In the man's, man's, man's world of contemporary Iran we see in director Jafar Panahi's The Circle, women fear their in-laws' retribution when they give birth to girls instead of the more prized boys. They can't travel alone without fear of arrest, can't smoke in public, can't get good service in stores, can't obtain abortions without their husband's or father's consent, can't raise a fuss if their spouse decides to take additional wives--in short, they can't get a break. This episodic meditation on the plight of Iran's women by the director of The White Balloon, written by Kambozia Partovi and starring nonprofessional actresses, was banned in its native country, and it's easy to see why--the picture the film paints of Iranian society is an oppressively damning one. Though at times it's a challenge (and probably not just for Western audiences) to connect all of The Circle's narrative threads, the film includes vivid, heartfelt performances that need no translation. In particular, Nargess Mamizadeh is memorably spunky as an idealistic but tough teenager, on leave from prison, who's trying to escape to her village.