Edinburgh 2014: ‘Final Whistle’ review


Originally filmed during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Niki Karimi’s Final Whistle (2011) makes its UK premiere four years later. A courageous critique of class and gender inequality in Iran, Final Whistle is an against-the-clock drama that plays out against the backdrop of a male dominated sporting event currently under the scrutiny for allegations of corruption and human right violations. Karimi plays a documentary maker, living with her filmmaking husband (A Separation’s Shahab Hosseini) in a middle-class apartment. The pair have done their fair share of corporate projects in order to save for their dream home, but deep down they’re determined to make hard-hitting and socially aware films.

However, during the final touches on a recent television movie, she meets a young actress who’s planning to sell her kidney in order to raise enough money to save her mother from the gallows. The actress’ mother has been found guilty of murder, and if the blood money can’t be raised in time she’ll be hung. Suddenly priorities change and the price of a life feels more valuable than the deposit on a dream home, leading the audience into a tense race against time to raise the money and convince the murdered man’s family to accept the Diyya. Condensing a series of controversial issues into one tight and incredibly tense narrative, Final Whistle is essential viewing for anyone who has found themselves enamoured by the masterful morality tales of Karimi’s fellow countryman Asghar Farhadi.

Considering the situation in Iran, with acclaimed international directors such as Jafar Panahi being imprisoned for criticising the state, for Karimi to make a film like Final Whistle shows an honourable determination to illuminate the institutionalised gender and class injustice in Iran. Examining the role of the artist in the quest for greater equality, Karimi has fashioned a corrosive and incredibly pensive drama full of passion and an infectious hunger for justice. Depicting the strained dichotomy between the middle and lower classes of Iran whilst taking a humanist viewpoint whilst highlighting the role of women in a society governed by a domineering patriarchy, this is a formidable example of defiant cinema.

Naturalistic performances complement Karimi’s subtle script to create a genuinely moving tragedy that successfully gets under your skin. Slowly revealing the brutally honest truth of life as a woman in an oppressive country, Final Whistle efficiently demonstrates the powerlessness of women in a male-controlled culture. By involving us so deeply in her characters’ lives, Karimi manages to make even the most mundane interaction feel important, whilst always alluding to the ubiquitous presence of external forces that are ultimately manipulating the fate of everyone involved. A tremendously brave and powerful film that, despite being shelved for four years, feels just as pertinent and disheartening today.

The 68th Edinburgh Film Festival takes place from 18-29 June 2014. For more of our EIFF coverage, follow this link.

Patrick Gamble