This film was previously reviewed in March 2021 as part of our Berlinale coverage.

In Ballad of a White Cow (Ghasideyeh gave sefid) director duo Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha explore injustice and innocence, grounded in the experience of their protagonist, who suffers at the hands of Iran’s Kafkaesque legal system. One year after her husband’s execution, Mina (played by Moghaddam, who also shares the writing credit with Sanaeeha and Mehrdad Kouroshnia) is informed that Babak was in fact innocent of the crime he was convicted for.

Though blood money is offered, Mina demands an official admission of the court’s wrongdoing; her efforts, however, are waved away by the men in power. Ballad of a White Cow’s visual language is eloquent: the film frequently illustrates Mina’s status as a widowed woman in society, long-shots placing her in front of large architectural structures, making her look small and insignificant. While these scenes create visual distance, they are carefully balanced with close-ups of Moghaddam’s expressive face: the camera – and thus the audience – remains firmly on Mina’s side.

With no one left to turn to, Mina carries her burdens alone. It’s not surprising, then, that she opens herself up to a kind stranger when Reza (Alireza Sanifar) appears at her door one day, claiming to be a friend of Babak’s. But while he begins to provide for Mina and her deaf daughter Bita (Avin Purraoufi), Reza is dealing with a heavy conscience himself.

The film lingers in moments of quiet, propelled by the personal tragedy of both of these characters. The pacing is slow but deliberate until it falters somewhat near the end. Throughout, Mina remains in the foreground, and Moghaddam brings both quiet determination and an inherent gentleness to the role.

Ballad of a White Cow is very much Mina’s film: it is a strong character study filled with deep sympathy for its subject, elevated by Moghaddam’s luminous performance.



CAST: Maryam Moghaddam, Alireza Sanifar, Pourya Rahimisam, Avin Purraoufi, Farid Ghobadi, Lili Farhadpour

DIRECTORS: Behtash Sanaeeha, Maryam Moghaddam

WRITERS: Behtash Sanaeeha, Maryam Moghaddam, Mehrdad Kouroshnia

SYNOPSIS: Mina’s life is turned upside down when she learns that her husband was innocent of the crime for which he was executed, so she starts a silent battle against a cynical system for her own and her daughter’s sake.