One of the more tragic things about the cycle of abuse and oppression is that, by being a cycle, it’s often perpetuated by those who have been victimized by it before. In Sadaf Foroughi’s Ava, the title character (Mahour Jabbari) is a teenage girl in modern-day Tehran trying to chart her own path — as all teenagers must, although boys tend to get far more latitude. Ava’s attempts at individuality meet with fierce, occasionally violent opposition from her school’s headmistress, Ms. Dehkhoda (Leili Rashidi), and especially from Ava’s own mother (Bahar Noohian).
When the latter catches her in the most basic forms of rebellion — makeup, gasp! — Ava’s spiral truly begins, and her further troubles and sometimes shocking cries for help only make her female authority figures angrier and more restrictive. For her debut feature, Foroughi shoots her film like an old pro, the placement of Jabbari in the frame telling as much of the story as the dialogue — though the dialogue is often quite choice, including Ava describing her sympathetic but ineffectual father (Vahid Aghapour) as “like Sir Hiss in Robin Hood — never around when you need him.” Who knew even the most banal of Disney films could have emotional resonance? And if Ava’s final shot doesn’t give you chills, you weren’t paying attention.
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.