In production
A confronting documentary by Atieh Zare Arandi

Esfahan, Iran. Melina lives with her grandparents. Since her parents' divorce neither of them is willing to take on her legal custody. Melina is longing for a home and a family of her own, unhappy with her situation because she feels different from other kids. Actually, Melina wants to live with her mother, but this is not possible because both her father and new stepfather are against it. Melina's mother lives in permanent struggle between a proper relationship with her child and the relationship with her new spouse. 
Celebrating her 9th birthday, Melina is finally old enough to bring her custody case to court. With the law on her side, she hopes to eventually choose her own custodian. Unfortunately Melina is not aware of how the adult world is organized and how reality will probably play out differently.

About the director

Atieh Zare Arandi is an excellent storyteller, raised and educated with the heritage of the great traditional Persian art of telling stories and fables. She studied film directing with a focus on fictional narrative and continued to excel in her studies of dramatic literature. Currently she lives and works both in Esfahan and Tehran. Following her studies, Atieh has gained experience and recognition as writer/director for national Iranian fiction as well as documentary work. Her work has been represented several times at the International Cinema Verité Festival (Tehran). Filmmaker Atieh will collaborate during the edit/post-production in Belgium with some highly established professionals to finish her international debut.

Director's motivation

“My focus is on Melina and the emotional process she is going through. This process is intrinsically linked to people’s specific cultural and social background. I feel I need to bring Melina’s story, not only because she is so close to me, but also because it’s recognizable for so many people around the world. 

I am happy and relieved that Melina is growing up in a middle-class family. She is well fed, has a nice bed to sleep in and is supported and loved by her kind grandparents. She is not confronted with instantaneous life-threatening dangers, but it can’t be denied that her mental wellbeing is pushed and stretched to an extent that is far too much for a child. When she returns from an occasional stay with her father, traces of physical abuse can be noticed. She won’t talk directly about it, but Melina's pain vibrates without words on the screen. When we talk of child neglect and physical harm, middle class environments seem hardly touched, because it happens very unnoticed behind closed doors. I’m ‘privileged’ to explore such a case evolving right in front of my eyes, without obstacles or veils in between. My family has accepted me as a critical observer.”


Directed by Atieh Zare Arandi
Development editor - Farshad Aria

Awards & festivals

Pitched at AJB DOC Film Festival - Work in Progress Award

Pitched at Visions du Réel - Work in Progress Lightdox Award

Pitched at DMZ Docs - Best Award

Impact pitch at Movies That Matter - EsoDoc Award



Production details

Duration: 75'
In coproduction with VRT & Al Jazeera Documentary

Language: Farsi
Subtitles: English, Dutch