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Holy Cow (Müqäddäs inäk)

New Voices in Cinema

/ Feature Documentary / Azerbaijan, Germany, Romania, Qatar / 2015 / Colour
In Persian / Arabic, English subtitles
Rated: Parental guidance is advised for viewers under the age of 13. Individuals under the age of 13 are not admitted into cinemas unless accompanied by an individual aged 18 or older.

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Tapdig has what seems like a perfectly straightforward wish – to obtain a cow from Europe – for a perfectly logical reason – such a cow will produce more milk than the local Azerbaijani stock. He asks the village elders for their advice, and by implication their blessing, but the response is one bordering on hysteria. A foreign cow will contaminate the traditional values of the village! An animal from elsewhere will bring disease and infect the other livestock! What about the fresh air? Tapdig should be banished from the village for such an affront!

‘Holy Cow’ brilliantly highlights some of the arguments that so often buttress the many nonsensical claims that accompany xenophobia, overlaying naturalistic settings, sequences and performances with a truly absurd – yet all-encompassing – judgement that is based on the unfounded fear of change. We witness an ordinary man living a simple life, working tirelessly to support his family (scenes involving his young sons are charming beyond words) and devising a way to improve their lot in life, and the contagion of fear that his forward thinking engenders.

As with any good satire, ‘Holy Cow’ has a target, here the ridiculous lengths people will go to with in order to defend outdated and unproductive traditions. A hugely enjoyable reminder of the dangers of unfounded fear – all the more refreshing in today’s climate of exclusionary politics and populist sentiment.

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