Price: $395.00

    Code: 2537

    Directed by Mehrdad Oskouei
    2016, 76 minutes
    Purchase: $395 | Classroom rental: $125

    Considered one of Iranís most prominent filmmakers, Mehrdad Oskouei spent seven years securing access to a female juvenile rehabilitation facility on the outskirts of Tehran. The result is Starless Dreams, a haunting portrait of stolen childhood, and a stark testimonial of the previously unseen and unheard.

    Starless Dreams plunges into the lives of seven young teenage girls (Khatereh, Masoumeh, Ghazal, Somayeh, Nobody, Hasrat and 651) sharing temporary quarters at the rehabilitation center. As the New Year approaches, the girls bond. In intimate and layered interviews with Oskouei, the girls reveal with disarming and often playful honesty the circumstances and acts that resulted in their incarceration. Masoumeh, along with her sister and mother, killed her abusive father. Nobody explains that she was arrested for ďadultery, armed robbery, the brothel.Ē 651 declares her name from the number of grams of cocaine she was found carrying. Outside the prison walls, danger is everywhere, even within their own families (virtually all of the girls have been ďbotheredĒ by male relatives). Such is the case for Khatereh, who feels her tumultuous life has aged her to the point where she longs for death.

    Inside, the girls seek solace and comfort with each other and wonder about the coming year. Some wish to reunite with their families--Ghazal yearns to be with her infant daughter. Others wish to escape their families and form surrogate families within the centerís walls and a sisterly bond brings the girls to sing and dance with hope. It also allows them to share their tears. With incredible empathy, Starless Dreams delivers an unforgettable cinematic portrayal of restored innocence and humanity.

    Exploring questions of crime and delinquency among Iranian youth, Starless Dreams follows Itís Always Late for Freedom (2008) and The Last Days of Winter (2011) in Oskoueiís award-winning documentary trilogy. While Starless Dreams portrays the female experience in Iranís juvenile justice system, the first two installments focus on boys behind bars.

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    Amnesty International Film Prize - Berlin International Film Festival
    True Vision Award for Mehrdad Oskouei - True/False Film Festival
    Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award - Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
    The Full Frame Inspiration Award - Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
    Grand Prix Nanook - Jean Rouch International Film Festivalbr> Official Selection, Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival
    Official Selection, Human Rights Watch Festival, New York
    Official Selection, BFI London Film Festival
    Official Selection, Camden International Film Festival
    Official Selection, Middle East Studies Association FilmFest
    Official Selection, RIDM


         "Brilliant."- Alan Evans,The Guardian

    "[A] heartbreaking work. [The girlsí] openness makes their first-person horror stories of familial captivity, abuse and punishment, often at the hands of male relatives, all the more hair-raising. What amazes is their collective joie de vivre in the face of horrific experience. As they talk about beatings from parents, about addicted fathers who force them to sell drugs, and about running away from home and surviving on the streets, these fresh-faced young women donít mince words. Although keenly aware of their social disgrace, they possess an astonishing inner resilience and prefer to see themselves as victims of circumstances beyond their control rather than wrongdoers." - Stephen Holden, The New York Times

    "Critic's Pick! The world needs to see this spare, revelatory film"- Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice

    "Heartbreaking. Outside of the hijab, the girls in this movie donít really fit any of the stereotypes of Iranians in the U.S. media. They come across like teenagers in any modernized country: alternately silly and moody, and preoccupied with boys and pop music. A lot of what happens in Starless Dreams could just as easily have been shot in some suburban U.S. high school. "- Noel Murray,A.V Club

    " ★★★ Providing a remarkable view of a rarely-seen corner of Iranian society, this is a recommended." - Video Librarian

    "Roger Ebert once called the movies 'a machine that generates empathy,' and Starless Dreams... is just such a machine. With the conceptual rigor and emotional directness associated with the best of Iranian cinema Oskouei simply listens to the stories of those who have never been listened to before. Their shattering testimony, elegantly harmonized in a chorus of stolen childhood, has universal appeal." - Scott Tobias, Variety

    "An extraordinary film. Starless Dreams captures a rare, sorrowful, infinitely complex milieu." - Michelle Orange, Village Voice

    "Starless Dreams is one of the best Iranian social documentaries of the past years." - Keyframe

    "Starless Dreams is a completely unfiltered look at life as a female juvenile offender in Iran. It covers feminism, class issues and abuse in a way that is poignant and authentic." - Vox Magazine

    "Provides a rich entry point into some very complex questions about the state of human rights in Iran and the state of correctional systems internationally." - Bitch Flicks

    "Brilliant. The girls in Starless Dreams make clear their experiences of systemic oppression." - Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters

    "Set inside one of Tehran's juvenile corrections facilities, Starless Dreams affords a group of teenage girls the opportunity to tell their own storiesóand they do so with a remarkable and heartbreaking self-awareness of the injustices they've suffered." - Slant Magazine

    "Mehrdad Oskouei's reputation as one of Iranís finest documentary filmmakers grows film by film. Starless Dreams is the perfect example of how powerful simplicity can be, when it's underpinned by compassion for its subject." - Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter

    "The distinction between filmmaker and his subjects is acknowledged, yet in a sincere and playful manner that actually brings them closer to each other, and us to them. With all illusions of directorial omnipotence out of the way, we can all participate more honestly and fully." - Film Comment

    "Highly Recommnended.Appropriate for courses in criminal justice, sociology, political science, or gender studies, and it would be particularly effective if paired with Itís Always Late for Freedom, or with a film on female juvenile offenders from a different cultural perspective." - Educational Media Reviews Online

    Further Reading

    "By the Time They Banished Me, I'd Already Finished Filming" READ MORE


    Related Films

    YOUTH BEHIND BARS: The Iran Trilogy
    YOUTH BEHIND BARS: The Iran Trilogy
    A groundbreaking documentary trilogy directed by Iran's most prominent documentary filmmaker Mehrdad Oskouei, Youth Behind Bars: The Iran Trilogy, with incredible humanity, captures the lives, dreams and hopes of Iran's imprisoned youth.

    Following his harrowing documentary, It's Always Late for Freedom, director Mehrdad Oskouei continues his exploration of a male juvenile detention facility near Tehran. Last Days of Winter follows these young men in the days leading up to the Iranian New Year, as they take stock of their lives.

    Acclaimed filmmaker Mehrdad Oskouei provides a rare glimpse into an all-male juvenile detention facility in Iran. It's Always Late for Freedom is the first film of Oskouei's trilogy documenting troubled youth in Iran, preceding The Last Days of Winter (2011) and Starless Dreams (2016).