A widow and her father live alone and make a living by mending oil lamps and making charcoal. Continue reading Panahbarkhoda Rezaee – Cheraghi dar meh AKA A Light in the Fog (2008)
An old hermit lives in a slum and wants to teach the alphabet to the children regularly go there to play. What makes the hermit happiest however, is when he comes to the letter P (for “Pedarsag”, or “Puppy”). When a child proposes he use the word “Pelican” instead, the hermit goes to the nearby park looking for this animal he has never heard of. Continue reading Parviz Kimiavi – P mesle pelican AKA P Like Pelican (1972) DVD
The Silence (Sokhout), a startlingly fresh and elegant work, is about a ten-year-old boy, Khorshid, who is blind. Khorshid’s father, in Russia, has abandoned him and his mother, who in order to sustain their existence fishes in the river on which the rural dwelling that includes their threadbare apartment is situated. This woman has no other choice but to rely on Khorshid’s meager income for rent. It is not enough, however, and in a few days’ time they will be evicted by the landlord, a greedy, powerful presence whom we never see except for, once, as a hand knocking at the door. A strange, elliptical film of haunting, limpid visual beauty, The Silence ends with two events: the eviction, as the mother, who is calling for her son, and her one great possession, a wall mirror, symbolic for art and inspiration, that is, humanity’s spirit, are rowed across the river, the mirror’s reflection in the water symbolically linking human spirituality and Nature; and the boy, as usual off on his own, passing forever into a life of the imagination in which he is able to orchestrate sounds in his environment—to which his blindness has made him acutely sensitive and receptive—into a finished piece, one in fact familiar to us as the opening movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Only a fool could miss the social and political implications of such a film, and the government, not at all fooled in this regard, responded brusquely. The Silence was banned in Iran. Continue reading Mohsen Makhmalbaf – Sokout AKA The Silence (1998)
“The Iranian Crown Jewels (1965, 15 min.), commissioned and then banned by the shah’s cultural ministry, is a formally dazzling and politically provocative brief on its subject.” Jonathan Rosenbaum Continue reading Ebrahim Golestan – Ganjine-haye gohar AKA The crown jewels of Iran (1965)
After casting painter and video artist Mania Akbari as the central figure of his groundbreaking Ten (2002), and then witnessing her outstanding debut as a feature film director in 20 Fingers (2004), Abbas Kiarostami urged her to direct a sequel to the film. In Dah be alaveh Chahar (10 + 4), though, circumstances are different: Mania is fighting cancer. She has undergone surgery; she has lost her hair following chemotherapy and no longer wears the compulsory headscarf; and sometimes she is too weak to drive. So the camera follows her to record conversations with friends and family in different spaces, from the gondola she had famously used in her first feature to a hospital bed. Yet, while he body shows the effects of the disease, Akbari is as tough, charismatic, and argumentative as in her previous screen appearances her luminous presence all the more alluring and precious as it becomes a sign of how fragile life itself is. Her cinematic language has been expanded and refined from the rigorous explorations of 20 Fingers, to take into account the unexpected aspects of facing simultaneously death and survival, social stigma and sympathy. Treading an elegant line between documentary and fiction, Akbari takes a daring look at complex social situations that arise in the face of mortality and emerges with a new zest for life. Continue reading Mania Akbari – 10 + 4 (Dah be alaveh chahar) (2007)
The irony at the center of Iranian filmmaker Samira Makhmalbaf’s (The Apple) movie, Blackboards, is that basic education may have the power to radically improve the lives of the poor and nomadic Kurdish peoples of Iran and Iraq, but it’s dreadfully ineffective at addressing their immediate struggles to survive.
The picture opens with a gaggle of teachers making their way on foot through a dusty mountain pass in Iran, blackboards strapped to their backs, in search of students. Two of the teachers, Said (Said Mohamadi, Delbaran) and Reeboir (Bahman Ghobadi, writer-director of Marooned in Iraq), break away from the pack and then from each other. Said eventually falls in with a group of Kurdish refugees trying to make their way across the border into Iraq to return to their home town of Halebtcheh, which had previously suffered a chemical weapon attack at the hands of Saddam Hussein. Reeboir, meanwhile, runs into a group of young boys who work as “mules” in the criminal underground, running stolen goods back and forth between the Iran-Iraq border. Each man forms a bond with his new companions, though none of the struggling poor find their teaching skills particularly useful. Continue reading Samira Makhmalbaf – Takhté siah AKA Blackboards (2000)
When we think of Iraq, we picture a war torn country which had seen the worst of a dictatorship under Saddam Hussein, where it spent many years in conflict with Iran, before the UN moved in during Desert Storm to liberate occupied Kuwait, followed by the US led invasion in Desert Storm II. Western media continue to pepper us with news that internal strife continues to this very day with news of suicide and miscellaneous bombings, and I’m sure we’re more than curious to want to know about tales from within, rather than agencies from the outside that continue to paint it like a war zone. This is as close as you can go on a road trip from Northern Iraq to Baghdad, onward to Nasiriyah then Babylon. Continue reading Mohamed Al Daradji – Son of Babylon (2009)