Not Without My Daughter (film)

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Not Without My Daughter
Not without my daughter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrian Gilbert
Produced byHarry J. Ufland
Screenplay byDavid W. Rintels
Nikhilesh Mehra
Based onNot Without My Daughter by
Betty Mahmoody and William Hoffer
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyPeter Hannan
Edited byTerry Rawlings
Ofer Bedarshi (video)
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
January 11, 1991
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$22 million
Box office$14,789,113

Not Without My Daughter is a 1991 American drama film based on the book of the same name, 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 Sayyed 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.


In 1984, an Iranian physician, Sayyed 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 of several years earlier, Betty reluctantly agrees. Upon their arrival, they are all greeted warmly by Moody's family, but shortly before their flight back to the United States, Moody announces to his wife that he wishes for them to stay in Iran. Betty realizes that she has been deceived by her husband, even though Moody took an oath that they would return to the United States, swearing on the sacred Quran. When she protests, Moody strikes her, and nobody in Moody's family sympathises with her.

Moody 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. Moody, alarmed by Betty's absence from the house, 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 Moody's trust. 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 pair of humanitarian Iranians, Hossein and his sister, who offer to help Betty and Mahtob in their passage back to the United States. Betty accepts Hossein's assistance, especially after he mentions that Mahtob could be at risk of being forced into marriage at nine years old or be chosen to serve in the military as a child soldier.

The plan becomes complicated when Betty receives news from the U.S that her father is seriously ill and may be dying. Moody allows Betty to return 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 Moody 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 Moody 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 eventually dropped off in a street in Ankara, where they see the flag of the American Embassy in the distance. The film's end title cards reveal that Betty and Mahtob eventually made it back home to the United States, and Betty became a successful author and dedicates herself to helping those in need.



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 Israel, at GG Studios, Neve Ilan, 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 misrepresentation of Muslim Iranians and of their culture.[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 December 2018, the film currently holds a 'rotten' 50% rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, based on 16 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]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Sheila Rosenthal won the Young Artist Award for Best Actress.

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.


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".[11]

Alfred Molina confirmed in an interview with Time Out that he was punched by a man who apparently hated his brutal portrayal of Dr. Mahmoody in the film.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Not Without My Daughter on IMDb
  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.
  12. ^ Snook, Raven (14 March 2010). "The Hot Seat: Alfred Molina". Time Out (magazine). Retrieved 23 May 2016.

External links[edit]