The haunting reverberations of a Kurdish girl’s song in Jafar Panahi’s short film, Hidden, keeps us fascinated and leaves us craving for a glimpse of the singer who can be heard but must remain hidden. The girl, who has a preternaturally gifted voice and lives in a Kurdish village in Iran, is at the heart of the 18-minute film; however, she speaks and sings from behind a curtain. This is the only way the audience senses her presence in the film for a couple of minutes towards the end. Her presence is ephemeral but by no means evanescent as her song has a lingering effect on the viewer on several levels. In his inimitable style, which always makes intriguing use of self-reflexivity, the acclaimed Iranian filmmaker portrays the multiple layers of struggles that women in his country face day in day out.
Panahi’s movies garner special attention as he has been banned from making movies in Iran since 2010. He has nonetheless continued making movies which were screened and won many awards at Cannes, Berlin and other international film festivals. Panahi was arrested last year for protesting the detention of two fellow filmmakers who had been critical of Iranian authorities. In jail, the filmmaker had announced a hunger strike saying, “Today, like many people trapped in Iran, I have no choice but to protest against this inhuman behaviour with my dearest possession—my life.” All his films, including 3 faces and Hidden, have assumed new meaning and significance as they show how a director makes courageous artistic decisions while tackling the political pressure which is ever poised to stifle an artist’s creative voice. Panahi was released two days after announcing the hunger strike last month.