The Circle (2000 film)

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The Circle
International festival poster
Directed by Jafar Panahi
Produced by Jafar Panahi
Written by Kambuzia Partovi
Starring Nargess Mamizadeh
Maryiam Parvin Almani
Mojgan Faramarzi
Elham Saboktakin
Monir Arab
Solmaz Panahi
Fereshteh Sadre Orafaee
Fatemeh Naghavi
Music by Ali Zahmatkesh
Cinematography Bahram Badakshani
Edited by Jafar Panahi
Distributed by Artificial Eye
WinStar Cinema
Release dates
  • 6 September 2000 (2000-09-06) (VIFF)
  • 8 September 2009 (2009-09-08) (Italy)
  • 12 April 2001 (2001-04-12) (Switzerland)
Running time
90 minutes
Country Iran
Language Persian
Budget $10,000

The Circle (Persian: دایره‎‎, translit. Dayereh) is a 2000 drama film by Iranian independent filmmaker Jafar Panahi that criticizes the treatment of women in Iran. The film has won several awards, including the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2000, but it is banned in Iran. [1]


The film begins in a maternity ward of a hospital, where the mother of Solmaz Gholami is upset to learn that her daughter has just given birth to a girl, even though the ultrasound indicated that the baby would be a boy. Worrying that her in-laws will force their son to divorce her daughter, she tells another daughter to call her uncles.

At the phone booth, she passes by three young women, including Arezou and Nargess, who have just escaped prison. The three of them are trying to come up with money so that they can go to Nargess's home village. The third prisoner is immediately arrested, as she tries to pawn a gold chain, leaving just the two women. Nargess spots what she thinks is a landscape-painting of her hometown at a nearby shop and describes to Arezou the paradise awaiting them at the end of their bus journey. Arezou in the meantime finds enough money from an acquaintance to get Nargess a bus ticket, deciding not to go herself. The two of them separate.

At the bus station, however, Nargess can't get on the bus, because it is being searched by the police, and she is afraid that she will be arrested again. Instead she tries to find another prisoner, Pari, who also snuck out of the prison that day. Pari's father will not let her in the house, however, and just as Nargess leaves, Pari's two brothers arrive, and angrily force their way into the house, in order to "talk" to their sister. Pari manages to escape, and eventually makes her way to a hospital where she finds Elham, another former prisoner who has hidden her past and is now a nurse, married to a doctor.

From her conversation with Elham, we learn that Pari is pregnant, but the father of her baby has been executed, and she has no one to approve her having an abortion. Elham, concerned about arousing suspicions about her own past, is reluctant to do anything to help her, so Pari is left to wander the streets at night. Without ID, she cannot get into a hotel. At a street corner, she finds a mother trying to abandon her little girl, hoping that she will find a better life with a family. She continues wandering the street.

The mother is caught by an undercover police officer who thinks she is a prostitute, but she later manages to escape. Then another woman who was picked up as a prostitute, is taken to prison. She is placed in a cell with other women we met so far in the movie, and the phone rings outside the metal door. A guard answers and comes to the window, calling for Solmaz Gholami, the woman with a baby girl in the first scene, bringing the story to a full circle.


  • Nargess Mamizadeh as Nargess
  • Maryiam Parvin Almani as Arezou
  • Mojgan Faramarzi as Prostitute
  • Elham Saboktakin as Nurse
  • Monir Arab as Ticket Seller
  • Solmaz Panahi as Solmaz
  • Fereshteh Sadre Orafaee as Pari
  • Fatemeh Naghavi as Mother
  • Abbas Alizadeh as Father of Pari
  • Negar Ghadyani
  • Liam Kimber as Sahij
  • Ataollah Moghadas as Haji
  • Khadijeh Moradi
  • Maryam Shayegan as Parveneh
  • Maedeh Tahmasebi as Maedeh


The film does not have a central protagonist: instead, it is constructed around a sequence of short interconnecting stories that illustrate the everyday challenges women face in Iran. Each story intersects, but none is complete, leaving the viewer to imagine both the background and the ending. All the actors are amateurs, except Fereshteh Sadre Orafaee who plays Pari, and Fatemeh Naghavi, who plays the mother abandoning her daughter.[2]

Throughout the movie, Panahi focuses on the little rules symbolizing difficulties of life for Iranian women, such as the need to wear a chador under certain circumstances, or not being allowed to travel alone. He frequently uses contrast to illustrate both happiness and misery in contemporary Tehran: for example, a marriage party, symbolizing a happy ending, takes place in the background while a young girl is abandoned. Similarly, the scene where Nargess describes to Arezou the beauty of the landscape of her hometown where she grew up playing with her brother, while taking care to point out the imperfections of the artist's hand, is a poignant reminder of hope and despair that runs as a common thread in the lives of his women characters throughout the movie.


  1. ^ Peter Beaumont; Vanessa Thorpe (2010-05-23). "Jafar Panahi 'may soon be freed'". The Observer. 
  2. ^ Interview with Jafar Panahi on the Fox Lorber DVD.

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