Ali Khamraev, Uzbekistan, 1972; 96m
An Uzbek Red Army officer in the 1920s is in charge of his local village. His task is modernization, and one of the first, gigantic steps is to allow women to drop their veils and enlighten themselves. A brave teenage girl offers to step forward and set the example, setting off a series of charged, tragic encounters from which no one, from the soldier's young bride to his militant father-in-law to the intransigent mullahs, emerges unscathed. Shot in crisp black-and-white and written by the estimable (and, during this period of Soviet filmmaking, seemingly omnipresent) Andrei Konchalovsky, WITHOUT FEAR is at once philosophically lucid, melodramatically engaging and altogether electrifying. Director Ali Khamraev is a master, whose political acumen and cinematic intelligence are in perfect balance. This timely film has a Brechtian edge: each sharply rendered detail cuts like a knife.