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To many Westerners, the burqa – a garment some Muslim women wear – holds an unsettling power. Covering the face and the body, the burqa can suggest oppression, misogyny, extremism. But I think that another word umbrellas all of these words: mystery. The Patience Stone , by Afghani expat and novelist-filmmaker Atiq Rahimi, unveils life behind the burqa. In Rahimi’s film, a young woman in a war-torn city tends to her unconscious husband. Unsure if he’ll recover from a gunshot wound, she begins to confide in him – something she never did in their ten-year marriage. As explosions rattle her home and soldiers threaten her, she recites an equally turbulent monologue of spousal abuse, helplessness and fear.

While The Patience Stone justifies our Western fear of the burqa, its access to the mystery behind the cloth feels rare and profound. This film looks beautiful – a startling fact, considering the heart-hurting content. Lead actress Golshifteh Farahani (who also happens to be beautiful) carries the film with melancholy eyes and an unselfconscious performance. Every time she lifts her burqa, I feel privy to something secret. Rahimi deftly balances beauty and horror. Amid the atrocities in the action and Farahani’s desolate confessions, I always found something alluring to watch. Such a balance can be confusing; why does such a terrible life look so pretty? But, as I write this, I willingly remember the film. Unlike, say, Zero Dark Thirty , the complete unpleasantness of which I’d like to forget, The Patience Stone  will stay with me – and so does the moving story of a beleaguered woman.

Is The Patience Stone Essential Human Rights Watch Viewing?

Yes, but for its cinematic efforts as much as its message. Although it screens as part of the Human Rights Watch Festival, The Patience Stone has just as much artistic ambition as political motivation.

The Patience Stone Screening Time

The Patience Stone Trailer