In the Bazaar of Sexes – Director’s Cut
documentary 2009/2023, 72 min.
director: Sudabeh Mortezai
cinematography: Arastoo Givi, Majid Gorjian
original sound: Farrokh Fadai
editor: Julia Drack
sound design: Atanas Tcholakov
colorist: Andi Winter
producers: Mehrdad Mortezai, Sudabeh Mortezai
Iran 2008. A young couple is getting married in a mullah’s office. For a year. The brideprice is 5 gold coins. It is a temporary marriage, a Shia practice that allows a man and woman to marry for a limited period of time, which can last from one hour to 99 years. Temporary marriage offers a loophole for romantic relationships, extramarital sex or prostitution within the religious-patriarchal and repressive body politics of the Islamic Republic. The film follows a number of diverse protagonists whose stories are loosely connected: A lonely bachelor looking for an apartment needs a temporary wife because landlords do not rent out to singles. For two sisters, both single mothers, it’s about the precarious state of their hard-won autonomy within a deeply misogynistic system. A young mullah tries to mediate between religious dogma and a reality full of contradictions and gets into situations that are sometimes absurd or even comical.
More than a decade after the first screening of her film and at a time of renewed protests in Iran, Sudabeh Mortezai revisits the material for an updated cut that focuses more on the protagonists and less on the subject matter. Following the protagonists and their stories, the film opens up more and more facets and perspectives and unmasks the oppressive sexual politics of an authoritarian theocracy. While the mullahs praise the advantages of temporary marriage with almost nonchalant misogyny, for the male clientele, of course, the female perspective reveals mainly stories of dependency, abuse and violence, but also of the struggle for self-determination and autonomy.