Ballad of a white cow – Berlinale review

Ballad of a white cow – Berlinale review

Mina’s life is turned upside down when she learns that her husband Babak was innocent of the crime for which he was executed. The authorities apologise for the mistake and offer the prospect of financial compensation. Mina starts a silent battle against a cynical system for her own and her daughter’s sake. Just as her money is running out, a stranger named Reza knocks at her door, saying he has come to repay a debt he owed to Babak. Mina is guarded at first, but increasingly lets Reza into her life, unaware of the secret that ties them to one another.

A year after the win of the Golden Bear by Mohammad Rasoulod in “There is no evil”, another Iranian film visits tha competition of Berlinale with a similar style and topic. “Ballad of a white cow” is a film the criticizes heavily the death sentence in Iran, and the state’s hypocritical stance on the matter. While “There is no Evil” was pure political and social cinema, with multiple stories, “Cow” focuses on the character of Mina, another strong woman in the history of Iranian cinema. The masterful performance of Maryam Moghaddam – also co-director and co-writter – is the backbone of the film. She is found on screen in all the scenes of the film: we see her as a empathetic, but also scared mother, as a woman in a men’s world, as a rebel to find her rights, as a passionate friend to those that help her. Particularly the way that Mina handles what her kid knows about the dramatic events in their lives, is by it’s own worth mention. It makes the character both weak, to present some light version of the truth, but at the same moment strong, for trying to handle everything while keeping her kid happy.

Both Mina and Reza are characters directly taken from ancient Greek tragedies. Their dilemmas and morality values both unite them and divide them in a game full of unfair rules and doctrines of the Iranian society. A game that seems to find them playing for the same team, but the secrets and prejudice will make them face each other as opponents.

Weakness of the film is its predictable outcome and pure use of plot devices to justify various decisions from the characters. Although even with it’s obvious weaknesses, the film is yet another miracle coming from Iran, criticizing the regime and providing dramatic characters while fueling  important discussion on morality and responsibility .


Grade: 3/5

by Behtash Sanaeeha, Maryam Moghaddam
Written by Behtash Sanaeeha, Maryam Moghaddam, Mehrdad Kouroshnia
with Maryam Moghaddam, Alireza Sanifar, Pourya Rahimisam, Avin Purraoufi, Farid Ghobadi
Country: Iran, Year: 2021
Runtime: 105 minutes

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