles; Museo Correr, Venice, Italy; Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C. and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Neshat has directed three feature-length films, Women Without Men (2009), which received the Silver Lion Award for Best Director at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, Looking For Oum Kulthum (2017), and most recently, Land of Dreams, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival (2021).

Neshat was awarded the Golden Lion Award, the First International Prize at the 48th Biennale di Venezia (1999), the Hiroshima Freedom Prize (2005), the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize (2006) and in 2017, she received the prestigious Praemium Imperiale Award in Tokyo.She is represented by Gladstone Gallery in New York and Goodman Gallery in London.

Pardis Shafafi.

Panel / conversationalist

Dr. Pardis Shafafi is an Oslo-based anthropologist specialising in political violence and peoples’ tribunals. She completed her doctoral degree from the University of St Andrews in 2015 on these and other related themes. She has special expertise and interest in enduring victim-survivor pursuits for accountability and justice in contexts of impunity for powerful perpetrators.

Pardis is the co-editor of the 2015 «States of Impunity» series for OpenDemocracy and co-editor of the 2019 special edition series «The Ethnography of Peoples’ Tribunals» for PoLAR journal. She is an advisor and associate researcher with the European Research Council «Off-Site» project and a regular media contributor, most recently with NRK, Morgenbladet, Al Jazeera and BBC radio.

Her upcoming activities include a peer-reviewed paper on Iran and enforced forgetting, an article about the symbolic relevance of the hijab in contemporary Iranian politics for Crisis Mag, and a lecture on grassroots justice movements in Iran with the Iran Academia project.


Iranian food is made by Gilan Mat, a family-driven cafeteria and food truck based in Oslo.

Den iranske gitaristen Jalal Ghobad

Live music

Jalal Ghobads interest in music began back in 1973 when he entered the state music school Kakh Markazi Javanan, in Tehran, Iran. His professional music career started in 1978 when he founded the band Hot Kens. The band performed on live TV as a backing band for well-known Iranian artists and musicians of the tim. among them Nelly who, after the revolution, gave up her music career, fled to Paris and trained to become a dentist. 

Parallel to these performances, he worked as a music teacher for young people in Tehran. After the revolution in 1979, almost everything related to music was banned in Iran, and he thus lost his job and his livelihood. Life as a musician at that time became dangerous, it could result in prison, torture and persecution. This led to Ghobad fleeing to Turkey, where he could once again make a living from music with his own band before his dream of a better life led him to Norway in the late 80s. In Turkey he played alongside Javad Yasari and Abbas Ghaderi. Shortly after Ghobad arrived in Norway, he founded a new band named Kandoo, and continued working with live music. 

Ghobad has played live throughout Scandinavia, and worked as a music teacher for the international Red Cross in Oslo. In addition to this, he has worked with Rikskonsertene, and since then organized and played live concerts with famous Iranian artists such as: Ebi, Dariush, Wigen, Moein, Mahasti, Shahram Shapare, Sattar, Leyla Frohar, Shohre, Shahrokh Shamsizadeh, Bijan Mortazavi, Kamran Homan, Afshin, and Omid. Ghobad is today active with the band Kandoo and still has the pleasure of being a private music teacher for children and young people in Oslo.


17:30 Iranian food (kr. 100)
18:00 Intro
18:05 Jalal Ghobad (live music)
18:30 Women Without Men (35mm, Persian with Norwegian subtitles)
20:05 Conversation with Shirin Neshat and Dr Pardis Shafafi (live stream)
20:50 The End

Cinema Tehran, Oslo er støttet av Fritt Ord, Oslo Kommune Kulturetaten og Anicca Pictures AS. for mer informasjon, se check Facebook / Instagram / Annica Pictures.

Neshat’s images are startling in their sensual immediacy and aesthetic nuance. Chris Chang
With this debut feature, the photographer-turned-director Shirin Neshat has made a picture with vision, poetry, sexual frankness and historical sinew. Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
The film surpasses even Michael Haneke’s White Ribbon in the fierce beauty and precision of its cinematography. Stephen Holden, The New York Times
Teknisk informasjon om filmen Kvinner uten menn
Attributt Verdi
Spilletid 1t 29m (89 minutter)
Originaltittel Zanan-e bedun-e mardan
Produsert Iran, Tyskland, Østerrike, Frankrike, Italia, Ukraina, Morokko 2009
Regi Shirin Neshat & Shoja Azari

Shabnam Toloui, Pegah Ferydoni, Arita Shahrzad

Tale Persisk og engelsk
Tekst Norsk
Aldersgrense 15 år
Visningsformat 35mm