One Candle, Two Candles...: Film Review

Filmmaker Jano Rosebiani strains too hard to infuse this tale of domestic violence with wacky humor.

A young woman becomes the victim of a forced marriage in this Kurdistan-set film.

A literal ball-buster is but one of the many colorful characters on display in One Candle, Two Candles…, a Kurdistan-set film that attempts to find humor in a story about an innocent young woman who becomes the victim of a forced marriage. While Kurdish-American director-screenwriter Jano Rosenbiani doesn’t always manage to successfully navigate his delicate tonal balancing act, his film manages to depict the still horrendous conditions faced by the region’s women while demonstrating the growing artistic freedom seeping into its milieu.

The principal storyline involves the teenage Viyan (Katrin Ender), who has been promised to sleazy wealthy businessman Haji Hemmo (Enwer Shekhani) by her father who has his eyes on the large dowry he’ll receive. But the horrified girl rebels, refusing to fulfill her connubial obligations and climbing a tree to escape his advances. This threatens to make the elderly man, who is deferentially treated but widely reviled in the community, a laughingstock. So resorts to violence, first in the form of vicious beatings and then threatening to resort to the traditional penalty of setting her on fire.

Meanwhile, Botan (Perwer Tariq), a handsome young traveling artist, has fallen in love with Viyan, who reciprocates his feelings. The pair makes plans to run off together, which only fuels her humiliated husband’s furious indignation.

The filmmaker populates the proceedings with a gallery of eccentrics, including a randy village idiot, a flasher hunchback and, most notably Kitan (Mina Ibrahimzadeh), known and widely feared by the men in the village as the “Ball Buster” who escaped her own unfortunate marital circumstances by killing her husband in the method that her nickname suggests.

The film’s many touches of broad humor alleviate the melodrama at the expense of its overall impact.  While One Candle, Two Candles… sheds much needed light on the archaic, barbaric custom that is its subject, its jocular tone threatens to undermine the importance of its message.

Opens Feb. 21 (Evini Films)
Cast: Enwer Shekhani, Katrin Ender, Hisen Hesen, Kurdo Galali, Mina Ibrahimzadeh, Gulbahar Kavcu, Perwer Tariq
Director/screenwriter/producer/editor: Jano Rosebiani
Director of photography: Hamid Ghavami
Composer: Alain Pierre
Not rated, 95 minutes