Iran is known both for its architectural, poetic and cinematic creativity and for its totalitarian regime. Beach Flags is an award-winning animation that explores the experiences of two young Iranian women and the challenges they face.
In the wake of the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, following her arrest by morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf incorrectly, protests have rocked the country calling for the fall of the regime. Previous protests in Iran have led to violent repression by the state, with as many as 1500 people killed following protests in 2019 over oil price increases. Currently an internet shutdown has been implemented making reporting from inside Iran difficult. Iran’s parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf said the current unrest could destabilise the country, warning that unlike previous protests aimed at reform, these protests are aimed at overthrowing the government.
Beach Flags is an artistic animated short film exploring the lives of Iranian women, the restrictions they face, the limited opportunities they are afforded, the harsh realities of poverty, and the tragic price of an unwanted arranged marriage. This animation is nevertheless a story of hope, with one young woman sacrificing her immediate dreams to help another towards a life she chooses for herself.
The animation is masterfully choreographed to convey the emotions of the characters against an atmospheric soundscape and music score. The dream sequences are particularly powerful, making this short animated film a poignant and moving audio-visual experience. Not surprisingly Beach Flags won multiple awards at international film festivals.
Vida is a lifeguard on a beach for women, and is training with her fellow female lifeguards to compete in Australia in the only event they are allowed to compete in internationally, a beach flag race. Vida expects to represent Iran at the Australian competition, because she is the best on her team. That is until Sareh arrives, a girl who is not a lifeguard, but who is considerably faster than any of them. Vida is upset as she sees she has lost her opportunity to represent female Iranian lifeguards internationally to someone who is not even a lifeguard.
Vida happens to see Sareh working in the fields, and finds out that she is about to enter an arranged marriage she does not want. Witnessing her great sadness, Vida makes a decision to help her competitor and put aside her own immediate dreams. Beach Flags highlights both the realities of living under a repressive regime and the difficulties of poor women who are afforded few opportunities. Despite these heavy topics Beach Flags is an uplifting piece of storytelling that ends with an expression of hope.