THE GLASS HOUSE. 9 tonight, Sundance Channel.
ONE YOUNG WOMAN dreams of being a rapper, while another would like to find a husband who wouldn't beat her and instead help her escape a home where she's been sexually abused.
A third, only beginning to find her voice as a writer, goes home each night to a father still smarting from his wife's desertion, even as a 14-year-old girl is committed for drug rehab for the second time.
That their stories come not from a film like "Precious," or from some American inner-city or impoverished hollow in Appalachia but from Tehran, Iran's sprawling capital, is the shattering truth behind "The Glass House," a documentary that makes its television premiere tonight on the Sundance Channel.
Yes, it's a small world, after all.
And when a girl who still longs for a doll can tell you the price of the crystal meth her mother packages, it's suddenly easier to see beyond the hijab that covers her head to the troubled child beneath.
To get beyond our preconceptions of life in Tehran, "Glass House" director Hamid Rahmanian and producer Melissa Hibbard spent 18 months recording the experiences of the young clients of Omid e Mehr, a rehabilitation and training center.
Founded by an Iranian expatriate named Marjaneh Halati to serve girls at risk of falling off the edges of Iranian society, the center's aim is to make its clients self-supporting - and assertive.
And so the emboldened girls of Omid e Mehr behave like girls you'd find in any U.S. institution serving teens, decrying the attitudes of their social workers - one complains she was told her clothes smelled - and showing petty jealousy over those they see as closer to Halati.
Halati herself, a psychotherapist who divides her time between London and Tehran, seems to bask in the affection shown her by both the center's teachers and its clients, and isn't afraid to foment a small rebellion here and there.
"They told you the upstairs bathroom is only for the social workers?" she asks a group during one visit.
"You should definitely use that bathroom. If I come back and see that you aren't using the upstairs bathroom, I'll scalp your heads."
The girls laugh appreciatively.
Later, though, as she and others try to teach 16-year-old Mitra to avoid confrontations with her difficult father, she uses the girl's confidence to bolster her argument that she can handle him, even as another staff member explains, "It's only natural that your father talks like this . . . He's a man who has been degraded by our society all his life."
Twenty-year-old Sussan, meanwhile, struggles with a stutter and memory problems caused by brain damage that may have occurred when either her brother or her "temporary" husband beat her.
(An Islamic society that supposedly frowns on premarital relations, Iran nevertheless condones "temporary" marriages that appear to be used to keep sexually active singles from becoming outlaws.)
Nowhere in "The Glass House" will you find an explanation of the title, but Rahmanian and Hibbard, in a statement, said, "We wanted to convey the fragility of the young women's [lives], glass being both beautiful, fragile and dangerous."
People who live in glass houses, we're told, shouldn't throw stones.
Perhaps, though, we should look out from them now and then, in hopes of seeing one another a bit more clearly. *
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