Sepideh

Sepideh, a 17-year-old girl in southern Iran, aspires to be an astronomer but faces constant discouragement from her neighbors and uncles, who believe women have no place in the sciences. Like the recent Saudi Arabian drama Wadjda, this Danish-produced documentary shows a headstrong girl struggling to define herself in an Islamic theocracy, and both films have a canny, crowd-pleasing dramatic structure. Indeed director Berit Madsen does such a remarkable job of making this look like a drama (presenting conversations in the traditional shot and reverse-shot pattern, having Sepideh share her private thoughts in voice-over narration, creating anticipation for the emotional climaxes) that I wondered whether some of this might have been staged. In any case, Madsen inspires genuine admiration for her strong-willed heroine. In Farsi with subtitles.