Iranian cinema often presents some of the finest works ever. Director Vaihid Jalilvand's Wednesday, May 9 is one that we saw on Tuesday at the ongoing Venice Film Festival. The movie explores humanism that shines as a silver lining to the sadness and misery in Iranian society. In a way, it is a variation of Mohsen Makhmalbaf's Salaam Cinema, where a film director advertises for actors and just about all of Tehran's unemployed turn up. In Wednesday, May 9, a philanthropist offers a huge sum of money to the needy that draws mammoth crowds -- which gets restless and unmanageable after a point.We see three different stories all linked to one another. The first is Leila's tale, who stands along with her little daughter in the midst of the crowds outside the house of a man, Jalal, who had placed an insertion in a local paper offering to give away 30 million tomans to one in need. Later, she would meet Jalal, who 20 years ago broke of an engagement with her for an unknown reason. The money could help cure her invalid husband. But his bloated ego prevents him from letting his wife accept the sum.
A different predicament is that of young Setareh. She is an orphan who lives with her aunt and cousin. The hot-headed cousin, when he learns that Setereh has secretly married a young man, beats both of them, and the girl's husband lands in jail. The only way he can get out is by paying blood money to the cousin, which is 30 million tomans. So Setareh is part of the teaming hundreds who are outside Jalal's home that morning.
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And then there is Jalal's story, a man who had once lost his five-year-old son because of lack of money for medical treatment. So Jalal's feels that his charity will ease his own suffering.
Wednesday May 9 is a superb work that has some of the finest pieces of performances and a script which ensures that the drama does not turn into melodramatic mishmash. After all, the stories are all about pain and pathos, suffering and sadness. And Jalilvand, who acts as Jalal, presents a nuanced portrayal of three lives whose paths cross.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Venice Film Festival.)