Hedieh Tehrani, Ali Mosaffa, Mehran Ahmadi, Alireza Ostadi, Zhila Shahi, Sadaf Asgari, Roya Hosseini, Amin Golestaneh, Akram Alamdar, Leili Farhadpour
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…a realistic drama that slow-burns in modest style.
The politics of orange farming in Iran is fleshed out in Orange Days, a realistic drama that slow-burns in modest style. Scenes are stripped back, the stars dressed down and long looks of consternation add to the sheer grit of tough work in the cold terrain of a northern province.
Aban (Hediyeh Tehrani) gives a mesmeric performance as a former seasonal labourer who has worked her way up to subcontractor role to run an all-female crew in the all-male world of orange produce. She beats out the male competition, the very men she worked under, and gets the big job of clearing an entire orchard in as little as ten days with a crew of thirty women.
It’s tough work putting oranges into barrels up against an awful boss, a smarmy competitor, striking workers, powerplay and underhanded machinations while the men wait in the wings to watch her fall. But Aban is determined, so much so, she risks her house and marriage.
She wheels and deals with a cool, no-nonsense defiance and as much as gender often plays into expectations about character, it’s interesting to see a woman ignite hellfire in a man’s world where a feminist arc isn’t evident. She’s simply a woman who needs to keep her crew together as she solemnly juggles multiple hurdles and hold-ups. Her unravelling marriage to Majid, in a quiet, nuanced performance by Ali Mosaffa, a young woman with a baby and another with addiction problems, provide important subplots.
From a background of documentary, director Arash Lahooti’s feature length directorial debut captures a relentless world of hard labour and financial despair with a woman at the centre who risks all to prove she can do it.