Pari, a widowed Afghani mother whose life is stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty and debt, must find a way to buy the prescription glasses she desperately needs to finish sewing a wedding dress and sustain her livelihood as a seamstress. As she treks door to door around war torn Kabul in search of ways to raise the money, Pari finds herself increasingly helpless in a society that denies women their personhood and agency.
Salar Pashtoonyar’s haunting film asks us to turn our gaze towards everyday women in Afghanistan like Pari, whose lives get defined by questions raised but never answered by war. Having premiered at the prestigious Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival, BAD OMEN won a 2021 Student Academy Award.
Growing up as a paternal orphan in Afghanistan, I firsthand witnessed the harsh reality of the negative attitude towards widows. Due to the never-ending wars, Afghanistan has over two million widows who struggle to survive without social assistance, without civic rights and much access to the labour market. Too often, when a man dies, many of his wife’s rights die as well. In addition to the legal barriers and lack of economic opportunity, widowed women are often stigmatized and considered bad luck or burdens on the deceased’s family. They are shamed, and punished for showing happiness, wearing bright colours, or celebrating life in any way. Unfortunately, little is known around the world about this current state of affairs, even less represented in cinema.