“What must a hijab conceal?” – “Everything apart from hands and feet.” – “The ankles too?” – “Them too.” – “And the neck? Be honest, you don’t wear one that often.” Hanieh is a teacher at a girls’ school on the outskirts of Tehran, in which the pupils are educated with military discipline and according to a restrictive interpretation of Islam. No nail polish, no football, instead schoolyard roll calls and eulogies to God. Each morning, Hanieh wraps herself in her hijab, removes her nail varnish and enters a world both alien and abhorrent to her. She lives in a middle-class, liberal district in the city centre and the journey to work is a daily ordeal. For this reason, the 24-year old has asked the education authority to transfer her to another school, but her application is stuck somewhere in the system. Like a sleep-walker, the young woman moves through a world of bans and prohibitions which forces her to pass on the repression to her pupils. Only in rare, secret moments can she break out and take a couple of drags on a cigarette in the toilet. And over the invisible violence to which women and girls are constantly exposed hangs the suspicion of a concrete crime: two of the girls at Hanieh’s school have mysteriously disappeared and no-one in the school apparently knows what happened to them. Paradise allows rare insights in the daily life of the Islamic republic and in a mixture of poetic realism and dry humour portrays the male monopoly of power in Iranian society. The film was made without official approval.
Sina Ataeian Dena (*1983) first studied physics, then later film at the Sooreh University in Tehran. He has made several animated films. Paradise is his debut feature and the first part of a trilogy about violence.