The White Balloon


T h e W h i t e B a l l o o n
Moiz Bhinderwala
I. Give a short summary of the film in which you tell:
- where and when the story takes place
- who the main characters are – protagonists and antagonists
- how their lives are affected by the culture they are in
The story is set in a modern Tehran – just two hours before the start of the traditional Persian New Year -the first day of spring, March 21st, is New Year\'s Day in Iran.
The whole story revolves around Raziah, a determined seven-year-old girl who wants nothing more than a certain beautiful goldfish to decorate her family\'s house for the New Year- (the first day of spring, March 21st, is New Year\'s Day in Iran)
Though it\'s tough to convey the excitement of such a simple plot in words, her quest for the fish is surprisingly moving. This is partly because the adorable Raziah, who shouts all her lines, is so utterly appealing; and partly because the market of Tehran, where she ventures out to buy the fish with her mother\'s money
(under strict instructions to bring back change). seems like no place for a little girl to be wandering by herself – (underlines the fact about restriction on women in this culture)
A sense of threat accompanies Raziah on her journey. First, some snake charmers - a bunch of men that she has been warned not to look at, by her parents - manage to separate the seven-year-old from her note. With the help of her sturdy vocal chords she manages to get the money back, only to lose it again. There\'s a subtle feeling that Raziah might be paddled by her parents if she doesn\'t get her money back - her brother, who convinced their mother to give his sister the money in the first place, shows up at one point with a black eye.
The adults who surround the two children can\'t seem to understand how dire it is that they get their money back, but the kids themselves are quite certain of the gravity of their task. With earnest concentration, they try a variety of techniques to retrieve the bank note that has fallen through a grating into a cellar. Her search to recover the cash becomes intertwined with the lives of vendors, merchants, an indignant tailor, a friendly soldier on leave far from home, an Afghan refugee selling balloons and Raziah\'s own brother.
The film takes place in real time, heightening the sense of living inside a child\'s world. Though the adults can\'t understand how important it is for Raziah to get her goldfish or to retrieve her money, it becomes very clear to us that these are matters of immense importance.
The White Balloon conveys that deep, even timeless, childhood feeling of being thwarted at something you really want, of how something like a bowl of goldfish can be a life-or-death matter!
The movie also brings out the various aspects of the Iranian Moslem culture in which the plot is set. The very fact that Raziah’s parents warn her of places that girls are not supposed to go – indicates that in this culture there are restrictions on girls with regards to entertainment.
The scene where Raziah engages into talk with the friendly soldier, she is shown re-arranging her dress time and again, this also points out the strict dress code that women in this culture are supposed to stick to.
II. As an anthropologist you are trying to understand this culture based on what you have seen in this film.
- What differences are there between your culture and the culture presented in the film?
I come from India, which shares an Asian culture with Iran. Moreover since my religion is Islam which is the same as the one of all the characters in the movie, it is difficult to me to narrow down the differences between my culture and the culture portrayed in the movie.
However, the one differences that I noticed between the two cultures, in the movie was the dress code. Women in Iran are supposed to follow a strict dress code in which they wear longer dresses so as to cover their