Contemporary World Cinema | 2017 | 103 minutes
Stranger Says: It’s not easy being a teenage girl in Iran. Girls are kept on a tight leash, and Ava fights against the constraints imposed on her by her school, her parents, and her society. The schoolgirls are watched closely for any “misconduct” by a maniacal principal and are berated and shamed for the smallest infraction. Also true, teenagers are annoying know-it-alls no matter where they’re from. Moody Ava doesn’t evoke much sympathy as she surrounds herself with melodrama, trying to exert herself in the narrow confines of what is allowed for her. Will she go too far in her rebellion or be scared straight?
SIFF Says:Winner of this year's Canadian Screen Award for Best First Feature Film, AVA recounts the coming of age of an upper-middle class Tehran teenager. Despite her somewhat regimented routine of school, violin lessons, and curfew, Ava’s personal preoccupations aren’t that different from those of girls her age around the world. She has a crush on the boy who accompanies her on the violin, and a bet with her friend that she can get him to go out on a date with her. But when Ava’s mother discovers this plan, she goes from overprotective to paranoid and controlling, forcing Ava to see a gynecologist to prove she’s still a virgin, and imposing ever-more rigid restrictions on her daughter’s freedom. The consequences for their relationship are dire as Ava’s rebels against these constraints, constraints that are only reinforced by her school environment, and by extension, the larger society. “You are under continual assessment,” the headmistress warns her students ominously over the school loudspeaker. Based on director Sadaf Foroughi's own adolescent experiences, Ava offers a powerful exploration of exactly what that means.
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