HotDocs ’23: Seven Winters in Tehran

Seven Winters in Tehran tells the story of Reyhaneh Jabbari who is sentenced to death for stabbing and killing a man who allegedly tried to rape her. Her family is distraught but, while she awaits execution, Reyhaneh fights for other women in her predicament. She states that she no longer fears death as she faces this fight with steady courage, inspiring her family to do the same even in the midst of their own pain.

Something that struck me was the relationship between Reyhaneh’s family, the Jabbaris, and the family of the deceased man. According to Iranian law, only his family could decide to pardon her and stop her execution, as they were the party that had been wronged, in the eyes of the law. We see in the film that his son and Reyhaneh’s mother were in communication, with Reyhaneh’s mother pleading on her daughter’s behalf and even promising to treat him like her own son. There seemed to be an understanding between both families of the laws that operated in the land and how the situation affected the other, and their communication reflected that understanding.

The Jabbaris really seemed to hold themselves higher throughout this story, as they wait for Reyhaneh’s execution and hope that it will not happen. Where their own grief and pain could make them turn inward and focus on taking care of themselves (as they would be well within their right to), it made them turn outward and extend their hands to others to help pull them out of their own dire situations. Their circumstances, dark and painful, put them in positions where they could be of service to others, and perhaps afforded them a new perspective that gave them the sympathy and empathy needed to make change in their communities. Reyhaneh works eventually executed, but her work and legacy lives beyond her: through her family and through the lives they touched along the way.

Seven Winters in Tehran premiered at HotDocs ’23. For more information, click here.

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