Fest of Duty a documentary by Iranian filmmaker Firouzeh Khosrovani was in the line up of documentaries at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) in the Panorama section and won the Oxfam Global Justice Award.
The 60-minute feature film begins in a hall full of chattering Iranian schoolgirls being told by the Imam about reaching the age of duty and the need to don the head covering from now on. Khosravani picks up the story eight years later focusing on the developments in the lives of two of the little girls attending the ceremony in 2005 and examines how their close childhood friendship and their characters have changed from the time when they were nine.
The film takes us into the homes of the two women and in intimate conversations with the two reveals their views of their past and their present as well as their hopes for the future.
Maryam belongs to a religious family and has been brought up with religious values. She has taken on the hijab from the very age of nine when it becomes obligatory for all Muslim women and begun her daily prayers (Namaz). She finds solace in talking to God in difficult situations and seeking God’s guidance.
She says: “I sometimes get crossed with God and when I am calmer, I apologize to God for my nagging.”
While she sometimes questions the significance of covering her hair with the hijab, she feels it provides a kind of safety for her in the outside world.
Melika on the other hand dreams of leaving Iran, going to Hollywood and pursuing a career as an actress.
The two meet after many years and begin to examine at what point their lives drifted apart and conclude that the very age of duty ceremony we see at the beginning of the film is exactly where they have parted ways.
300 documentaries were screened at the 27th IDFA festival which was in full swing from November 18 to November 30.