Not Without My Daughter

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Not Without My Daughter
Not without my daughter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Brian Gilbert
Produced by Harry J. Ufland
Screenplay by David W. Rintels
Based on Not Without My Daughter by
Betty Mahmoody and William Hoffer
Starring Sally Field
Alfred Molina
Sheila Rosenthal
Roshan Seth
Sarah Badel
Mony Rey
Georges Corraface
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Peter Hannan
Edited by Terry Rawlings
Ofer Bedarshi (video)
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
January 11, 1991
Running time
116 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $22 million
Box office $14,789,113

Not Without My Daughter is a 1991 drama film depicting the escape of American citizen Betty Mahmoody and her daughter from her abusive husband in Iran. The film was shot in the United States, Turkey and Israel, and the main characters Betty Mahmoody and Sayed Bozorg "Moody" Mahmoody are played by Sally Field and Alfred Molina, respectively. Sheila Rosenthal and Roshan Seth star as Mahtob Mahmoody and Houssein the smuggler, respectively. The film has been criticized for its alleged misrepresentation of Iranians and of Iranian culture.


An Iranian physician, Sayed Bozorg "Moody" Mahmoody wants to visit Iran with his American family. He claims that his Iranian family wants to meet his wife Betty and daughter Mahtob, and asks them to come with him for a two-week visit.

Despite her deep fears about visiting Iran, particularly due to the Iranian Hostage Crisis, Betty reluctantly agrees. Upon their arrival, they are all greeted warmly by Mahmoody 's family, but shortly before their flight back to the United States, Mahmoody announces to his wife that he wishes for them to stay in Iran. Betty realises that she has been deceived by her husband, even though Mahmoody took an oath that they would return to the United States, "swearing" on the sacred Quran. When she protests, Mahmoody strikes her, and nobody in Mahmoody's family sympathises with her.

Mahmoody becomes more hostile and abusive, preventing her from leaving the house or using the telephone. Betty briefly manages to visit the American Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy, but is told that she is now an Iranian citizen since she is married to an Iranian, and as long as she lives in Iran, she cannot leave the country without her husband's written consent and has no parental rights over her daughter.

Mahmoody learns of Betty's meeting and threatens to kill her if she tries anything again.

Knowing that her chances of escape are minuscule, Betty conforms to her husband's wishes in order to gain the trust of Mahmoody and his family. By chance, during a trip to the marketplace, she meets a sympathetic shopkeeper who overhears her telephone conversations with the Swiss Embassy and puts her in contact with a humanitarian Iranian, Hossein, who offers to help Betty and Mahtob in their passage back to the United States.

The plan becomes complicated when Betty receives news from U.S that her father is seriously ill and may be dying. Mahmoody approves of Betty returning to see her dying father, but will not let Mahtob go with her. Betty decides to wait to return to the United States with Mahtob, but Mahmoody unknowingly foils her by having her booked on a flight several days early thanks to his relatives' contacts in the airport.

Betty eventually gets what seems to be her last chance to escape when Mahmoody is suddenly called to the clinic for an emergency. On the pretense of going to buy presents for her father, Betty takes Mahtob and they contact Hossein, who manages to send Betty and Mahtob off with some Iranian smugglers, and using fake identity documents, they make their way past the checkpoints. Despite the difficult and very dangerous journey, Betty and Mahtob are dropped off in a street in Turkey, where they see the American Embassy in the distance. "We're home," says Betty.



The movie was based on a book with the same title, written by Betty Mahmoody and William Hoffer and based on Betty's version of events. The screenplay was written by David W. Rintels. The film was directed by Brian Gilbert and filmed in Ankara, Turkey, at GG Studios, Neve Ilan, Israel and in Atlanta, Georgia.[1]


Box office[edit]

The movie debuted poorly and grossed less than $15 million in ticket sales.[2] The movie plummeted in its second week.[3]

Critical Reception[edit]

Not Without My Daughter was poorly received, and has been criticized for its alleged misrepresentation of Muslim Iranians and of their culture and its lack of political correctness.[4] Caryn James of The New York Times, in a review, states that the movie "exploits the stereotype of the demonic is an utter artistic failure, and its reliance on cultural stereotype is a major cause". Moody, she writes, seems to be a "pure product of his culture, a mysterious, misogynist Easterner...the film views fanaticism as the Iranian national character".[5] A review in the Los Angeles Times described the movie as "unbalanced and distorted" which "fails to distinguish between the (Iranian) state and the people".[4]

In his review, noted film critic Roger Ebert stated the film made "moral and racial assertions that are deeply troubling" and that it "does not play fair with its Muslim characters. If a movie of such a vitriolic and spiteful nature were to be made in America about any other ethnic group, it would be denounced as racist and prejudiced."[6] While Iranians are not shown in a completely negative light, as the film depicts generous and brave Iranians who contact Betty Mahmoody and arrange for the escape of her and her daughter, these "good" Iranians are high-born opponents of the Islamic Republic regime, shown listening to European classical music.[7]

As of 2014, the film currently holds a 'rotten' 47% rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, based on 15 reviews.[8]

The score by Jerry Goldsmith was also not well received. Jay Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel called it "TV-movie manipulative",[9] while Jason Ankeny of AllMusic wrote, "Jerry Goldsmith's score does little to refute its opponents' charges of racism."[10]


In response to Not Without My Daughter, a Finnish documentary, titled Without My Daughter was made by director Alexis Kouros. It is composed of interviews with Dr. Mahmoody regarding his life in Iran and attempts to contact his daughter Mahtob. Kouros said that the intention of the 90-minute documentary was to "show the lies in the American film and present the real story behind" what turned into an acrimonious custody battle for Mahtob Mahmoody.[11]

Sally Field was nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress of 1991, where she lost to Sean Young for A Kiss Before Dying. Sheila Rosenthal, meanwhile, won the Young Artist Award for Best Actress.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Not Without My Daughter at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (January 14, 1991). "Home Alone in 9th Week as No. 1 Film : Movies'Godfather Part III' takes dramatic slide from second to sixth place in its third week out. 'Awakenings' is in second.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  3. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (January 22, 1991). "'Home Alone' Fends Off Yet Another 'Intruder' : Box Office: Vietnam War film opens to mediocre business as comedy remains on top for 10th week. After four weeks of release, 'Godfather Part III' drops to 12th.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-03. 
  4. ^ a b Miles, Margaret Ruth (1997). Seeing and Believing: Religion and Values in the Movies. Beacon Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-0807010310. 
  5. ^ James, Caryn (January 27, 1991). "Embrace the Stereotype; Kiss the Movie Goodbye". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-07-08. 
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 11, 1991). "Not Without My Daughter (review)". Retrieved 2014-07-08. 
  7. ^ Yale, Pat, Anthony Ham, and Paul Greenway. Iran. Lonely Planet Publications, 2001, p.86
  8. ^
  9. ^ Boyar, Jay (11 January 1991). "'Not Without My Daughter'-Good Comes With The Bad". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  10. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny". AllMusic. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  11. ^ "Finnish documentary counters anti-Iran propaganda in US film". NetNative. Islamic Republic News Agency. November 22, 2002. 

External links[edit]