Women in Mideast band together in “Silent Hearts”

Farida is a modern Pakistani woman.  Educated in England, she wears Western clothes and holds a job.  This is 2001, and she expects to have a say in her parents’ choice of her husband.

That is not to be, however because her father announces that she had been engaged (read: sold) to the son of a wealthy Afghani whose family is living in exile in Pakistan.

Her husband checks the sheets after the wedding night for signs of blood.  His gift to her is a burqa.  Shortly after the marriage, the entire family sneaks back into Afghanistan, walking over mountains.  The betting is that Farida won’t make it, but she’s determined to outwit the repressive family and follows with bleeding, blistered feet. Besides, by that time, she’s quite taken by her husband.

Half a world away, another woman, Liv, is bored by her life as a faculty wife at a second-rate college.  Martin, her once-promising husband who is an expert of Afghanistan, has been dead-ended, and she is fed up with his pompousness and philandering.  Then, after 9/11, Martin finds himself in the limelight.  He is offered a job managing a nonprofit called Face the Future, whose goal is to help Afghan women.  Part of the deal is that Liv goes with him.

Liv travels to Kabul, where she is tasked with getting the stories of Afghan women. She does so with the help of an interpreter, Farida, whose father-in-law demands she take the job and report back what is happening in the organization’s compound.  Now pregnant, Farida slowly realizes that her husband and his father are involved in a plot to harm the Americans.

“Silent Hearts” is the story of the relationship between the two women, against the clash of their cultures. Liv believes her work can help the women.  Farida knows better.  She finds Liv naïve and foolish and is forced to rescue her from a group of local men who sexually accost her.

Farida, on the other hand, must come to terms with the repression of women in her husband’s family.  She is a nonentity, covered from head to toe in public, a woman who must not express an opinion to men nor even talk to them alone.  She must use her wiles to keep her husband faithful, while he is allowed to stray and perhaps take a second wife.  In fact, if he had known that Farida had allowed herself to be touched by a boy during her school days in England, he would have had the right to kill her.

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